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Robert H. Gudmestad

Africanisms refer to African cultural and linguistic practices that survived the passage across the Atlantic Ocean, including language, music, dance, medicine, folk culture, food preparation, and many others. The extent to which enslaved Africans retained their culture was the subject of much debate in the twentieth century.

A sociologist rather than a historian first raised the question: in the early twentieth century E. Franklin Frazier doubted the persistence of African cultural forms in America. The anthropologist Melville Herskovits disagreed, arguing that significant numbers and types of Africanisms survived the Middle Passage. Sidney Mintz and Richard Price who both examined black activity in the Caribbean provided a more nuanced interpretation they believed that no single African American culture was transported intact to the Americas but rather that the Middle Passage was crucial to a reinvention of slave self identity Modern historians commonly believe that once slaves arrived in the Americas ...

Article

Abdul Karim Bangura

Abu Nasr Muhammad ibn al-Farakh al-Farabi, or Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn Tarkhan ibn Uzalagh al-Farabi, was born in 870 c.e in Kazakhstan or Persia or Afghanistan Also known in the West as Alpharabius he is considered by many to be the greatest philosopher scientist and musicologist of his era and perhaps one of the greatest Muslim philosophers in all of history As a political philosopher al Farabi sought out answers to many of the most difficult questions facing the Islamic world during his lifetime He questioned the relations between humankind and God the role of the intermediary the influence of the divine law in private life and the limitations of the human mind He went beyond the divine law and searched for humankind s place in the universe and our relationship with nature society and the divine law He inquired about the different types of political institutions ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His parents’ names and occupations are not recorded. An only child, Davis began studying the piano when he was five but soon dropped it because his family did not own a piano. When he was in sixth grade, he wanted to play trumpet or trombone but began on the tuba since it was the only instrument available.

In 1951, when he decided to seriously start his music career, Davis switched to string bass. Very technically skilled from the start, Davis was one of the first musicians who had no difficulty switching between jazz and classical music. He studied with the principal bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra (Anselme Fortier) and attended Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music from 1953 to 1956. In addition, he led his own quartet and played on radio, on television, at clubs, and at colleges.

After ...

Article

Werner Graebner

taarab singer, drummer, and healer, was born in urban Zanzibar. Her parents had migrated to the islands from the Kilwa area of Tanzania on the East African mainland. She is better known as Bi Kidude. Some controversy surrounds Kidude’s birthdate; considering all evidence, the latest she could have been born is around 1920. Growing up in suburban Zanzibar’s Ng’ambo area, she showed interest from a young age in taarab song, a genre of poetry sung to musical accompaniment developed in nineteeth- century Zanzibar. One of her uncles, Buda Suwedi, was a member of Siti Bint Saadi’s group, then the most popular singer in Zanzibar. Kidude attended night rehearsals at Saadi’s place, pretending to sleep in a corner or on the outside baraza bench, soaking up the songs, which still form her main repertoire today.

When Kidude was in her teens, dhows traditional Arab sailboats from all over the ...

Article

Pamela Foster

the only son and eldest of six children of Cleveland Francis, a janitor, and Mary Francis, a maid. While growing up Francis was inspired by the banjo, fiddle, harmonica, guitar, and other musical sounds he heard both in his neighborhood and on radio. He also was self-inspired to escape the poverty of his hometown any way he could.

Education would be his ticket out. After he built a guitar from an old King Edward cigar box and in 1953 asked for a twenty-five-dollar Sears Silvertone guitar, his mother knew that requiring Francis to keep up his grades in exchange for the guitar would ensure that he developed both his intellectual and musical skills. After high school in 1963 Francis enrolled at Southern University in Baton Rouge Louisiana as a pre med student where Dr Huel Perkins head of Southern s music department took an interest in his music This ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz singer, was born Chinyere Nnenna Pierce in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of the three children of Charles and Frances Pierce, she began singing in church when she was seven, took a few piano lessons, and as a child used to accompany herself on her grandmother's piano by ear.

Despite having an attractive voice, it would be some time before Freelon became a professional singer. She graduated from Simmons College in Boston in 1979 with a B.A. degree in health care administration and married architect Philip Freelon that same year. In addition to working in health services in Durham, North Carolina, Freelon and her husband had three children. The birth of her third child in 1982 prompted Freelon to consider a career in music and she sang on an occasional basis in North Carolina in the decade that followed conducting workshops and developing her style She had opportunities to ...

Article

crystal am nelson

jazz drummer and medical inventor, was born Ronald Edwin Gardiner in Westerly, Rhode Island, to Maude Hannah Francis, a homemaker, and Ralph Alton Gardiner, a chef. The youngest of four sons, Gardiner was a precocious child. At only three and a half—when he was already tap-dancing—he asked for a toy drum for Christmas. His parents obliged so that he would stop playing on his mother's pots and pans.

