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Eleanor D. Branch

singer, songwriter, actor, activist, playwright, was born Oscar Cicero Brown Jr., the son of Oscar Brown Sr., a lawyer and real estate broker, and Helen Lawrence, a schoolteacher, in Chicago.

Growing up, Brown demonstrated an early attraction to and flair for language. He won elocution contests in school and was drawn to the poetry of Langston Hughes and Countée Cullen as well as to the music of Cole Porter and Oscar Hammerstein. He wrote songs as a teenager and by age fifteen had made his show business debut in the children's radio drama Secret City A year later having skipped two grades he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin only to find that academia was not for him he was drawn to creative writing but fell short in other subjects and as a consequence drifted from school to school never graduating Throughout this period his ...

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Charles Rosenberg

an early New Orleans radio show host, who made his name in rhythm and blues, but devoted most of his life to gospel, was born Vernon Winslow in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Harry and Lenora Winslow; his father was the foreman at a sign company, while his mother stayed home raising seven children. Four brothers and two sisters were all born in Ohio; their father was born in Indiana around 1886, and their mother in Kentucky around 1888.

By 1930, his father was gone, probably deceased, and Lenora Winslow was raising her family in Chicago Illinois The oldest sons Wendell and Vernon were the primary breadwinners working as a porter for a retail store and a messenger at the office of an oil company respectively Somehow carrying this responsibility at the age of nineteen Winslow was able to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta then ...

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Pamela Lee Gray

musician, activist, author, painter, and sculptor, was born Richard Pierce Havens in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of nine children. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. His father, Richard Havens, worked as a metal plater and dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, eventually learning to play a number of instruments. Richie's mother Mildred a bookbinder and casual singer at home encouraged her young son when he started singing background vocals at the age of twelve for local groups All kinds of music were played in the Havens home Richie s grandmother listened to Yiddish gospel and big band music his mother enjoyed country music and his father loved jazz He joined the doo wop singing group the Five Chances at age fifteen and performed the next year with the Brooklyn McCrea Gospel Singers a group that sang hymns for neighborhood churches Havens ...

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Cynthia Haveson Veloric

artist and educator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Ruby Arlene Powell, a homemaker, and Barkley H. Hendricks, a carpenter who worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Barkley L. Hendricks “didn't like school” (unpublished interview, 2005), preferring to sketch and draw in his spare time, but once he entered high school, his teachers encouraged his art studies. Another outlet for his talent was the high school yearbook, for which he was both editor and illustrator. Outside school he created chalk and pastel markings on city walls, which he later called “pre-aerosol graffiti” (unpublished interview, 2005).

After graduating from Simon Gratz High School in 1963, Hendricks enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the oldest art school in the country. At the time, there were few black students or faculty. He can easily recall fellow students Lou Sloan and Raymond Saunders ...

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Leila Kamali

Black beggar and performer in 19th‐century London known as ‘Black Joe’. The details of Johnson's birth are unknown, but he is immortalized in a drawing, first published in 1815, which is featured in John Thomas Smith'sVagabondiana; or, Anecdotes of Mendicant Wanderers Through the Streets of London (1817).

Johnson had served in the merchant navy until he retired following an accident. Not being entitled to any relief payments because of his foreign birth, he was obliged to earn a living by begging. In order to avoid confrontation with the local beadles, he first started on Tower Hill, where he amused passers‐by by singing George Alexander Stevens's ‘Storm’, and later ventured into the public streets, becoming a so‐called ‘Regular Chaunter’. Johnson built a model of the ship Nelson and fixed it to his hat so that by bowing his head he was able to simulate the motion ...

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South African novelist, playwright, poet, painter, sculptor, film producer, and academic, was born on 6 October 1948 in Sterkspruit in the Herschel District of the Eastern Cape, near the border with Lesotho. His father Ashby Peter Solomzi Mda was a schoolteacher, later an attorney, and a founder of the African National Congress Youth League and of the Pan-African Congress; his mother Rose Nompumelelo Mda was a nurse. When Mda was an infant, his parents moved with him to Orlando East and then to Dobsonville in Soweto, where his father taught school.

