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Lois Bellamy

voice teacher, mezzo-soprano, pianist, educator, was one of four children born to Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker and Elizabeth Baytop Baker in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her father's parents were slaves. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker was born a slave on 11 August 1860 and worked on the farm until he was twenty-one years old. He was one of five children and was the first African American to earn and receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1906. In 1890 he received a B.A. from Boston University and a Bachelor's in Divinity from Yale University and studied psychology and philosophy from 1896 to 1900 at Yale Graduate School. He was minister of the Dixwell Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1896 to 1900. He was listed in Who's Who in New England, 1908–1909 and his writings paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance era ...

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Graeme Boone and James Sellman

The roots of the jook joint—a distinctly African American place for music, dancing, and socializing—reach back well before the Civil War (1861–1865) to the era of slavery. For slaves, free time and free space were transitory, rare, and surrounded in secrecy. In his autobiography, Tom Fletcher, an entertainer born in the late nineteenth century, recalled stories of such gatherings that he had heard when he was a boy: “[T]he slaves couldn't just come right out and say they were going to have a party or even a religious gathering. … [They] would use some kind of a signal … and one of the main code songs was the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. … The steal away gatherings sometimes were religious services. … Other times they were … good time parties.”

In such an environment to steal away and dance make music or pray together meant more than ...

Article

concert pianist, composer, humanitarian, educator, and advocate of Black History Month, was one of three children born to R. Starling Pritchard Sr. and Lucille Pickard Pritchard in Winston Salem North Carolina His parents adopted two children Lucille had a vision before Robert s birth that he would be the first viable African American classical pianist She would place a hand wound Victrola record player close to her stomach so that the baby would be saturated with jazz spirituals and the blues as well as the classical European music of Beethoven Chopin and Mozart Due to Robert Sr s inability to find work and their experience with racism in North Carolina the family moved to Buffalo New York shortly after Robert s birth They soon found out that racism also existed in Buffalo Moreover Pritchard s father could not find work in that city so ...

Article

Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

minister, musician, and photographer, was born in Bayou Rapides, Louisiana, to Irene Lair and Giuseppe “Joe” Nasello. Nasello, who immigrated to the United States from his native Sicily in 1901, owned a dry goods store in Alexandria, Louisiana, that Willie remembered visiting with his mother from time to time. However, Joe Nasello had another family, and given the mores of the time, “Papa” Joe never acknowledged the two children he fathered with Irene. (A daughter, Alice, was born in 1912.) Although Joe Nasello lived until 1958, it appears that father and son never met face to face nor openly acknowledged their relationship. Seals talked freely yet sparingly of his paternity, and he jokingly noted to his children that he was an “Italian.”

According to Willie, “Seals” was a made-up name that he took from Lucille Ceil a favorite grade school teacher ...

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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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Bruce Nemerov

singer, guitarist, songwriter, and evangelist, was born Ola Mae Long in Atlanta, Georgia, to Mary Long, a laundress. Mother and daughter lived in racially segregated Atlanta's Summerhill district, just a few blocks from Decatur Street, Atlanta's black commercial and entertainment center.

In 1922, Ola Mae was put out to work as a cook and housekeeper in the home of Devereaux F. McClatchey, a Southern Bell Telephone executive. This was her first experience living outside the segregated Summerhill neighborhood. The following year she underwent a conversion experience at a revival held at the Fire Baptized Holiness Church, a Pentecostal denomination organized in Anderson, South Carolina, in 1898 and originally an integrated association.

The black members of the Fire Baptized Holiness Church, in response to increasingly strict enforcement of “Jim Crow” laws, in 1908 withdrew and formed the Colored Fire Baptized Holiness Church with ...

Article

Jill Silos-Rooney

singer and songwriter, was born Mary Esther Wells in Detroit, Michigan into a single-parent household. Her mother worked as a domestic, but her name is unknown. As a child Wells survived spinal meningitis and tuberculosis, although she was left with temporary paralysis and permanent hearing and sight impairments. After years of struggle to regain her health, she tapped into her vocal ability; her featured solo performances in her uncle's Baptist church and Northwestern High School's choir in Detroit first showcased her warm, throaty voice. She soon began to sing with all-male vocal groups.

There are conflicting accounts of Wells's start at Motown. In 1959 or 1960 at age seventeen or eighteen she either went to Motown's open auditions or was introduced to Motown founder Berry Gordy by his assistant Robert Bateman to demo a song she had written for Jackie Wilson called “Bye Bye Baby.”

Gordy sensing the potential ...