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Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

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Michael J. Bustamante

was born on 27 February 1927 in Havana into a working-class family with twelve children. After completing the eighth grade and working as a bricklayer, Almeida was introduced to political activity in 1952 upon meeting Fidel Castro while employed at the beach club for students of the University of Havana. A veteran of the failed 1953 assault on Santiago de Cuba’s Moncada Barracks, and prisoner of the Fulgencio Batista government until May 1955, Almeida returned to Cuba in late November 1956 from exile in Mexico, along with other insurgents of the 26th of July Movement, aboard the yacht Granma. Together with Fidel Castro and his brother, Raúl, as well as Ché Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, Almeida was among the few rebels who survived initial clashes with Batista’s forces and arrived at the Sierra Maestra in eastern Cuba. In early 1958 he was promoted to Comandante Commander the ...

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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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Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...

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Theresa W. Bennett-Wilkes

singer, actor, activist, and humanitarian. Harold George Belafonte was born in New York City to Harold George Belafonte Sr., a native of Martinique, and Melvine Love Belafonte, who was from Jamaica. Melvine Belafonte moved her family back to Jamaica in 1935 after rioting broke out in Harlem. Young Harry lived in the Blue Mountains, Saint Anne's Bay, and Kingston before returning to Harlem in 1940. Belafonte, who suffered from dyslexia, dropped out of school in the ninth grade and joined the U.S. Navy in 1944.

The seeds of Belafonte s humanitarian social and political activism began to bloom during his military service His experiences performing the servile jobs assigned to enlisted blacks were eye opening His stint on active duty further shaped his views on freedom and eventually found expression in his music and his causes While in the navy he met a group ...

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Kerry Dexter

singer and actor, was born Charles Leon Arthello Bibb in Louisville, Kentucky. His father, also Leon Bibb, worked as a mail carrier and his mother, Elizabeth (McCloskey) Bibb, was a homemaker, although she sometimes assisted her mother, a domestic servant. Bibb's grandparents were born in slavery, and his forbears worked as slaves on vegetable plantations in western Kentucky. When he was a young child Bibb's aunt taught him spirituals, some of which he continued to sing throughout his career. His aunt recognized his vocal talent early, and she gave him a vision beyond the heavily segregated world of the South of the 1920s and 1930s by telling the young Bibb about Roland Hayes a black concert singer who moved to Europe when he could not find career opportunities in the United States because of his race and later returned to perform at Carnegie Hall Bibb continued to ...

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Edward A. Kemmick

decorated soldier and expert marksman, was born in Pungoteague, Accomack County, Virginia, the eighth of nine children born to Severn and Elizabeth Bivins. His father was a farmer who was also active in religious and educational endeavors. Four years before Horace Bivins was born, his father provided the money for the first church and schoolhouse for freed slaves built on the eastern shore of Virginia. The Accomack County census of 1870 said of Bivins's mother only that she “keeps house.”

Bivins worked on his parents' farm until the age of fifteen, when he was put in charge of another farm near Keller Station, Virginia. Three years later he entered Hampton School as a work student and received his first military training. “Having a very great desire for adventure and to see the wild West,” as Bivins later put it (Cashin, 58), he enlisted in the U.S. Army on 7 ...

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Nathaniel Friedman

jazz drummer, was born Edward Joseph in New Orleans, Louisiana, to unknown parents. He grew up steeped in his hometown's musical tradition, influenced by two tap‐dancing siblings to take up the drums. New Orleans percussionists like Paul Barbarin were Blackwell's earliest models, making him one of several future avant‐gardists whose roots were in jazz's oldest traditions.

In 1951 Blackwell relocated to Los Angeles, where he played in the rhythm and blues outfits of Plas and Raymond Johnson. More significantly he made the acquaintance the saxophonist Ornette Coleman with whom he would be associated for his entire career Coleman also working with various degrees of success in the Los Angeles rhythm and blues scene sought to introduce an unprecedented degree of melodic harmonic and rhythmic freedom into jazz This new approach required an almost telepathic bond between band members as interaction was governed by little more than improvisational ingenuity In ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz baritone saxophonist, was born in Brooklyn, Illinois. His father, Hamiet Bluiett Sr., worked in the steel mills and for the U.S. Postal Service, while his mother, Deborah Bluiett, was a housewife. Hamiet studied music as a child with his aunt Mattie Chambers (a choir director) and with the bandleader George Hudson from 1948 to 1955. He started out playing music on the piano and trumpet before switching to clarinet when he was nine years old. Hamiet had his first musical engagement playing clarinet at dances. While attending Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois (1957–1960), he started playing the flute at age eighteen but settled permanently on the baritone sax when he was twenty. Seeing Harry Carney play at a Duke Ellington concert made a strong impression on him Bluiett always named Carney as his favorite baritonist In his later years Bluiett also played bass ...