Mda claims that he became a juvenile delinquent and joined street gangs during his time in Soweto while his father was studying law In hopes of keeping him out of trouble his parents sent him as a teenager to live with his grandparents in Sterkspruit soon after his father joined him to establish a law practice there His father ...

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Born in Lafayette, Alabama, Sister Gertrude Morgan became an evangelist and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1939. She took the title “Sister” in the 1950s when, with two other street missionaries, she founded a church and an orphanage.

Morgan began painting in 1956, concentrating primarily on religious visions and biblical scenes. She believed that she was mystically married to Jesus Christ which she symbolized by dressing entirely in white Her paintings frequently depicted her with Jesus as bride and groom often with herself in black before and in white after the marriage As a street preacher Morgan eschewed the formal art world preferring to make folk art with any material at hand including Styrofoam cardboard lamp shades and jelly jars Her work frequently includes calligraphy which communicates a spiritual message or a biblical verse All her inspiration she felt came from God saying He moves ...

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C. M. Winston

artist, curator, art historian, filmmaker, writer, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Howard Pindell and Mildred, both educators. By the age of eight Pindell already aspired to be an artist, and she attended Saturday drawing classes at the Fleischer Art Memorial.

Pindell graduated cum laude with a BFA from Boston University and earned an MFA from Yale University's School of Art and Architecture in 1967. She moved to New York City in 1967 after graduating from Yale and she worked primarily as a painter of nonobjective and figurative works during the early years of her career That year she landed a job at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA as an exhibition assistant in the department of national and international circulating exhibitions At MoMA she rose through the ranks from curatorial assistant to associate curator in ...

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Diane Hudson

artist, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Lucille Lancaster and William Pope II. His mother worked as a reporter, an office worker, nurse, and housewife, and his father was a factory worker and clothes presser.

Self-proclaimed the “Friendliest Black Artist in America,” Pope.L is a multidisciplinary artist whose broad-based conceptual performances aggressively address consumerism, racism, class, and gender. The unusual name, Pope.L, was given to him at birth by his mother, the L representing her maiden name, Lancaster. Pope.L would later recall, “As mum would say, she only got one letter” (interview with the author, July 2004).

Pope L didn t really commit to a life of art until he was a junior in high school although he remembers a female art teacher in grammar school encouraging him His grandmother he tells me was very much for his becoming an artist No one in my family ...

Article

Leslie Gourse

tenor saxophonist, composer, arranger, and painter, was born Farrell Sanders in Little Rock, Arkansas. The names of his parents, who were both music teachers, are unknown. “[I was] the only child in a musical family,” Sanders recalled in a 1994 interview, “my whole family could sing.” He loved music, but he also thought that he would like to become an abstract painter. Because his family had no money to give him art lessons, he made the practical decision to stay with music. For one thing he was surrounded by teachers. His family, church, and neighborhood were brimming over with musicians.

For $17 50 Sanders bought a metal clarinet from a member of his family s Baptist church and every Sunday he paid twenty cents until the debt was paid off playing in rhythm and blues gigs to earn the money Since music continued to be ...

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Angela R. Sidman

painter, dancer, playwright, and set designer, was born in White City, Kentucky, to parents whose names and occupations are unknown. John Robinson, a coal miner uncle with an interest in drawing and painting, encouraged young Sebree's artistic talents. “Robinson tutored Charles in drawing by having him sketch pictures with a stick in the soil and taught him how to make little figures of men out of mud and twigs” (Marshall, 3). In 1924, when Sebree was ten years old, he and his mother joined the flood of African Americans moving north in the Great Migration. They settled in Chicago, where the preadolescent Sebree soon launched himself into the city's thriving cultural scene.

An elementary school teacher jumpstarted Sebree s career when she showed his artwork to members of the University of Chicago s Renaissance Society The group was impressed enough with the fourteen year ...

