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pianist, educator, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Trenton, Kentucky, to Mary Dickinson, also a slave, and Mr. Leavell, likely a scion of the white Benjamin Leavell family, pioneers of Trenton. According to family history, Josephine's father wanted to send her and her sister to Canada on the Underground Railroad, but their mother objected because of the danger and distance. Sometime between 1868 and 1875 Josephine attended the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (also known as the Baptist Institute), a college for African Americans that was later renamed Roger Williams University. Daniel W. Phillips, a white Baptist minister, had started the school in 1864, teaching Bible classes to freed people in his home. The school was later acquired by Vanderbilt University and incorporated into its George Peabody campus, a teachers' college.

While at the Baptist Institute Josephine studied music particularly piano and ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His parents’ names and occupations are not recorded. An only child, Davis began studying the piano when he was five but soon dropped it because his family did not own a piano. When he was in sixth grade, he wanted to play trumpet or trombone but began on the tuba since it was the only instrument available.

In 1951, when he decided to seriously start his music career, Davis switched to string bass. Very technically skilled from the start, Davis was one of the first musicians who had no difficulty switching between jazz and classical music. He studied with the principal bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra (Anselme Fortier) and attended Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music from 1953 to 1956. In addition, he led his own quartet and played on radio, on television, at clubs, and at colleges.

After ...

Article

Werner Graebner

taarab singer, drummer, and healer, was born in urban Zanzibar. Her parents had migrated to the islands from the Kilwa area of Tanzania on the East African mainland. She is better known as Bi Kidude. Some controversy surrounds Kidude’s birthdate; considering all evidence, the latest she could have been born is around 1920. Growing up in suburban Zanzibar’s Ng’ambo area, she showed interest from a young age in taarab song, a genre of poetry sung to musical accompaniment developed in nineteeth- century Zanzibar. One of her uncles, Buda Suwedi, was a member of Siti Bint Saadi’s group, then the most popular singer in Zanzibar. Kidude attended night rehearsals at Saadi’s place, pretending to sleep in a corner or on the outside baraza bench, soaking up the songs, which still form her main repertoire today.

When Kidude was in her teens, dhows traditional Arab sailboats from all over the ...

Article

Pamela Foster

the only son and eldest of six children of Cleveland Francis, a janitor, and Mary Francis, a maid. While growing up Francis was inspired by the banjo, fiddle, harmonica, guitar, and other musical sounds he heard both in his neighborhood and on radio. He also was self-inspired to escape the poverty of his hometown any way he could.

Education would be his ticket out. After he built a guitar from an old King Edward cigar box and in 1953 asked for a twenty-five-dollar Sears Silvertone guitar, his mother knew that requiring Francis to keep up his grades in exchange for the guitar would ensure that he developed both his intellectual and musical skills. After high school in 1963 Francis enrolled at Southern University in Baton Rouge Louisiana as a pre med student where Dr Huel Perkins head of Southern s music department took an interest in his music This ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz singer, was born Chinyere Nnenna Pierce in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of the three children of Charles and Frances Pierce, she began singing in church when she was seven, took a few piano lessons, and as a child used to accompany herself on her grandmother's piano by ear.

Despite having an attractive voice, it would be some time before Freelon became a professional singer. She graduated from Simmons College in Boston in 1979 with a B.A. degree in health care administration and married architect Philip Freelon that same year. In addition to working in health services in Durham, North Carolina, Freelon and her husband had three children. The birth of her third child in 1982 prompted Freelon to consider a career in music and she sang on an occasional basis in North Carolina in the decade that followed conducting workshops and developing her style She had opportunities to ...

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crystal am nelson

jazz drummer and medical inventor, was born Ronald Edwin Gardiner in Westerly, Rhode Island, to Maude Hannah Francis, a homemaker, and Ralph Alton Gardiner, a chef. The youngest of four sons, Gardiner was a precocious child. At only three and a half—when he was already tap-dancing—he asked for a toy drum for Christmas. His parents obliged so that he would stop playing on his mother's pots and pans.

After graduating from high school, he remained in Westerly and played at weddings and parties. In 1951 Gardiner moved to New York City to study privately with Charlie Tappin at the Henry Adler Music School. In 1953 during one of his weekend train rides back from Westerly to New York, Gardiner played an impromptu performance with Charlie Parker one of jazz s most influential saxophonists Gardiner returned to Westerly after four years of studying to work as Westerly ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter, figure skater, and psychiatrist, was born in New York City. His father, Billy Williams, was the lead singer in Billy Williams and the Charioteers, while his mother was a dancer who was one of the Brown Twins at the Cotton Club. She danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers and can be seen in the Fats Waller short film of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” sitting on the piano while he sang to her. After Billy Williams's death, Henderson's mother married a doctor in San Francisco. His stepfather had many musician patients, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington.

Henderson began on the trumpet when he was nine. His first teacher was Louis Armstrong who gave him a few informal lessons Henderson moved to San Francisco with his family when he was 14 He studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of ...

Article

Shennette Garrett-Scott

child actor, was born Allen Clayton Hoskins in Boston to Florence (maiden name unknown) and Allen C. Hoskins Sr. He had one sister, Jane Florence. His parents’ occupations are not known.

