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Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...


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 ...


Joshunda Sanders

media mogul, model, and actress, was born Tyra Lynne Banks and grew up in Inglewood, California. Her father, Donald Banks, was a computer consultant, and her mother, Carolyn London, was a medical photographer and business manager. The couple divorced when Tyra was six years old, in 1980.

Banks attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School, an all-girl's private school. She credited her mother's photography business and friends' encouragement with her ability to overcome a self-consciousness during her awkward adolescence that almost made her pursue another path.

“I grew three inches and lost 40 pounds in 90 days,” she told the Black Collegian in an interview about her teen years. “It was just this crazy growth spurt. I felt like a freak: people would stare at me in the grocery store.”

A friend encouraged her to try modeling during her senior year At the time several ...


Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...


Mary Krane Derr

Roman Catholic religious leader, sacred music performer, and social justice activist, was born Bertha J. Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the granddaughter of slaves and only child of physician Theon Edward Bowman and high school music teacher Mary Esther Coleman. Baptized an Episcopalian, Bertha attended Methodist services. Growing up in segregated, impoverished Canton, Mississippi, she absorbed the spirituality and music of black community elders and her parents' own deep commitments to lives of service. At age ten, she chose to be baptized as a Roman Catholic because she admired the work of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) in Canton. In the face of public uproar, white nuns from this order taught black students at Holy Child Jesus Catholic School. Unable to read after five years of poor quality education in segregated public schools, Bertha finally became literate after transferring to this school in 1949 ...


Devora Fogelman

was born Alverta Elise La Pallo in New York City to Bernando La Pallo, a chef and later an author, and Ida Roberta (Small) La Pallo, who worked at Saks Fifth Avenue as a marker of prices, as well as at a small company that made diaper bags. Lee had one younger sister, Nandra.

Chamberlin attended Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school in Harlem and Cathedral High School in midtown Manhattan The year of her graduation is unknown At the age of seventeen she won a play writing contest through the New York Chapter of the American Cancer Society The year is unknown when she began her studies at Washington Square College of New York University where she was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and participated in an exchange program at the Sorbonne in Paris France The year of her graduation is unknown After completing college with ...


Jeremy Rich

was born in the town of Mujumi, Mhondoro province, Zimbabwe on 8 July 1946. She often asked to watch over her grandfather’s cattle herd so she could sing alone, and became determined to learn to play the mbira (thumb piano) as a young girl. However, Stella ran into much opposition in this youthful goal. The mbira is commonly associated with songs and rituals performed by men in the Shona ethnic community who believed they were communicating with ancestral spirits. Chiweshwe struggled for years to convince her family and others to allow her to master this instrument. Another problem was that Zimbabweans who went to her local mission church were forbidden to listen to traditional songs or perform on the mbira. When she was eight years old Stella attended a ceremony in which older people became possessed by ancestors while the mbira was played. Between 1966 and 1969 Chiweshe ...


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 ...


Born and raised in the Queensbridge Housing Projects in Long Island City, Julie Dash stumbled into filmmaking at age seventeen, when she enrolled with a friend in a workshop at the Studio Museum in Harlem. By the age of nineteen she had made her first film, shot with a Super 8 camera using pictures from Jet magazine attached to pipe cleaners. Dash majored in psychology at the City College of New York but graduated in film production. In 1973 she wrote and produced a documentary, Working Models of Success.

After graduation Dash moved to Los Angeles, California, gaining experience working on many film crews. In Los Angeles, she became the youngest fellow ever at the Center for Advanced Film Studies. During her two-year fellowship, Dash adapted an Alice Walker short story, Diary of an African Nun (1977 An experimental dance film that she conceived ...