After graduating from high school, he remained in Westerly and played at weddings and parties. In 1951 Gardiner moved to New York City to study privately with Charlie Tappin at the Henry Adler Music School. In 1953 during one of his weekend train rides back from Westerly to New York, Gardiner played an impromptu performance with Charlie Parker one of jazz s most influential saxophonists Gardiner returned to Westerly after four years of studying to work as Westerly ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter, figure skater, and psychiatrist, was born in New York City. His father, Billy Williams, was the lead singer in Billy Williams and the Charioteers, while his mother was a dancer who was one of the Brown Twins at the Cotton Club. She danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers and can be seen in the Fats Waller short film of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” sitting on the piano while he sang to her. After Billy Williams's death, Henderson's mother married a doctor in San Francisco. His stepfather had many musician patients, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington.

Henderson began on the trumpet when he was nine. His first teacher was Louis Armstrong who gave him a few informal lessons Henderson moved to San Francisco with his family when he was 14 He studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

child actor, was born Allen Clayton Hoskins in Boston to Florence (maiden name unknown) and Allen C. Hoskins Sr. He had one sister, Jane Florence. His parents’ occupations are not known.

Silent film director Hal Roach signed Hoskins to star in his Our Gang short comedy films when Hoskins was between twelve and eighteen months old. Roach had asked the father of Ernie “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, a black child actor in the series, to find a dark-skinned child actor with long hair to play Sammy's younger sister. Morrison returned with Hoskins; Roach liked the toddler immediately and felt that he could play either a boy or a girl because of his long braids. Initially, the studios remained vague about Farina's gender in the earliest Our Gang shorts he sometimes wore dresses and at other times pants After several films his character Farina was established as Sunshine Sammy and ...

Article

Allen J. Fromherz

Egyptian playwright, was an eye doctor originally from Mosul, Iraq, and possibly of Christian background. He was most famous for his lightly veiled satirical shadow plays, especially for those aimed at the moralist Mamluk Sultan al-Zahir Baybars (r. 1260–1277) in Cairo.

Although some scholars have wrongly claimed that Islam lacked a theatrical tradition because of various religious proscriptions, the art form of shadow puppetry has a long history. Shadow plays, called Khayal al-Zill in Arabic were very popular during the month of Ramadan as a form of entertainment to wile away the late night hours Beginning as early as the tenth century and perhaps before the popularity of shadow play as an art form reached its peak just as Ibn Daniyal began writing Ibn Daniyal was especially creative with his shadow characters including the popular Sahib al Dabbus Man with a Club referring to a man with an oversized ...

Article

Justin David Gifford

forensic psychiatrist, novelist, and filmmaker, was born in Washington, D.C., to Devonia Jefferson, a teacher and playwright, and Bernard Jefferson, a judge. At an early age, Jefferson moved with his family to Los Angeles where he attended integrated public schools. Raised in a family that discouraged him from pursing a career as a writer, Jefferson studied anthropology in college, earning his BA from the University of Southern California in 1961. In 1965 Jefferson earned his MD from Howard University and became a practicing physician in Los Angeles. In 1966, he married a teacher named Melanie L. Moore, with whom he would eventually have four children, Roland Jr., Rodney, Shannon, and Royce. Between 1969 and 1971 he served as a captain and psychiatrist at Lockborne Air Force Base in Columbus Ohio It was during this time that he ...

Article

Miles M. Jackson

physician and musician, was born in Seierville, Tennessee, the son of Edward Maples and Martha Jane Runions. William had one brother, Samuel. Showing a talent for science, oratory, and music, he graduated in the first class of the segregated high school in Knoxville in 1888. He received recognition at graduation for his outstanding oratorical skills and received the Dodson medal for his talent. Upon graduating from high school he taught high school for a year in Austin, Tennessee. He entered medical school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1889 and received his MD in 1893. While he was a medical student he supported himself by a job as a clerk in the federal pension office in Washington, D.C.

In 1893 Maples returned to Knoxville and established a medical practice. During the Spanish-American War, in 1898 he interrupted his practice to serve in the ...

Article

Nate Plageman

Ghanaian musician and pharmacist, also known as the “King of Highlife,” was born Emmanuel Tetteh Mensah in Ussher Town, Accra, Ghana, on 31 May 1919. His father Robert Noi Mensah was a goldsmith and his mother Florence Adukwei Akwei traded cloth. Mensah’s first musical experiences came during his time at the Government Elementary School in James Town, where he played in a drum and fife band formed by one of the school’s teachers, Joe Lamptey. During his time with the Government School Band, Mensah learned how to play the flute, performed marching songs, and became acquainted with “highlife,” an emerging style of dance music that blended orchestral instruments, European chord sequences, and local rhythmic patterns. In 1933 Mensah joined Lamptey s senior band the Accra Orchestra also as a flutist Unlike his prior band the Accra Orchestra was a large dance ensemble comprised of brass string wind and ...

