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Lois Bellamy

composer, educator, choral conductor, music professor, singer, and author, was born to Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner, former slave, and Sophie Stuart, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner was born in South Carolina and was nine years old when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 Edward Boatner s grandmother was a slave who was determined that her son Daniel would receive a good education She worked very hard scrubbing floors washing cooking and nursing children of wealthy whites to send him to school Dr Boatner attended Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee and graduated from New Orleans University where he received his bachelor s and master s degrees After earning his doctorate from Gammon Theological Seminary at Atlanta Georgia he served on the faculty of Philander Smith College a Methodist School in Little Rock Arkansas where he taught Hebrew ...

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Alexander J. Chenault

was born in Washington, DC, and raised by her adopted mother Beullah Hanson Caldwell, in Baltimore, Maryland. Caldwell had a solidly middle class upbringing. Her father was a carpenter and her mother was an elementary school teacher, who later retired as a principal. Caldwell began piano lessons at the age of four with one of only two African American piano teachers in Baltimore. By the age of seven, Caldwell had given her first piano recital at Morgan State University. She attended the Hamilton Elementary School and Pimlico Middle School—which were both segregated. However, Hansonia attended the racially integrated, all‐girls, Eastern High School where she served as accompanist for the school’s choir. Caldwell graduated from high school in February of 1962.

She then attended Boston University’s School of Performing Arts, and was initiated into the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in1963 and received her B Mus ...

Article

Doris Evans McGinty

Lulu Vere Childers was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of former slaves Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and in 1896 was awarded a diploma that was replaced by a bachelor's degree in 1906 when the conservatory began granting degrees. The Oberlin Conservatory chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society, elected her a member in 1927. She studied voice further with Sydney Lloyd Wrightson at the Washington Conservatory of Music, with William Shakespeare, and with Oscar Devries at Chicago Musical College.

As a singer Childers enjoyed modest distinction. During her college years and shortly afterward, she performed in the Midwest with the Eckstein-Norton Music Company, a quartet of singers and their accompanist teamed with concert pianist Harriet A. Gibbs The group contributed their earnings to the development of a music conservatory at Eckstein Norton University ...

Article

Doris Evans McGinty

singer and educator, was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler, former slaves. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and in 1896 was awarded a diploma that was replaced by a bachelor's degree in 1906, when the conservatory began granting degrees. The Oberlin Conservatory chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society, elected her a member in 1927. She studied voice further with Sydney Lloyd Wrightson at the Washington Conservatory of Music in Washington, D.C., with William Shakespeare, and with Oscar Devries at Chicago Musical College.

As a singer Childers enjoyed modest distinction. During her college years and shortly afterward, she performed in the Midwest with the Eckstein-Norton Music Company, a quartet of singers and their accompanist teamed with the concert pianist Harriet A. Gibbs The group contributed their earnings to the development of ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

musician, educator, and prominent Presbyterian, was born Melva Ruby Wilson in Due West, South Carolina, one of five children of Azzie Lee Ellis Wilson and John Theodore Wilson Sr., both of whom were college graduates and teachers. Because the local black public schools were unaccredited, her parents sent her to a black boarding school, Harbison Junior College in Irmo, South Carolina, at the age of fourteen. Two years later, at the age of sixteen, she entered Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. There she met fellow student James Hutten Costen. She graduated with a BA in Education in 1952 and married Jim Costen the day before he graduated in 1953. They eventually had two sons and one daughter, James Jr., Craig, and Cheryl.

Costen taught elementary school in the Mecklenburg County school system from 1952 to 1955 the year her husband ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

singer, musician, educator, and advocate for African American music and musicians, was born Emma Azalia Smith in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Henry Smith, a blacksmith and native of Murfreesboro, and Corilla Beard, the daughter of Wilson Beard, an escaped slave who began a profitable laundry business after fleeing to Detroit. Following the birth of Azalia, as she was called, Corilla Smith opened a school in Murfreesboro for newly freed slave children. In 1870, just after the birth of Azalia's sister Marietta increasing hostility from local whites forced Corilla Smith to close the school The family moved to Detroit Michigan where Henry Smith opened a curio shop and Corilla Smith taught school In the early 1880s the couple separated and Corilla raised her daughters on wages earned by private tutoring In Detroit the Smiths were the first black family in their neighborhood and ...