Jeremy Rich

was born in Isiro, a city in Orientale province in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo on 20 October 1964. She was only a week old when nationalist Simba rebels killed her white Belgian father during the great revolt against the pro-Western Congolese government in 1964. Pygmies of the Twa people hid Daulne, her Congolese mother, Bernadette, and her three sisters for a time before the family managed to make its way into territory controlled by troops loyal to Moïse Tshombe Kapenda s government Her mother fled to Belgium the homeland of her father Daulne was raised in a Catholic home and later stated that the hymns she heard in her youth influenced her later music Daulne excelled in athletics as an adolescent and at one point hoped to become an Olympic athlete before an injury cut short her career in track and field ...


Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Philadelphia, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was the youngest of five children of the devoted Quakers John and Mary Edmondson Dickinson. When Anna was two years old, her father died shortly after giving an antislavery speech. Although it is unlikely that Dickinson remembered her father, she may have been inspired by his legacy.

After John's death the family struggled financially, but Anna still received a quality education, attending the Friends' Select School in Philadelphia and the Greenwood Institute in New Brighton, Pennsylvania; at the latter she was known as an avid reader and questioner. She showed early promise, publishing her first article at age fourteen in the Liberator, the newspaper that served as a platform for the radical reformer and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Following her 1860 address to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and her 1861 speech entitled Women s Rights and Wrongs Dickinson began receiving ...


Jeremy Rich

Chadian business leader and journalist, was born in the town of Ati, in the eastern Chadian region of Wadai, on 14 July 1949. Her mother was an Arab woman from Batha. After her parents divorced when she was very young, she remarried a southern Chadian man named Dordji who served in the French colonial military. Fatimé’s biological father, a trader, died in 1954. Her stepfather treated Fatimé just like the rest of his children, and so she took his surname. Shortly after her mother married this soldier, they moved to Bartha and then to the southern Chadian town of Sarh. In 1954 Dordji became jealous of her friends who were attending primary school In the early 1950s children did not normally attend schools before the age of seven While her parents could not find a way to circumvent the educational policies of the French administration the story ...


Jeremy Rich

was born in Paris, France. Her father Béchir El Fani was a Tunisian Arab and her mother was of European descent. Both her parents were communists—her father was one of the leaders of the Tunisian Communist Party banned by Tunisian dictator Habib Bourguiba—and their atheist and secular attitudes deeply shaped El Fani’s intellectual development. She later recalled her childhood in Tunis as a period in which secularization had flourished, but her parents’ dream of revolution had failed to halt Bourguiba’s ascension to power as a dictator following Tunisian independence in 1956.

El Fani never had the opportunity to attend film school, and split much of her life between living in France and Tunisia. She had a brief role in a 1982 film by French director Jerry Schatzburg. From 1983 to 1990 El Fani worked with film crews serving major Western film directors such as Roman Polanski and David ...


Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born in Havana on 5 August 1900. Her full family background is unknown, but she was born to parents Nicolás and Francisca in Pueblo Nuevo, a largely black neighborhood of Havana. She was raised in a housing complex named El Africa, surrounded not only by the heavy presence of Afro-Cuban religion, but by negros de nación (African-born blacks who had been brought to Cuba as slaves; Cuba imported slaves up until the 1860s and did not formally abolish the practice until 1886). It was due to her upbringing, immersed in African-derived music, dance, and religion, that Fresneda would eventually serve as a principal informant to folklorists and scholars, including preeminent anthropologist Fernando Ortiz, seeking to document and preserve these cultural practices.

Before the 1959 Cuban Revolution there were very few professional Afro Cuban folkloric musicians and dancers and Fresneda worked in various service occupations for many ...


Vanessa Agard-Jones

culinary anthropologist, poet, performing artist, and journalist, was born Verta Mae Smart in Fairfax, South Carolina, the daughter of Frank Smart. She grew up in Monk's Corner, South Carolina, and as a teenager moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she attended Kensington High School. Grosvenor married twice, first to Robert S. Grosvenor and later to Ellensworth Ausby, and had two children.

Grosvenor's early life in the South Carolina Lowcountry was enormously influential in her later career, grounding her in a cultural milieu that was thoroughly Geechee (or Gullah) in language (her first language was the Creole known as Gullah), in ritual, and perhaps most importantly to her later work, in food. Geechee communities of the American South have retained African linguistic and cultural practices.

