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Pamela Lee Gray

wood carver, sculptor, and folk artist, was born Jesse James Aaron in Lake City, Florida, to descendants of slaves and Seminole Indians. Aaron attended school for less than one year before he was sent to work as a contract laborer for local farms. Trained as a baker when he was twenty-one years old, he found he enjoyed the creativity it required. He opened several bakeries, worked as a cook at Gainesville's Hotel Thomas from 1933 to 1937, and then cooked for a variety of fraternities and hospitals in Florida. Aaron also worked as a cook aboard the Seaboard Air Line Railroad during this time.

Aaron married Leeanna Jenkins, and when the family settled in northwest Gainesville in the 1930s they opened a nursery. From this point until 1968 when Aaron became a folk artist at the age of eighty one it is difficult to determine what is ...

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Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

Tuskegee athletic coach, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, to Elbert B. Abbott, a stonemason, and Mollie (Brown) Abbott. Abbott grew up in Watertown, South Dakota, attending Watertown public schools, where he was a superior student and athlete. He graduated from high school in 1912 with an unheard-of sixteen Arrow letters in athletics.

Abbott entered South Dakota State College in Brookings, South Dakota, in the fall of 1912, selecting a dairy science major and joining the athletic program. His outstanding athletic and academic performance attracted the attention of the college president Ellwood Perisho, an acquaintance of Booker T. Washington Washington promised Abbott a job at Tuskegee contingent on his continued scholastic excellence Abbott did not disappoint maintaining his high marks and earning fourteen athletic letters in four years in track football baseball and basketball In this last he played center captained the team and was named All ...

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Kenneth Wiggins Porter

According to biographer J. Evetts Haley, Add had “drifted up from the Guadalupe bottoms” of southeast Texas to the high plains; other accounts say that he had been “raised” by cattleman George W. Littlefield, with whom he had been “since Emancipation days.” In any case, he apparently worked almost his entire active life for various Littlefield outfits—particularly the LFD brand, used to mark Littlefield's 40,000 head of cattle—first in the Texas Panhandle and later in eastern New Mexico.

While some top hands white and black were noted as riders or bronco busters Add was almost equally distinguished in both roles Stocky and strongly built Add had such powerful hands that he could practically twist the hide off a horse He would walk into a corral of bad broncos get any one of them by the ear and nose smother it down lead it out of the bunch and ...

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Christine Matzke

Eritrean comedian, theater artist, musician, and sports teacher, was born on 1 February 1925 during the Italian colonial period in Eritrea in Abba Shawl, the poor segregated Eritrean quarters of the capital Asmara. His father was Kahsay Woldegebr, and his mother, Ghebriela Fitwi.

At the age of ten he attended an Orthodox Church school and then received four years of Italian schooling, the maximum period of formal education for Eritreans under Italian rule. Thereafter Alemayo worked as a messenger for an Italian lawyer and, at the age of seventeen, found employment as a stagehand in Cinema Asmara, then Teatro Asmara, an imposing Italian theater and center for Italian social and cultural life. Here Alemayo was exposed to European variety shows, operas, and cinema that fascinated him greatly, particularly the genre of comedy, such as the works of Charlie Chaplin and the Neapolitan comedian Totò.

Italian colonization was characterized by strict ...

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Leslie Heaphy

infielder for the Kansas City Monarchs Negro Leagues baseball team, was born Newton Henry Allen in Austin, Texas. The names and occupations of his parents are unknown. Allen attended Lincoln High School, Kansas City, Missouri, and played ball for the Kansas City Tigers while still in school, before leaving to play for the Omaha Federals in 1921. While handling the middle of the infield for the Federals, Monarchs owner J. L. Wilkinson saw the youngster play and signed him to his All-Nations ball club. After only one season with the All-Nations, Allen was promoted to the Monarchs in 1923.

Allen played for twenty-three seasons in the Negro Leagues. Most of his playing time was spent at either second base or shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the original teams in the Negro National League established in 1920 In addition to playing for Kansas City Allen ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player and manager, was born Felipe Rojas Alou, in Haina, Dominican Republic, to Jose Rojas, a carpenter/blacksmith and grandson of a slave, and Virginia Alou, a homemaker and Caucasian daughter of a Spanish migrant. The second Dominican-born player in major league baseball, Alou was one of three baseball-playing brothers and became the first Dominican to manage in the big leagues.