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Suzanne Cloud

jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, and educator, was born Cecil Vernon Bridgewater in Urbana, Illinois, into a family of musicians. His mother, Erma Pauline Scott Bridgewater, was the daughter of Ramon Mack Scott, who sang, played saxophone, piano, and drums, and led a band called Mack Scott and the Foot Warmers, in which Erma played piano for a time. Bridgewater's father, Cecil Bernard Bridgewater, played trumpet in the U.S. Navy band during World War II, and he was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base with other African American musicians such as Clark Terry, Marshall Royal, Jerome Richardson, and others. Bridgewater's grandfather, Preston Bridgewater, played trumpet and cornet professionally with the circus.

When Cecil Bridgewater was a student at Marquette Grade School in Champaign Illinois the school s band director noticed his potential and encouraged his parents to find a private trumpet teacher for ...

Article

Charles D. Grear

musician, performer, songwriter, and southern musical legend. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown—“Gatemouth” because of his deep voice—emerged as a musical legend in the South for more than fifty years. Brown was heavily influenced by the music of Texas and Louisiana, and his range of styles included the blues, rhythm and blues (R&B), country, swing, jazz, and Cajun. A virtuoso on guitar, violin, mandolin, viola, harmonica, and drums, Brown influenced and was influenced by performers as diverse as Albert Collins, Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa, Lonnie Brooks, Guitar Slim, and Joe Louis Walker. Throughout his career he recorded more than thirty albums. Those who have been featured on his albums include Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Amos Garrett, Jim Keltner, Maria Muldaur, and Leon Russell.

Born on 18 April 1924 in Vinton Louisiana Brown was raised in Orange Texas ...

Article

Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist, was born Willie L. Brown in New Haven, Connecticut, to Willie L. Brown Sr. and Dorothy Seay. At the age of thirteen, Brown began watching the situation comedy Soap, in which ventriloquist Jay Johnson played the character Chuck, with his wooden dummy Bob. This-was one of Brown's early inspirations to become a ventriloquist. His other influence was the legendary African American ventriloquist Willie Tyler Brown s mother purchased her thirteen year old son s first ventriloquist dummy as a Christmas present and he practiced three to four hours a day in front of the mirror to develop his skills before he made his first public appearance Brown felt that if he was not a good ventriloquist he would be made fun of for playing with dolls His rigorous practice schedule went on for several months until Brown performed in the annual talent show at Nationwide Insurance his ...

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Pamela Lee Gray

actor, voiceover artist, director, and writer, was born to Sylvanus, a Baptist minister, and Lovie (Lee) in Woodbury, New Jersey. Browne attended Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a literature degree in 1946, and went on to do graduate work at Middlebury College and Columbia University. He also studied in Italy. He competed in college track and was the Amateur Athletic Union indoor track champion of the one-thousand-yard run. While attending college, Browne was named an All-American athlete.

In 1946 Browne embarked upon two careers, teaching English, French, and literature at his alma mater, Lincoln University, while also holding a sales position at the Schenley Import Corporation. He left teaching in 1952 but kept his sales job until 1956 meanwhile another profession had caught his attention He joined the acting company at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven Connecticut and then he won his first acting job ...

