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Brenna Sanchez

classical singer, author, gay rights activist, and former literary assistant to writer Langston Hughes, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Abdul's father, Hamid Abdul, was from Calcutta, India, and his mother, Bernice (Shreve) Abdul, was able to trace her ancestry back to the pre-Revolutionary War era. Abdul got his start in theater at a young age, participating in children's theater by age six. He attended John Hay High School and, after graduation, worked as a journalist for the Cleveland Call and Post. He would later go on to earn a diploma from the Vienna Academy of Music in 1962. He also studied at Harvard University, the New School for Social Research, the Cleveland Institute of Music, New York College of Music, and the Mannes College of Music.

In 1951 at age twenty two Abdul relocated to New York City There he began studying music and was ...

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April Taylor

Born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a political activist from adolescence. At the age of fourteen he was arrested and beaten for demonstrating against segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace. He was a founding member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and worked on the party's newspaper in California during the summer of 1970.

Returning to Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal became a radio journalist with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and had his own talk show on station WUHY. He was highly critical of Philadelphia's police department and of the city's “law and order” mayor, Frank Rizzo. He provided coverage of the police treatment of MOVE, a Philadelphia black militant group, which further alienated the authorities. Forced to leave his position as a journalist, Abu-Jamal took a job as a taxi driver.

While Abu Jamal was driving his cab on the ...

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David Toop

(b New York, April 10, 1960). American DJ. He grew up in New York’s South Bronx, his musical eclecticism matched by his vision of African American social and racial unity. In the mid-1970s he was one of the pioneers of New York’s emergent hip hop culture of rapping, DJ mixing and scratching, graffiti and breakdancing. Along with two other Bronx DJs, Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc, he began playing small percussive sections from obscure and unexpected rock, funk and electro-pop records as a rhythm track for rappers, interspersing the beats with extracts from cartoon melodies and film themes. When hip hop moved from school gymnasium dances to the mainstream world of record contracts, Bambaataa recorded ‘Zulu Nation Throwdown’ for the Harlem entrepreneur, Paul Winley. Unhappy with Winley, he moved to Tommy Boy Records, where his third contribution to that label, Planet Rock was recorded in ...

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Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

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Maxamed Dahir Afrax

Somali poet, dramatist, actor, and political activist, was born in Gabiley in northwestern Somalia in 1935. His father, Muxumed Amiin, was a soldier. His mother, Muumina Kaahin, Muxumed Amiin’s first wife, died when Cabdi, her only child, was still an infant. Cabdi’s grandmother Murriya took care of him until he was a teenager. He lived in the towns of Berbera and Arabsiyo where he attended a qurʾanic school. As a teenager he had to support himself through different kinds of hard physical labor.

In 1953 he moved to Hargeisa then the capital of the British Protectorate of Somaliland where he started composing his first poems Soon after in the same year he moved to Mogadishu the Somali capital There he was recognized as a talented poet and artist and was employed by Radio Mogadishu At the same time he joined the movement for national independence He worked for ...

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Suzi Takahashi

actor, director, educator, and artist advocate, was born Osceola Marie Macarthy in Albany, Georgia, of black, white, and Native American racial heritage. The daughter of a life insurance executive, Archer attended Fisk University Preparatory School in Nashville, Tennessee. She then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1909, where she was a pupil of Alain Locke and the sociologist Kelly Miller. Self‐defined as a suffragette, in 1913, her senior year at Howard, Archer and twenty‐one fellow female students cofounded one of the largest black fraternal organizations in the United States, Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority dedicated to community service and the mutual support of African American women. That same year Archer began to pursue her interest in drama by performing the title role in the Howard University Dramatics Club production of The Lady of Lyon a Victorian romantic comedy known as a showcase for actors ...

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Antoinette Broussard Farmer

classical pianist, civil rights activist, and social worker, was born Nettie Craig in Leavenworth, Kansas, the daughter of William P. Wallingford, an immigrant farmer from England, and Viola, his former slave. In 1837, prior to Nettie's birth, Wallingford moved his family from Kentucky and settled on the Platte purchase in Missouri. He was married three times and fathered seventeen children including six by Viola. Nettie, the youngest of these, was the only one born free. Information is scarce about Viola. After she was emancipated she rejected Wallingford's name and adopted Craig as her surname, likely because she was born on the Craig plantation in Kentucky. She took her children to Leavenworth, Kansas, where she married Taylor Turner. Her occupation was listed as a domestic. She died in Denver, Colorado, on 29 September 1906 at the age of seventy‐six.