Article

Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, the daughter of Corilla Beard and Henry Smith, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was raised in Detroit, Michigan, where the family moved after her mother's school was closed due to opposition from the white community. She started taking piano lessons at age three, later studying violin and voice, and played professionally after school.

In 1883 Hackley became the first African American to attend Washington Normal School, taking education classes and supporting herself by teaching music lessons. After her graduation, she taught second grade until 1894 when she eloped with journalist Edwin Henry. They moved to Denver, where Hackley organized a branch of the Colored Women's League and earned a music degree from the University of Denver (1900). In 1901 she separated from her husband and left Denver.

Hackley settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and served as a church musical ...

Article

Janelle F. H. Winston

choral director, composer, arranger, actor, singer, and educator, was born Jester Joseph Hairston in Belews Creek North Carolina the only son and first of two children born to his parents names unknown He was the grandson of former slaves When Hairston was a year old the family moved to Kunersville Pennsylvania where his father obtained work in the steel mills His sister was born about six months later and when she was three days old their father died of pneumonia As a child Hairston is said to have loved music Although he was a small framed boy he played basketball and football in high school and college His church presented him with a scholarship to attend Massachusetts Agriculture College now known as The University of Massachusetts in Amherst Massachusetts where his educational aspirations were to study landscaping design After his scholarship ran out ...

Article

Gayle Murchison

musician, singer, and educator, was born Ravella Eudosia Hughes in Huntington, West Virginia, the daughter of George W. Hughes, a postman, and Annie B. (maiden name unknown), a piano teacher and seamstress. At age five Hughes began studying piano with her mother and, at eight or nine, violin with a musician friend of her father's. She attended Huntington's segregated public schools. Disturbed when she was racially harassed, her parents sent her to Hartshorn Memorial College (later part of Virginia Union University) in Richmond, which she attended from 1909 to 1911, graduating with a degree in music and elementary studies. She attended Oberlin High and Conservatory, graduating in 1915. In 1917 she earned a bachelor of music in Piano from Howard's Conservatory of Music, where she studied piano with LeRoy Tibbs and voice with the conservatory director Lulu Vere Childers Hughes then taught violin ...

Article

Rachel Antell

Dorothy Leigh Maynor (originally Mainor) was born to John J. Mainor, a pastor, and Alice Jeffries Mainor, in Norfolk, Virginia. At age fourteen, Maynor enrolled at Hampton Institute where she studied with the goal of becoming a public school teacher. During her college years, Maynor's focus increasingly shifted toward vocal training and the study of piano and orchestral instruments. After graduating, she decided to pursue a second degree in music from Westminster Choir College in New Jersey and then spent four years in New York continuing her musical studies privately under Wilfried Klamroth and John Alan Houghton.

In 1939 Maynor made her solo singing debut at the Berkshire Musical Festival in Tanglewood Massachusetts for which she received widespread acclaim The performance was soon followed by a New York debut at Town Hall where reviewers called her one of the most remarkable soprano voices of her generation ...

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 ...

Article

John G. Turner

teacher, missionary, and social worker, was born Lucy Gantt in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the daughter and only child of a mixed-race former slave, Eliza Gantt. Her father, who may have been white, played no role in her upbringing. As a young child Lucy attended school between cotton seasons. At the age of eleven she gained admission to Talladega College, a school for blacks run by the Missionary Association of the Congregational Church. Eliza Gantt worked as a domestic servant to pay her daughter's tuition for the nine years that Lucy spent at Talladega.

During her last several years at Talladega, Gantt taught in one-room rural schools during the summer months. She took voice lessons at Talladega and toured for a year with Frederick J. Loudin's Jubilee Singers. In 1886 she secured employment as a teacher in Grayton Alabama where she lived and taught in a ...

Article

David Bradford

singer, pianist, arranger, teacher, writer, and assistant director of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, to slave parents Simon Sheppard, a liveryman, and Sarah Hannah Sheppard, a domestic servant.

On 22 December 1871, ten African American students from Fisk University in Nashville—all but two former slaves—stood before the large, wealthy white congregation of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn and forever transformed American music. On a mission to raise money for their destitute school—formed by the American Missionary Association in 1866 to train black teachers the Jubilee Singers had struggled across the eastern United States performing choral arrangements of slave spirituals to small and largely uncomprehending white audiences On the verge of defeat the group was invited to sing at Plymouth Church by its pastor Henry Ward Beecher the most influential religious figure in America Beecher and his congregation were ...