Alou grew up with five younger siblings in a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot house his father had built in the village of Haina. For much of his childhood, food came from where Alou and his family could scavenge it: using bamboo poles and construction wire to fish in the Haina River or climbing coconut trees and scouring for other fruit. Baseball equipment was scarce in the poor village, and Alou and his brothers would play with lemons or coconut husks for balls and their hands for bats.

Alou traveled to ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was one of four sons born to his father, Shube Alston, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Alston went to the all-black Dudley High School in Greensboro. Upon graduating, he joined the United States Navy in April 1944 and trained at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois. He served on a cargo ship for a year and a half before being discharged in March 1946. Alston enrolled in North Carolina A&T State University, where he began to play baseball competitively. At 6 feet 5 inches and over 200 pounds, Alston was physically suited to a number of school sports, and the school's athletic director attempted to entice him into playing basketball and football as well, but Alston balked. He received his degree in physical education in 1951.

Before graduation Alston began his foray into semiprofessional baseball first for the Goshen Greensboro Red Wings and then for ...

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Pedro M. Cameselle

was born on 1 October 1901 on the outskirts of the city of Salto, located in northern Uruguay. His father was believed to be José Ignacio Andrade, listed as a 97-year-old witness on his birth certificate (see Morales 12, 26). Though it is unlikely that he reached this advanced age, the father, supposedly an African-born slave who escaped from Brazil, had at one time worked as a brujo (an expert in African magic rituals). He died soon after Andrade’s birth. His mother, Anastasia Quiróz, said to be born in Argentina, laundered clothes for a living. Andrade was the youngest of four siblings, their names being Ramona, Nicasio, and Anastasia. Although it is uncertain when the family first relocated to Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1917 they permanently moved to a tenement in Palermo one of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the capital city Andrade worked selling newspapers and shining shoes and ...

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Robert Janis

professional basketball player, was born Nathaniel Archibald in New York City but he was known as Tiny Some say he was nicknamed after his father Big Tiny while others believe that he was given that label because he was small in comparison with the other players on the basketball court He was the oldest of seven children and was raised in the South Bronx s Patterson Housing Projects At age fourteen his father left the family and Archibald effectively became head of the household His mother worked at a neighborhood supermarket called Alexander s to make enough money to care for the family Basketball became Archibald s sanctuary from drugs and violence which were rampant in his neighborhood and among his friends Still it wasn t easy for him to get himself on a team as he was small painfully shy and lacked confidence on the basketball court He ...

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Luckett V. Davis

boxer, was born Henry Jackson Jr. near Columbus, Mississippi, the son of Henry Jackson. His mother, whose name is unknown, was a full‐blooded Iroquois, and his father was of mixed Indian, Irish, and black ancestry. He was the eleventh child in a family of sharecroppers. When he was four years old his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his father and older brothers worked in the food‐processing industry. His mother died a few years later, after which he was reared by his paternal grandmother. Jackson graduated from Toussaint L'Ouverture Grammar School and Vashon High School, working during his school years as a pin boy at a bowling alley and becoming the inter‐alley bowling champion in midtown St. Louis. He gained his first boxing experience by winning a competition among the pin boys.

Lacking funds to attend college, Jackson worked at a series of unskilled jobs At the ...

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Larry R. Gerlach

baseball umpire, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Littleton Ashford, a truck driver, and Adele Bain. Ashford was two or three years old when his father abandoned the family, so he grew up under the strong influence of his mother, a secretary for the California Eagle, an African American newspaper published in Los Angeles. As a youth, Ashford exhibited the traits that marked him in adult life as a gregarious extrovert. At Jefferson High School he was a sprinter on the track team, a member of the scholastic honor society, and the first African American to serve as president of the student body and as editor of the school newspaper. He graduated from Los Angeles City College and attended Chapman College in nearby Orange from 1940 to 1941. From 1944 until 1947 he served in the U.S. Navy.

Ashford began his umpiring career ...

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John Herschel Barnhill

right-handed baseball pitcher and occasional outfielder, was born in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Details of his parents’ names and occupations, and his own experiences before baseball, are not known.

Nicknamed the Black Diamond and the Georgia Rabbit, Ball was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 170 pounds. He ranked with Rube Foster, Harry Buckner, and Dan McClellan as one of the outstanding pitchers in black baseball. He was a shrewd, control pitcher, not overpowering but adept with the spitball. In many seasons, he won over twenty games, averaged more than one strikeout per inning, and held his earned run average below 2.00.

At first he played for otherwise all-white amateur or semipro teams in Saint Cloud, Minnesota. His first win was in 1896 by a score of 26 to 25 In his first North Dakota season he won 25 of 28 ...

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Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born in Empire, Alabama, the third of five sons of Garnett Bankhead Sr., a coal miner, and Arie (Armstrong) Bankhead. Baseball was in the family blood: Garnett Bankhead was a power‐hitting first baseman in an Alabama industrial league, and all five Bankhead brothers played in the Negro Leagues, though Dan was the only one to play in the major leagues, becoming the first black pitcher in modern baseball history.

After attending various public schools in Birmingham, Alabama, Bankhead followed his two brothers Sam and Fred into the Negro Leagues, when he signed as a shortstop with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1940. He soon moved to the pitching mound, establishing himself with a dominant fastball and effective breaking ball; in 1941 he was named to the East West All Star Game hurling a pair of shutout innings That winter he played in the Puerto ...

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Byron Motley

baseball player-manager, was the eldest of five Negro Baseball League playing brothers born to Garnett Bankhead, a coal miner, and Ara Armstrong, a housewife, in Empire, Alabama. Before becoming one of the Negro Leagues' most popular players, Samuel “Sam” Howard Bankhead spent his youth playing in sandlots around his hometown when he wasn't working the coal mines. In 1929, his professional baseball-playing days began with the Birmingham Black Barons, but he would move from team to team.

A five tool ballplayer Bankhead s Negro League Baseball career spanned two decades The five foot eight inch 175 pound dynamo consistently hit for average hit with power possessed a rifle like throwing arm excelled at fielding and was a leading base stealer throughout the 1930s and 1940s His lifetime batting average of 318 and versatile abilities earned him seven East West All Star berths at five different positions ...

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Richard Sobel

Major League Baseball player and sports marketing executive, was born Ernest Banks in Dallas, Texas, to Eddie, a semiprofessional baseball player, WPA worker, and wholesale grocery employee, and Essie Banks, a homemaker. Raised in Dallas as the second child and first boy of twelve children, his mother said he “was a blessing to us all” (Contemporary Black Biography, 2002, 17). Ernie graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas in 1950 and later took courses at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and other colleges.

At Washington High, Banks excelled in baseball, basketball, and track and field (high jumping 5‘11'’, broad jumping 19 feet). Once batboy for his dad's semipro team and on the Washington softball team, during high school summers he played in a barnstorming “summer time baseball troupe,” the Amarillo Colts, earning $15 a game (Current Biography, 1959 After graduating from ...

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Hasaan A. Kirkland

football player and painter, was born Ernest Eugene Barnes Jr. in Durham, North Carolina, the son of Ernest Barnes Sr., a tobacco worker, and Fannie Mae Geer, who worked for a local legal official. On occasion Barnes talked with Mr. Fuller, his mother's employer, and from him learned about culture, art, and classical music.

Before the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 it was uncommon for African Americans in North Carolina to have access to museums or other sources of information about ancient or world cultures Segregation and racial inequalities in schools and other public institutions deprived most back children of avenues for artistic pursuits Despite such constraints Barnes s mother exposed her son to as much culture and art as she could he studied dance and horn and percussion instruments as well as the visual arts By the time ...

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Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Oberlin, Ohio, one of five children (two boys and three girls) of James and Margaret Barnes. James, from North Carolina, was a chef at Oberlin College, and Margaret, from Kentucky, ran a family laundry. Soon after they married, Barnes's parents settled in Oberlin to raise their family because of the community's liberal atmosphere. They were aware of the role the town had played as a way station on the Underground Railroad for fugitive slaves in the nineteenth century. Barnes received the bulk of his education in Oberlin. He graduated from high school there in 1932 and was elected to the National Honor Society. In 1936 he graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor s degree in Physical Education He was an outstanding athlete who played end on the college s football team and starred on the track team He established a ...