Nettie Craig began studying the piano at eight ...

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George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

Article

Dexnell G.L. Peters

was born Raymond Quevedo on 24 March 1892 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. He was born to a Trinidadian mother and Venezuelan father. Quevedo won a government scholarship, receiving his secondary education at St. Mary’s College or the College of Immaculate Conception, a prestigious Port of Spain school. He likely spent the years 1904 to 1908 at the college. It should be noted that secondary education at the time was a privilege only afforded to those of the wealthier classes or those able to attain one of the few available government scholarships. Although this privilege allowed Quevedo the opportunity to pursue various career options, he eventually decided to become a calypsonian and later was popularly known by the sobriquet “Attila the Hun.” In 1911 he sang his first calypso publicly and later began singing in calypso tents venues where calypsonians performed regularly and where he grew tremendously ...

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Juluette Bartlett Pack

disc jockey, master of ceremonies, community leader, and rapper, was born in the South Bronx, New York City to parents of Jamaican and Barbadian descent. Although some sources list his birth name as Kevin Donovan, it is unclear whether that is the famously secretive Bambaataa's real name. His birthdate, often given as April 10, 1960, is probably on that day and month in 1957, given his attendance of high school by 1971. Bambaataa, an early developer of hip-hop music, is credited with being the first rapper. In introducing hip-hop culture to a worldwide audience during the 1970s, he gained the reputation as one of the godfathers of the genre.

In his early years Donovan organized the Savage Seven a Bronx River Projects area street gang which eventually became known as the Black Spades After observing the negative impact of gang activities on his community he endeavored to promote positive ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Etta Moten was born in San Antonio, Texas. The daughter of a minister, she married at age 17 and had three children before divorcing six years later. After her marriage ended, Barnett attended the University of Kansas and in 1931 received a B.F.A. degree in music. Her senior college recital led to an invitation to join the Eva Jessye Choir in New York City.

In New York Barnett appeared in the Broadway musicals Fast and Furious (1931), Zombie (1932), Sugar Hill (1932), and Lysistrata (1933). She also sang on the soundtracks of several motion pictures and appeared in the movies Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) and Flying Down to Rio (1934).

In 1934 she married the founder of the Associated Negro Press (ANP), Claude Barnett During the next several years Etta Moten Barnett gave concerts ...

Article

Harry Belafonte may be best known to audiences in the United States as the singer of the “Banana Boat Song” (known popularly as “Day-O”). However, it is his commitment to political causes that inspired scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to observe: “Harry Belafonte was radical long before it was chic and remained so long after it wasn't.” Belafonte was born in Harlem, New York, to West Indian parents. The family moved to Jamaica in 1935 but returned five years later. Struggling with dyslexia, Belafonte dropped out of high school after the ninth grade and, at the age of seventeen, joined the U.S. Navy. The work was menial: scrubbing the decks of ships in port during World War II. Naval service, however, introduced Belafonte to African Americans who awakened his political consciousness and introduced him to the works of radical black intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois.

In ...

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Ronald M. Radano

(b New York, March 1, 1927). American popular singer and actor. He lived in Kingston, Jamaica, for five years (1935–40), returning to New York in 1940. In 1945 he began a career as an actor, having studied in Erwin Piscator’s drama workshop at the New School of Social Research. He experienced greater commercial success, however, as a popular singer, making his début at the Royal Roost, New York, in 1949. The following year he rejected his popular song repertory and began to sing traditional melodies from Africa, Asia, America and the Caribbean, which he collected in folk music archives. Having secured an RCA recording contract in 1952, Belafonte went on to become the most popular ‘folk’ singer in the USA. His interpretations of Trinidadian calypso music between 1957 and 1959 won him his greatest success and marked the pinnacle of ...