Article

Yolanda L. Watson Spiva

educator and popular therapist, was born in Dania, Florida, the youngest of fourteen children to parents Theophilus and Lucille Morley, vegetable farmers from the Eleuthera and Bahama Islands. Joyce spent her formative years in Dania until 1969, at which time she was sent by her mother to Rochester, New York, to live with her sister. Joyce's mother thought that her daughter might have access to a better educational system and decreased racial tensions in the North. Joyce graduated from Monroe Senior High School in Rochester, New York, two months following her seventeenth birthday. In 1973, she graduated cum laude from SUNY Geneseo with a BS in Elementary Education with a concentration in Psychology. While at Geneseo, Morley, along with her high school sweetheart, Bernard Watson, gave birth to their first daughter, Yolanda. In September 1973 Morley taught first second and third grades beginning ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

film and television cameraman, the first of African descent known to have been admitted to full membership in the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, and Allied Crafts union (IATSE), was born Robert Antonio Puello in Yonkers, New York. He was the son and firstborn child of Roberto Puello and Merceda Castizzo Puello, both born in Havana, Cuba.

His mother died in childbirth along with the baby when Puello was about two years old His father a deep water sailor left Puello in the care of a friend when out on a voyage when Puello was around five or six years old his father died at sea Although his father s friend was very kind to young Robert Puello the man s wife was harsh and eventually his teacher Amanda Kempt sought and was awarded custody when Puello was ten years old He attended a boarding ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

musician, medical doctor, New Testament scholar, and philosopher, was born in Kaysersberg, Alsace, Germany, to Louis and Adèle Schweitzer on 14 January 1875. In his youth, he combined a lifelong love of music and philosophy with a critical view toward orthodox understandings of Christianity. He was a famed scholar by 1900, but his religious views ruled out becoming a minister like his father. However, at that time French Protestant missionaries in Gabon were desperate for recruits. Illnesses had decimated their personnel in Gabon. When Schweitzer sent in an application in 1905 to work as a doctor alongside the missionaries after reading a plea for other Europeans to join the Gabon mission, the Société des Mission Evangelique (SME) eventually agreed to send him after several years of discussion.

When Schweitzer arrived in the Ogooué River town of Lambaréné in 1913 this settlement had been an important colonial trade ...

Article

Diana Kristine Durham

organist, stenographer, college professor, physician, and hospital founder, was born in St. John, Antigua, British West Indies, the son of John Sebastian and Sara Elizabeth Roberts. He studied at Antigua's Mico College, a normal school established for blacks by Lady Mico Trust, where he studied a rigorous curriculum that included English, Latin, Greek, mathematics, science, astronomy, history, and geography. Sebastian, like many of the students at Mico College, viewed his normal training as preparation for a career other than teaching.

In 1901 Sebastian immigrated to the United States After arriving in Philadelphia he obtained employment as a stenographer and an organist A year later he moved to Greensboro North Carolina to work at the Agricultural and Mechanical College later North Carolina A T State University Sebastian who was broadly educated in the Caribbean taught English geography foreign languages and mathematics and was also ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

physician, pianist, and baseball-team owner, was born Hilda Mae (or May) Bolden in the Philadelphia suburb of Darby, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Nellie Bolden, a homemaker and civic volunteer, and Edward Bolden, a postal clerk, owner of the all-black Philadelphia Stars baseball team, and founder of the Eastern Colored League. Taught by her mother, Hilda Bolden demonstrated early talent as a pianist. At age three, she gave her first public performance. Her parents encouraged her to excel also at school. The first African American valedictorian at Darby High School, she had some white students walk on her when she gave her speech, but she continued nonetheless.

Hilda Bolden earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and then attended Meharry Medical College On a Rosenwald Fellowship she studied pediatrics at the University of Chicago She completed her pediatrics residency at Provident Hospital There as reported ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

gay drag performer and musician, was born Sylvester James Jr. in Los Angeles, California, the firstborn son of Sylvester “Sweet” James Sr., whose occupation is unknown, and Letha Weaver James, a domestic and later a dietitian. After having two more sons, John Wesley in 1948 and Larry in 1950, Sylvester's parents divorced. While single, his mother had twin daughters Bernadette and Bernadine in 1956, and another son, Alonzo, in 1959. In 1962 she married aerospace worker Robert “Sonny” Hurd. She later fostered and adopted three children with him: Angelica, Charles, and Tammy. Letha's mother (really her aunt who raised her), the blues singer Julia Morgan, helped to raise Sylvester and his siblings.

Until young adulthood he was known by his nickname Dooni Even as a preschooler he enjoyed and sometimes wore the flamboyant elegant clothing his mother and grandmother ...

Article

Jace Clayton

Born Osbourne Ruddock in Kingston, Jamaica, King Tubby gained prominence in 1968 for playing his instrumental mixes accompanied by the crowd-pleasing “talk-over” deejaying of U-Roy (Ewart Beckford). The duo was known as Tubby's Hi-Fi and became highly popular in the impoverished Watertown section of Kingston where Tubby lived. U-Roy's verbal wordplay provided a perfect compliment to Tubby's increasingly experimental song versions. Using homemade and modified studio equipment, Tubby started dropping in vocal snippets, adding ghostly layers of echo and reverberation, soloing various instruments, inserting sudden silences, and employing unusual equalization and other studio effects. Crowds loved the soulful roots Reggae mutated by technical wizardry and avant-garde mixing approaches. Following Tubby's lead, many musicians and engineers began dubbing.

By 1972Dub fever had arrived. Fierce competition between sound systems kept creative pressures high, although King Tubby remained on top. In 1976 police attempted to shut down a ...