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Elliott S. Hurwitt

dance-orchestra leader, military bandleader, and songwriter, was born James Timothy Brymn in Kinston, North Carolina, to Peter and Eliza. He attended Shaw University in his home state and continued his education at the National Conservatory of Music in New York, which had once boasted Antonin Dvorák among its teachers and Will Marion Cook among its pupils. In New York, Brymn teamed up with the lyricist Cecil Mack (Richard McPherson), and together they wrote some songs for the publishing firm of Joseph Stern. In 1901 they had their first song hit, “Josephine, My Jo,” which was interpolated into the Williams and Walker show Sons of Ham Brymn and Mack followed up the next year with Please Go Way and Let Me Sleep By this time Brymn was also writing with others besides Mack His My Little Zulu Babe was recorded by Williams and Walker near the end ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his doo-wop singing with the Flamingos and the Dells, was born in Harvey, a South Side suburb of Chicago. The names and occupations of his parents are not known. Johnny Carter, as he was most commonly known, grew up in Harvey, where he sang in a church choir. About 1950, Carter joined several other choir members and, as the Swallows, sang on Chicago street corners. The close-harmony style of the group would later be categorized as a new type of rhythm and blues known as doo-wop after one of the typical nonsense words used as rhythmic filler. When another group using the Swallows name climbed the chart, Carter's group changed its name to the Flamingos.

The Flamingos typically sang slow ballads with Carter only occasionally taking the lead More often he used his high tenor as ...

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Maxine Gordon

tenor saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. John Coltrane, often called Trane, is considered one of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz, both for his technical influence and for the spiritual nature of his music.

John William Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, and when he was two months old his parents, John Sr. and Alice, moved to High Point, North Carolina. There Coltrane lived in the home of his maternal grandparents. His grandfather, the Reverend William Wilson Blair, was a prominent member of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Coltrane's father played several musical instruments, and at age twelve John joined the band of the Boy Scout troop of the church, first playing E-flat alto horn and then clarinet.

While in high school Coltrane began to play the alto saxophone. He considered the alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges a member of the ...

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Donald Roe

comedian, actor, philanthropist. When Bill Cosby, the wealthy, well-educated, mild-mannered comedian, goes on stage and begins a monologue of funny stories relating to his poverty-stricken background, the stories are most likely true. William Henry Cosby Jr. was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, to William Henry Cosby Sr. and Anna Cosby in 1937. Known by its inhabitants as the “Jungle,” the Richard Allen housing projects, where Cosby grew up, were depressing, stylized, beige-colored, concrete housing, seemingly designed to prevent poor people from “contaminating” the rest of society.

When an IQ test confirmed that Cosby was highly intelligent his mother enrolled him in Central High School a school for gifted children However Cosby found it difficult to adjust there and transferred to Germantown High School There athletics provided a positive outlet for Cosby but his academic performance declined When school officials required him to repeat the tenth grade he ...

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Shennette Garrett-Scott

Revolutionary War soldier and fifer, was born in Africa and brought to work in the British colonies as a slave. Some sources assert that he was a free man when he enlisted in the Continental Army, but it is more likely that he secured his freedom in exchange for enlistment. His name does not appear on the list of enslaved recruits to the First Rhode Island Regiment compiled by historian Lorenzo Greene in his seminal 1952Journal of Negro History article Some Observations on the Black Regiment of Rhode Island in the American Revolution which may explain why historians and writers consider Cozzens a free person Greene admits that the primary source records are incomplete In addition like other enslaved recruits Cozzens would be emancipated if he passed muster and then served through the end of the war Cozzens may have been enslaved by members of the distinguished ...

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Anna Christian

actor, was born in New York City, though some biographies give his place of birth as the Caribbean island of Nevis. Little is known of Crosse's parents or siblings, but when Crosse was seven years old, his father, a schoolteacher, died, and he was sent to Nevis to be raised by his grandparents. He came from a family of teachers and preachers who could trace their ancestry on the island back 200 years. His grandfather, also a schoolmaster, strongly influenced Crosse, making sure that he received a solid education.

After several years Crosse returned to New York City where he attended Benjamin Franklin High School During his high school years he had a variety of odd jobs including loading boxcars for a railroad Eventually he left school to work as a packer in New York s garment district until he was drafted He served with the U S infantry in ...

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Jill Silos-Rooney

actor, singer, musician, and composer, was born Benjamin Sherman Crothers in Terre Haute, Indiana, the youngest of five children of Benjamin Crothers, a clothing store owner and odd jobber from Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Fredonia Lewis Crothers. Crothers's mother bought him his first drum which along with the guitar he taught himself to play Although unable to read music he began street performing for small change at age seven Crothers encountered discrimination in largely segregated Terre Haute when black players were barred from the high school football team Responding with what would soon become his characteristic blend of superficial accommodation and subversive disregard of racist standards he tolerated such discrimination as a temporary situation and became the yell leader for school pep rallies At the same time he flouted segregation by using his winning personality to frequent whites only restaurants As he later recalled I did a lot ...