Article

Judith E. Smith

was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. on 1 March 1927 in New York City. He was the son of West Indian immigrants Melvine Love and Harold Bellanfanti, who came to New York with temporary visas and then stayed on without legal status. Love was the daughter of a black sharecropper and a white Scottish overseer’s daughter who followed several of her siblings from St. Ann’s Parish, Jamaica, to New York. She arrived in 1926 and found uneven employment as a domestic day worker Belafonte s father was the son of a black Jamaican mother and a white Dutch Jewish father who had come to Jamaica by way of West Africa He worked as a cook in New York and on the United Fruit Company boats traveling between New York and various Caribbean and Latin American ports The spelling of the family name varied as part of his parents efforts ...

Article

Chris Bebenek

singer, actor, activist, and producer, was born Harold George Belafonte Jr. in Harlem in New York City, the son of Harold George Belafonte Sr., a seaman, and Melvine Love, a domestic worker. Belafonte Sr. was an alcoholic who contributed little to family life, other than occasionally hitting his spouse, and the young Harry was brought up almost exclusively by his mother. Harold and Melvine, who were both from the Caribbean, had a difficult time adjusting to life in New York, and after the Harlem race riots of 1935 Melvine and her son moved to her native Jamaica where Harry spent five years shielded from American racism When World War II broke out the Belafontes returned to Harlem Hoping for better conditions the family would often try to pass for white With white relatives on both the mother s and father s sides they were ...

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Theresa W. Bennett-Wilkes

singer, actor, activist, and humanitarian. Harold George Belafonte was born in New York City to Harold George Belafonte Sr., a native of Martinique, and Melvine Love Belafonte, who was from Jamaica. Melvine Belafonte moved her family back to Jamaica in 1935 after rioting broke out in Harlem. Young Harry lived in the Blue Mountains, Saint Anne's Bay, and Kingston before returning to Harlem in 1940. Belafonte, who suffered from dyslexia, dropped out of school in the ninth grade and joined the U.S. Navy in 1944.

The seeds of Belafonte s humanitarian social and political activism began to bloom during his military service His experiences performing the servile jobs assigned to enlisted blacks were eye opening His stint on active duty further shaped his views on freedom and eventually found expression in his music and his causes While in the navy he met a group ...

Article

was born on 21 July 1942 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Her mother, María Rosado, a homemaker, constantly sang tangos and boleros at home. Her father was a merchant marine. Lucecita, as she is commonly known, recognizes her mother as her biggest source of inspiration.

Lucecita’s mother is responsible for setting her musical career in motion. While her father wanted his daughter to get an education and/or open a beauty shop, her mother was convinced of Lucecita’s artistic talents and encouraged her to go on auditions when her father was away. She got her big break on the radio show Buscando Estrellas Looking for Stars Still a youngster and not even tall enough to reach the microphone Lucecita at this point still referred to as Luz Esther stood on a wooden box and sang a bolero titled La barca The Boat Having learned the emotions behind the words from her ...

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Paul K. Sutton

was born on 23 September 1949 in Pointe-a-Pierre, Trinidad, the second of six children. Her father, Roy, was an estate security officer and jazz musician who emigrated to England when she was 8. Floella followed two years later to join the family in London where her father had found work as a garage mechanic. In later years she spoke of the difficulties she had in adjusting to life in London, including racism, which were chronicled in her autobiographical children’s book Coming to England (1995). This was adapted for a BBC television program, which won a Royal Television Society award in 2004.

Benjamin left school at the age of 16 to work as a clerk in Barclays Bank. In 1973 she won a part in Hair, a successful musical, and so began a theatrical career. Appearances in the London West End musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and The ...

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Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

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Samuel W. Black

stationary engineer, labor union president, was born John Lincoln Black in Burgin, Kentucky, the second child of Robert Lincoln Black, a laborer, and Bertha Ann Ball Boggs Black. After his birth the Black family moved to Keene, Kentucky, to live with John's paternal grandmother. Within a few years Bertha Black became ill with tuberculosis and sickle cell anemia, so young John was sent to live with his father's relatives while his older sister and younger brother remained with the family. After the death of his mother in 1934 Black continued to live with his great‐aunt Martha while his two siblings, Anna Mae and Wallace, lived with their paternal grandmother. After the death of his great‐aunt, John moved to Cincinnati and joined his father, stepmother, and siblings. John Black attended the Cincinnati public schools—the all‐black Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School founded by Jennie Porter Bloom Junior High and ...