At the age of thirty-two, in 1970, Grosvenor published her culinary memoir Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a ...


Donald Yacovone

abolitionist and singer, was born Lavinia (sometimes Lavina) F. Ames in Andover, Massachusetts, to Prince and Eunice (Russ) Ames. Nothing else is known about her early life except that the U.S. census listed her as a mulatto. She married the abolitionist leader John T. Hilton on 31 October 1825. The couple had six children—one died an infant in 1826—Lucretia, Louisa, John W., Henry, and Thomas B. She was active in Boston's African Baptist Church and in April 1833 performed a vocal solo in a concert held in the church by the Baptist Singing Society. While her husband achieved fame as an abolitionist leader and grand master of the Prince Hall Freemason lodge number 459 in Boston, Lavinia pursued her own antislavery work—a contribution that has been largely overlooked by historians.

In April 1833 while her husband helped form a gentleman s temperance ...


Rainer E. Lotz

the first solo black female recording artist, was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Little is known of her early life, including her maiden name, prior to her marriage around 1877 to fellow entertainer Sam B. Hyers (1830–1896). The marriage was Sam B. Hyers' second. His first, to Annie B. Hyers (maiden name unknown), had produced two daughters, Anna Madah and Louis Emma, who as the Hyers Sisters would earn fame in the 1870s as pioneers of black musical comedy theatre. May C. Hyers and Sam Hyers had two children, Mary Catherine Bohee and Chonita Hyers Dorsey.

From 1895 to 1896 Hyers, who used the stage name “Quagga,” toured with her husband's “Colored Musical Comedy Co[mpany].” Following Sam B. Hyers' death in 1896, his company was taken over by L. Milt Boyer who continued under the original banner of S B Hyers with ...


Leyla Keough

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Judith Jamison started dancing at the age of six at the Judimar School of Dance. At seventeen, she left to study psychology at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. After three semesters, she returned to Philadelphia to continue her dance training at the Philadelphia Dance Company (now University of Arts).

After a 1964 appearance with Agnes de Mille's dance troupe in New York, Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (AAADT) in 1965. Because of this company's financial difficulties, she danced with the Harkness Ballet for the 1966 season. But in 1967 she returned to AAADT to become its premier dancer. With this company she toured the world, dancing in Cry (1971), her signature dance, which Ailey choreographed to honor the strength and dignity of African American women. For her performances, she won an award from Dance Magazine in 1972 ...


Roanne Edwards

A woman of many talents, Eva Jessye pursued a music career that spanned more than half a century and won her a reputation as “the dean of black female musicians.” During the 1930s she gained international attention as director of the Eva Jessye Choir, which toured the United States and Europe, and sang in the first production of George Gershwin's folk opera Porgy and Bess (1935). During the next three decades, she led the choir in numerous revivals of the opera and in 1963 directed the choir for the historic March on Washington led by Martin Luther King

Jessye grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas, where, after the separation of her parents in 1898, her grandmother and her mother's sisters reared her. As a child she began singing, organized a girls' quartet, and, at the age of twelve, helped composer Will Marion Cook copy music for ...


Marva Griffin Carter

choral conductor, composer, and actress, was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, to Albert Jesey, a chicken picker, and Julia (Buckner) Jesey. Eva changed the spelling of her surname to Jessye in the 1920s. Jessye later said that she received her life's directive in a speech she heard delivered by Booker T. Washington, wherein he declared: “I hope the time will never come when we neglect and scorn the songs of our fathers” (Atlanta Constitution, 6 Feb. 1978). That time never came for Eva Jessye, who dedicated herself to preserving the folk repertoire and performance practices of African Americans. Having ancestors born into slavery, she was uniquely exposed to their songs, with their inherent drama, during her youth.

Eva s mother struggled to purchase for her daughter the first black owned piano in Coffeyville which she learned to play by ear A ...