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Sandra Y. Govan

A Los Angeles native and later resident of Vancouver, Washington, Steven Emory Barnes is the third African American author after 1960 to have chosen science fiction and fantasy writing as his primary profession. Barnes established himself through the 1980s as a determined and disciplined writer, one who had followed a cherished childhood dream to become a commercially successful professional writer.

The youngest child of Emory F. Barnes and Eva Mae (Reeves) Barnes, Steven Barnes grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles High, Los Angeles City College, and Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (1978–1980 At Pepperdine he majored in communication arts but withdrew from school before completing a degree frustrated because he thought no one on the faculty could teach him about building a career as a professional writer It was not until Barnes made contact with established science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who sent the novice ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

filmmaker and screenwriter, was born George Arthur Cundieff in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was one of two children born to John and Christina, who would later appear in one of their son's most well known films. He attended local schools and matriculated at Loyola University in New Orleans, where he studied journalism, but soon changed course and enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the traditionally black college fraternity, and from which he graduated in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in Religious Studies.

Somewhere along the line Cundieff was bitten by the performance bug. Upon graduating from USC, he began doing stand-up comedy around Los Angeles, where he met and rubbed elbows with some of the young black comics who themselves were soon starring in feature films and television series, particularly the Wayans brothers He also began picking up ...

Article

Hilary Mac Austin

Suzanne de Passe learned from her mentor, Berry Gordy, that “a business based on principles is more important than a business based on revenue.” She has held true to that motto. Amazingly, in the cutthroat, white-male-dominated world of Hollywood, she has not only survived but succeeded magnificently.

One of the first and still one of the only African American women powerbrokers in the television and film businesses, Suzanne Celeste de Passe grew up middle-class in Harlem. Her parents, both West Indian, were divorced when she was three. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father worked for Seagrams. He remarried six years after the divorce and is credited with providing de Passe with a strong role model. De Passe attended an elite, integrated private school in Manhattan, the New Lincoln School. While still young, she began modeling clothes designed by DeVera Edwards.

De Passe entered Syracuse University as ...

Article

Claranne Perkins

music executive, television and film producer, and screenwriter, was born in New York, New York. Her father worked for Seagram's and her mother was a schoolteacher. Her paternal grandfather was a physician in Harlem.

Her parents divorced when she was three but managed to maintain a supportive environment for their daughter. She spent the week with her mother and the weekend with her father. He remarried when de Passe was nine, and the three adults formed a supportive alliance that continued to nurture de Passe.

She lived the elite life of prominent black families in New York. She summered on Martha's Vineyard; attended the private, progressive, and integrated New Lincoln School; graduated from Manhattan High School; and entered Syracuse University in 1964 She found the university and its extremely small African American student body not to her liking so transferred to Manhattan Community College to major ...

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Pamala S. Deane

radio, stage, and screen actor, was born in Muncie, Indiana, and raised in Hammond and, later, Anderson, Indiana. He was the eldest of nine children born to James Valley Edwards, a laborer, and Anna M. Johnson, a domestic (she would earn a degree in theology in 1949). He graduated from Anderson High School, and after a brief career as a prizefighter, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Knoxville College in Tennessee in 1938. He was employed for a time in the department of industrial personnel at the Calumet Steel Mill and also worked for two years as a district representative for the War Production Board.

Edwards either enlisted or was drafted (his service records were later lost in a fire) in the U.S. Army sometime around 1944 starting as a private in the all black 92nd Infantry Division of the 370th ...

Article

Klara Szmánko

poet, novelist, film producer, activist, and radio talk show host, was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Sam Greenlee Sr., was a chauffeur, and his mother a singer and dancer. Greenlee, who identifies himself as a second-generation immigrant from the Deep South, has claimed that he made up for his “non-education in Chicago ghetto non-schools at three universities: Wisconsin, Chicago and Thessalonikki, Greece” (Afterword, Blues for an African Princess). Greenlee received his BS degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin in 1952. He studied at the University of Chicago between 1954 and 1957 and at the University of Thessalonikki for one year (1963–1964 Greenlee professes fluency in Greek Indonesian and Malay and a much more limited knowledge of Arabic French and Italian the languages he mastered while working as a foreign service officer in Iraq Pakistan Indonesia and Greece ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

actor, director, and screenwriter was born in Utica New York and reared in a working class African American neighborhood in Cleveland Ohio His father was a factory worker and his mother was a homemaker O Neal was sixteen years old when his father died he then learned that his father had been a jazz musician in the 1920s and had even played in the pit orchestra for Flournoy Miller s Blackbirds He believed that hard labor caused his father an untimely death and swore not to be worked to death Even more the young O Neal was driven by the discovery of a clarinet and saxophone his father had kept hidden in the attic for so many years he saw these musical instruments as symbols for his own vision of a better life Six months after his father passed his brother a truck driver died in an ...

Article

Allyson N. Field

actor, comedian, writer, and director, was born in New York City, the second of nine children born to Howell and Elvira Wayans. Wayans's father was a supermarket manager and his mother a social worker.

Wayans attended Seward Park High School in New York. After graduation he won a scholarship to Tuskegee University but left prior to graduation to work in stand-up comedy in the late 1970s. He achieved some success in New York but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television and film. He debuted in television on a pilot for a sitcom called Irene (1981) and then signed a development deal with NBC in 1981. During this time he also had bit parts on ChiPs (1982) and Cheers (1982). From 1983 to 1984 he appeared regularly on For Love and Honor a military ...

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Malcolm Womack

film writer, director, and actor, was born in Vidalia, Louisiana, to Spencer Williams Sr. and Pauline Williams Tatum, the president of the local Woman's Relief Corps. At the age of seventeen, he moved to New York City and found work backstage in the theater for the producer Oscar Hammerstein. As a “call boy,” the stagehand who is responsible for giving the performers a five-minute warning before their entrances, Williams met several celebrities, including Bert Williams, the African American star of the Ziegfeld Follies, who served as something of a mentor to the young man.

After serving in the army during World War I and attaining the rank of sergeant, Williams returned to find employment in the newly burgeoning film industry, both as a performer (notably in Buster Keaton's silent classic Steamboat Bill, Jr and behind the camera He was hired by Paramount s Christie ...

Article

Born in Vidalia, Louisiana, Spencer Williams Jr. attended the University of Minnesota, dropping out to join the Army. Returning South after his 1923 discharge, he got his start in movies by writing for a series of short black films based on stories by Octavus Roy Cohen. These films were made by an affiliate of Paramount Pictures, and Williams soon moved to an office on Paramount's lot in Hollywood.

A talented actor, he appeared in some of the first African American talking movies of the 1920s, including The Lady Fare, Oft in the Silly Night, and Music Has Charms. His work as a producer included silent films such as Hot Biscuits (1929) and the earliest black Westerns, Bronze Buckaroo (1938) and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). Films that Williams wrote, directed, and starred in range from the comedy Juke Joint ...

Article

Michael Adams

football player, sportscaster, actor, director, screenwriter, and producer, was born in Gary, Indiana, where his father was a steelworker and his mother a homemaker. Williamson earned a track scholarship to Northwestern University, where he studied architecture, but football coach Ara Parseghian recruited him for an additional spot. After college Williamson played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1960 before jumping to the National Football League's new rival, the American Football League. In four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and three with the Kansas City Chiefs, he was an outstanding defensive back, earning the nickname “The Hammer” for his practice of hitting opposing players in the head with his forearm while tackling them.

Williamson's “unsportsmanlike” play earned him great notoriety. Before the first Super Bowl, played in January 1967, he boasted that he would knock Green Bay Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale ...