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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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Allison Kellar

actor, singer, and philanthropist, was born Etta Moten in Weimar, Texas, the only daughter of Reverend Freeman F. Moten and Ida Norman Moten. The ten-year-old Etta took an active part in church, singing in the choral group and instructing Sunday-school lessons. Standing on a makeshift step stool, in order to be at the same height level as the rest of the choir, she shared her voice with the congregation.

After high school Barnett wedded Lieutenant Curtis Brooks During their seven year marriage she had four children one of whom died at birth Following in the footsteps of her college educated parents she attended the University of Kansas in the 1920s however in order to receive her education Barnett had to sacrifice her conventional family life She divorced her husband and left her three daughters under her parents supervision while she attended school On weekends she cared ...

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Richard Sobel

track-and-field athlete, motivational speaker, and activist for youth, was born Robert Alfred Beamon in Jamaica, New York, to Naomi Brown Beamon and a father he never met. After his mother died from tuberculosis before Beamon's first birthday, his stepfather, James, assumed parental responsibility for Robert and his older, disabled brother Andrew. Robert's grandmother, Bessie Beamon, ultimately took over their care as a result of James's inadequate parenting skills. Rarely supervised, Beamon ran away from home when he was fourteen and joined a gang. When he struck a teacher who had attempted to break up one of Beamon's fights, he was expelled and charged with assault and battery.

Beamon's life might have become a tragedy if it weren't for a judge who was “thoughtful, compassionate, and obviously interested in helping kids” (Second Chances 3 The judge took a chance and allowed Beamon to attend an alternative school in ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

By the time Jim Brown retired in 1965 after nine seasons in the National Football League (NFL), many sports writers had described him as the best fullback ever to carry a football. Born on Simmons Island, Georgia, Jim Brown moved with his mother to Long Island, New York, at the age of seven. An all-state athlete in high school in football, basketball, and track, he became a four-sport star in college, adding lacrosse to his arsenal while at Syracuse University.

After graduating in 1957, Brown received job offers from professional baseball and basketball teams as well as invitations to become a boxer, but he chose to sign with the NFL's Cleveland Browns. The NFL named Brown Rookie of the Year in 1957 and chose him as its Most Valuable Player three times in his brief career He played in the Pro Bowl nine times setting records for ...

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David F. Smydra

athlete, actor, and activist, was born James Nathaniel Brown on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Theresa and Swinton Brown, a onetime boxer, who abandoned Theresa and their son two weeks after his birth. A couple of years later Theresa departed for Long Island, New York, to take a domestic job, leaving Jim to be raised by his great-grandmother and grandmother, the latter an alcoholic. By 1944 Theresa had saved enough money to send for Jim, and they were reunited in Manhasset, Long Island, for the first time in six years. Despite the usual friction of being the new kid—he was once accused by his peers of fighting dirty—Brown eventually distinguished himself athletically. He gained the attention of a local policeman, who lent Brown keys to the high school gym so that the youth could organize Police Boys' Club games whenever he and his friends wanted to play.At Manhasset ...

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Julian C. Madison

athlete, actor, civic activist. Jim Brown is generally recognized as the greatest football player and the greatest lacrosse player of all time. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 228 pounds, and with a 32-inch waist, Brown combined great speed with a powerful running style and fearsome stiff-arm to terrorize National Football League (NFL) defenders for nine years. The only person in history voted into three halls of fame (college football, college lacrosse, and the NFL), Brown is arguably the greatest athlete of the twentieth century.

James Nathaniel Brown was born on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Swinton “Sweet Sue” and Theresa Brown Swinton Brown left his family barely two weeks after his son was born and they rarely heard from him afterward When Jim was two his mother left him in the care of his great grandmother and moved to Great Neck Long Island where ...

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Shana L. Redmond

pianist and composer, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Clark Benjamin Brown, himself the son of a former slave. Little is known of Brown's natural mother, who died when Lawrence was three; from then on, he was raised by his stepmother Cenia Brown.

During his youth Brown took music instruction from the well-respected William Riddick. Exhibiting incredible promise, Brown was sent to Boston to receive further instruction in his primary instrument, piano. In addition to scholarships, Brown financed his education in Boston by working as an elevator operator. In 1916 he made his professional music debut as accompanist for the tenor Sydney Woodward. With this exposure Brown caught the eye of other musicians, including the famed tenor Roland Hayes. Brown and Hayes toured abroad from 1918 to 1923 and received great popular acclaim They had many important engagements including a performance for ...

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Steven J. Niven

prison musician, was born to sharecroppers in Greenwood, Mississippi. The names of his parents have not been recorded. Like most children in the Mississippi Delta at that time, Carter assisted his family in bringing in the cotton crop, which was particularly precarious during the severe agricultural depression of the 1930s that drastically reduced the price of cotton. With little or no formal education, Carter left home at age thirteen, in 1939, in search of work. Not finding any, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II—some sources suggest he served in the U.S. Marines—and served on cruisers in the Pacific theater. He returned to Greenwood when the war ended. In 1947 he married his childhood sweetheart, a sharecropper's daughter named Rosie Lee whose maiden name is unknown. The couple had three daughters.

Work was no easier to come by after the war than it had been before ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in East Orange, New Jersey, the eldest of the two children of Jetta Clark and Dr. Joe Louis Clark. The Clarks lived in Newark, a short distance from her birthplace, until moving to South Orange after the 1967 riots. Her father, who served as the principal of Eastside High School, in Paterson, New Jersey, gained national attention for enforcing discipline and improving academic achievement at Eastside, one of the state’s toughest inner-city schools, and became the subject of the 1989 film Lean on Me, in which the award-winning actor Morgan Freeman portrayed him.

Clark performed with the Alvin Ailey Junior Dance Company until the age of fourteen, when she began to participate in track, concentrating on the half-mile (880 yards), the distance at which her father excelled at William Patterson University (then known as the Paterson State Teachers College) in Wayne, New Jersey. Interviewed for the Best ...

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Donna L. Halper

radio personality and advertising executive, was most likely the first black announcer in the history of broadcasting, on the air as early as 1924. His successful radio career would span four decades and make him a wealthy man. Cooper did not come from an entertainment background. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he was one of ten children of William and Lavina Cooper. Jack Cooper quit school after the fifth grade to help support his impoverished family. He held a number of low-paying jobs and for a time got interested in boxing, winning more than a hundred bouts as a welterweight fighter. But he found his calling on the vaudeville stage, where he became a singer and dancer, beginning in 1905 and continuing well into the 1920s. He was more than just a performer, writing and producing skits and entire shows, often in collaboration with his first wife Estelle ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

musician, primarily playing rhythm and blues on the piano, known professionally as “Champion Jack” Dupree, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His parents were killed when he was an infant, in a fire that burned their grocery store, and their names have never been established.

Dupree sometimes said that the fire had been set by the Ku Klux Klan. “All my life, from six years old” he later recalled, “I wanted to work and save up enough money and git enough ammunition and catch them in a meeting and spray them and let em spray me long as I could lay down dead in the field with a few of them I d be happy Norman p 130 Other times he said it was a spontaneous explosion Davis pp 52 53 a fire from an exploding kerosene container used for fueling lamps and the roof fell in Their names ...

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Jason Philip Miller

basketball player, was born Julius Winfield Erving III in Hempstead, New York, and raised by a single mother, his father having abandoned the family when Julius was only three years old. Since his family life was difficult to cope with, Julius spent a great deal of time on the streets and playing basketball at the local community courts. Julius received his familiar “Dr. J” moniker during a childhood pickup game; it was a nickname that would stick with him throughout his long and astonishing basketball career. By the time Julius was ten years old, he was playing with a local Salvation Army basketball team. He had already learned how to dunk—albeit on Prospect Elementary's lower baskets—and in just a few short years he was able to dunk the ball on regulation posts.

When Erving was thirteen, his mother remarried, and in 1963 the family relocated to nearby Roosevelt ...

Article

During his career Julius Erving—known to fans and announcers as Dr. J—set new standards of performance in his sport and made the slam-dunk into one of the most exciting moves in professional Basketball.

Julius Winfield Erving Jr. was born in East Meadow, New York. He grew up playing basketball on New York City playgrounds and then for Roosevelt High School. He recalled, “My first [slam] dunk was at the Prospect Elementary School, where they had 8-foot baskets and 13-foot ceilings. By the time I was in ninth grade, I was dunking the regular baskets.” Erving attended the University of Massachusetts, and during his sophomore and junior years (1969–1971), he led his team in scoring in forty-six of fifty-two varsity games.

In 1971 Erving left school to join the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association (ABA). He was named rookie of the year for the 1971 ...

Article

Michael L. Krenn

boxer and businessman, was born George Edward Foreman in Marshall, Texas, the son of J. D. Foreman and Nancy Ree. His father, a railroad employee and a heavy drinker, was absent for much of George's childhood. His mother worked several jobs, including as a waitress, to support George and his six siblings.

As Foreman describes it his childhood was marked by intense want and hunger and an anger that often exploded into fighting Even at a young age he was larger than normal and he used his intimidating size to bully his peers He had little love for school although football in junior high school proved attractive for its violence and aggression Foreman did not last long in high school however By the age of fifteen he was spending most of his time on the streets of Houston where his mother had moved the family when he was ...

Article

Patrick Stearns

professional boxer, actor, product spokesperson, and minister. George Edward Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas, to J. D. Foreman and Nancy Foreman. By the seventh grade he had dropped out of school, engaging in petty crimes, such as muggings. At age sixteen he enrolled in a Job Corps training program in Oregon. While working at a conservation camp affiliated with the program, Foreman found that he had a talent for boxing, and he won the Corps Diamond Belt Boxing Tournament.

In 1968 Foreman made the U.S. Olympic boxing team and won the gold medal in the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Vietnam War protests, the rise of black nationalism, and episodes of civil unrest in U.S. cities after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination earlier in the year were a sign of the times. The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City were also the scene ...

Article

Joanna Davenport

It was a historic moment. In the 1990 Wimbledon women’s singles final, Martina Navratilova won her ninth singles title, a record held by no other person, when she defeated Zina Garrison, the first black woman to play on Wimbledon’s center court since 1958, when Althea Gibson won her second of two Wimbledon crowns. Being first has been a common occurrence for the professional tennis player Zina Garrison.

Zina Garrison, the youngest of seven children, was born in Houston, Texas, to Mary and Ulysses Garrison Her father died before she was a year old so Garrison was raised by her mother who worked as an aide in a nursing home When Zina was ten she began playing tennis at the local public park courts where she received instruction from the resident coach Impressed with her talent he entered her in local tournaments where she did well By the ...

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Adam W. Green

tennis player, was born in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children, to Ulysses Garrison, a postal worker, and Mary Elizabeth Garrison, a nursing home aide. Though initially diagnosed with a stomach tumor, Garrison's mother discovered she was pregnant at 42 years old, ten years after her previous child. Her parents chose to begin her name with “Z” to emphasize that she would be the last of their children.

Garrison grew up in the working-class African American neighborhood of Sunnyside Gardens in Houston. When she was eleven months old, her father died of a stroke; three months later, her oldest brother Willie, a catcher in the Milwaukee Braves minor league system, was struck by a baseball, developed a tumor, and died two years later.

Garrison was ten years old when her older brother Rodney introduced her to a free tennis program at nearby MacGregor Park Two months ...

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Sharon L. Barnes

actress and writer, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the daughter of Daniel Marshall Gilbert, the owner of a furniture business, and Edna Earl Knott, the owner of a dressmaking business. In an unfinished autobiographical manuscript Gilbert wrote that because of her parents' jobs, she was cared for and educated by a nurse. She enrolled in the Boylan Home, a seminary for girls in Jacksonville, when she was in the fourth grade. After her family moved to Tampa, Florida, Gilbert attended a Catholic school and the Orange Park Normal and Industrial School. She went to Edward Waters College in Jacksonville and after graduation taught school in southern Florida before deciding that she wanted a different profession. She then entered the Brewster Hospital Nurses Training School and graduated three years later, staying on the staff for two more years as the assistant superintendent.

After moving to New York City ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Marvin Hagler, the eldest of seven children, was born in Newark, New Jersey. Boxing as an amateur, he won 57 bouts, winning the Amateur Athletic Union middleweight title in 1973. At 5 ft 9 ½ in (176 cm) tall, Hagler was a powerful 160-lb (70-kg) left-hander. He turned professional in 1973, winning his first 26 fights by knockout. He legally changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler so that he could be announced that way in the ring. He defeated Alan Minter in 1980 to become middleweight champion of the world. Hagler defended this title 12 times before he was defeated by Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987. He retired in June 1988. He later moved to Italy, where he enjoyed a second career as an action movie star.

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Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Ida Mae Hagler and Robert Sims. Most of his youth, however, was spent in Brockton, Massachusetts, where his mother and father moved with Marvin and his five siblings just a few years after Marvin's birth. Sims left the family when Marvin was a child. Like so many young men who turn to boxing, Hagler had found little to interest him in school. He dropped out during his first year in high school to pursue amateur fighting. The home of the former undefeated heavyweight king Rocky Marciano, Brockton had a history of producing champions. Hagler became acquainted with the Petronelli brothers, Goody, who served as his trainer, and Pat, who became his manager for most of his career.

Just shy of sixty amateur fights to his credit Hagler quickly established himself as one of the best amateur ...