Silent film director Hal Roach signed Hoskins to star in his Our Gang short comedy films when Hoskins was between twelve and eighteen months old. Roach had asked the father of Ernie “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, a black child actor in the series, to find a dark-skinned child actor with long hair to play Sammy's younger sister. Morrison returned with Hoskins; Roach liked the toddler immediately and felt that he could play either a boy or a girl because of his long braids. Initially, the studios remained vague about Farina's gender in the earliest Our Gang shorts he sometimes wore dresses and at other times pants After several films his character Farina was established as Sunshine Sammy and ...

Article

Elisabeth Bekers

Kenyan radio and television broadcaster and producer, public relations specialist, educator, farmer, writer, and politician, was born at Kahuhia Mission, in Fort Hall (now Murang’a) District, the daughter of Gikuyu Christian pioneers, Mariuma Wanjiura and Levi Gachanja Mgumba. Likimani’s father was one of the first Kenyan Anglican Church ministers and helped develop St. John Kahuhia Church and Mission (established in 1906). A successful commercial farmer, the Reverend Gachanja was able to provide well for Muthoni and her eight surviving siblings. Likimani was educated at Kahuhia Girls School and at the Government African Girls Teachers College, Lower Kabete.

After her graduation she briefly worked as a tutor at her old school in Kahuhia but moved to Nairobi soon after marrying Dr Jason Clement Likimani d 1989 A Masai and a fellow student of her eldest brother s at Makerere College in Kampala Uganda in the 1930s Dr Likimani was the first ...

Article

Nate Plageman

Ghanaian musician and pharmacist, also known as the “King of Highlife,” was born Emmanuel Tetteh Mensah in Ussher Town, Accra, Ghana, on 31 May 1919. His father Robert Noi Mensah was a goldsmith and his mother Florence Adukwei Akwei traded cloth. Mensah’s first musical experiences came during his time at the Government Elementary School in James Town, where he played in a drum and fife band formed by one of the school’s teachers, Joe Lamptey. During his time with the Government School Band, Mensah learned how to play the flute, performed marching songs, and became acquainted with “highlife,” an emerging style of dance music that blended orchestral instruments, European chord sequences, and local rhythmic patterns. In 1933 Mensah joined Lamptey s senior band the Accra Orchestra also as a flutist Unlike his prior band the Accra Orchestra was a large dance ensemble comprised of brass string wind and ...

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Yolanda L. Watson Spiva

educator and popular therapist, was born in Dania, Florida, the youngest of fourteen children to parents Theophilus and Lucille Morley, vegetable farmers from the Eleuthera and Bahama Islands. Joyce spent her formative years in Dania until 1969, at which time she was sent by her mother to Rochester, New York, to live with her sister. Joyce's mother thought that her daughter might have access to a better educational system and decreased racial tensions in the North. Joyce graduated from Monroe Senior High School in Rochester, New York, two months following her seventeenth birthday. In 1973, she graduated cum laude from SUNY Geneseo with a BS in Elementary Education with a concentration in Psychology. While at Geneseo, Morley, along with her high school sweetheart, Bernard Watson, gave birth to their first daughter, Yolanda. In September 1973 Morley taught first second and third grades beginning ...

Article

Diana Kristine Durham

organist, stenographer, college professor, physician, and hospital founder, was born in St. John, Antigua, British West Indies, the son of John Sebastian and Sara Elizabeth Roberts. He studied at Antigua's Mico College, a normal school established for blacks by Lady Mico Trust, where he studied a rigorous curriculum that included English, Latin, Greek, mathematics, science, astronomy, history, and geography. Sebastian, like many of the students at Mico College, viewed his normal training as preparation for a career other than teaching.

In 1901 Sebastian immigrated to the United States After arriving in Philadelphia he obtained employment as a stenographer and an organist A year later he moved to Greensboro North Carolina to work at the Agricultural and Mechanical College later North Carolina A T State University Sebastian who was broadly educated in the Caribbean taught English geography foreign languages and mathematics and was also ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

gay drag performer and musician, was born Sylvester James Jr. in Los Angeles, California, the firstborn son of Sylvester “Sweet” James Sr., whose occupation is unknown, and Letha Weaver James, a domestic and later a dietitian. After having two more sons, John Wesley in 1948 and Larry in 1950, Sylvester's parents divorced. While single, his mother had twin daughters Bernadette and Bernadine in 1956, and another son, Alonzo, in 1959. In 1962 she married aerospace worker Robert “Sonny” Hurd. She later fostered and adopted three children with him: Angelica, Charles, and Tammy. Letha's mother (really her aunt who raised her), the blues singer Julia Morgan, helped to raise Sylvester and his siblings.

Until young adulthood he was known by his nickname Dooni Even as a preschooler he enjoyed and sometimes wore the flamboyant elegant clothing his mother and grandmother ...

Article

Joann Buckley and W. Douglas Fisher

physician, soldier, athlete, medical association leader, and choirmaster, born in Indianapolis, Indiana to Charles Henry and Mary E. (Moore) Wilson, and educated in Franklin, Indiana. He graduated from Franklin High School in 1896. He then entered Franklin College. Wilson divided his interests between educational pursuits and athletics. He was a star football player (left halfback on the 1898 team) and a member of Franklin's baseball team. He was also a member of the debating and glee clubs. While still in college, he married Mary Hugel on 12 February 1900. Their daughter Martha was born on 12 May 1901. In 1902 he became Franklin s first African American graduate earning a bachelor s degree in philosophy As the Franklin College program was modeled after Oxford University s B Phil after graduating he became known as Prof Arthur Wilson He was then ...