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Elisabeth Harney

Senegalese artist, painter, and actor, was born in Saint-Louis, Senegal. Originally trained as a stenographer, Seye is self-taught as a visual artist and actor. She participated in the much heralded Premier Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres in Dakar (1966) and, at the bequest of the Senegalese minister of culture, three years later in the First Pan-African Cultural Festival in Algiers, where she won a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) grant to support a training residency in Ivory Coast. Her residency led to a solo exhibition in the Hôtel Ivoire (1972), participation in the widely touring state-sponsored Senegalese Art Today (which opened in Paris at the Grand Palais in 1974), and a place within the festival of arts and culture called “FESTAC” in Lagos in 1977 She has enjoyed a broad ranging patronage from public commissions for the Ethiopian offices of the Organization of African Unity and ...

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Charles Rosenberg

the fifth of the seven children of Marion and Jennie Simpson. His father was a porter for a railroad, and later read water meters for a living; there is no record of his mother working outside the home.

Simpson was kept out of school until 5th grade by repeated bouts with diphtheria and rheumatic fever. He was tutored by his sisters and brothers, and when physically able, spent a good deal of time at the Diamond Jenkins orphanage. He still had his family, but Jenkins was a center of music, particularly jazz, where many residents developing their skills turned out to be future professionals, including Cat Anderson Pinkett and Freddie Green Basie In high school he played tenor saxophone clarinet and flute Spending a good deal of time drawing cartoons and painting Simpson was taught from the age of 13 by local art gallery owner William Halsey who ...

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Albert Smith was born in New York, New York He was trained in piano and guitar at the Ethical Culture High School in New York and later studied at the National Academy of Design in Belgium where he twice won the Suyden Bronze Medal After serving in a military ...

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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

abstract expressionist artist, dancer, and educator, was born in Yakima, Washington, the second of five children of Gertrude Beatrice Carson and James A. Johnson, an interior decorator and inventor.

The family moved from Yakima to Boise, Idaho, and Pendleton, Oregon, finally settling in Portland, Oregon. They were often the only black family where they lived, and were subjected to racist taunts. Streat attended Boise High then graduated from Washington High School in Portland in 1932. She attended the [Portland] Museum Art School (now Pacific Northwest College of Art or PNCA) in 1934, and the University of Oregon from 1933 to 1936, but did not get a degree. Having started painting at the age of nine, Streat won honorable mention from the Harmon Foundation (set up by the white philanthropist William E. Harmon to support black artists for a juried exhibit in New ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

actor, artist, and singer, was born William December Williams Jr. in New York, New York, to William December Williams Sr. and Loretta Anne (maiden name unknown). His father, an African American, was a caretaker; his mother, a West Indian from Montserrat, was an elevator operator. Williams and his twin sister, Loretta, were raised by their maternal grandmother in Harlem. In 1945, when he was only seven years old, he performed on Broadway in Kurt Weill's The Firebrand of Florence. He had accompanied his mother to work at the Lyceum Theater when producer Max Gordon suggested that young Williams audition for a part opposite actress Lotte Lenya. Along with classmate actress Diahann Carroll, he was a student at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Fine Arts in New York, from which he graduated in 1955 Williams went on to study painting at ...

Article

Zapiro  

Sean Jacobs

South African political cartoonist, satirist, and animator, was born Jonathan Shapiro in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1958. His father, Gershon Shapiro, was a lawyer, and his mother, Gaby, a prominent antiapartheid political activist. Gershon Shapiro was a descendant of Lithuanian Jews who had immigrated to South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century, fleeing Russian anti-Semitism. Gaby Shapiro was born in 1930 in Berlin, Germany. Her family fled to London in 1937 to escape the Nazi Holocaust of Jews on continental Europe. Zapiro’s parents met and married while they were students at the London School of Economics in 1956 before moving to South Africa Zapiro is one of four children he has one brother and two sisters Zapiro grew up in Rondebosch a suburb of Cape Town where he also completed his elementary and high school education A high school classmate gave him the nickname Zapiro He ...