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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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Rainer E. Lotz

song and dance entertainer, musician, and variety actor, was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the son of Ambrose Hampton, a carpenter, and Lou (Luann) Hampton. The family lived on a property which Luann had bought seven years after the end of Civil War with 100 percent financing, payable by work to be performed by Ambrose and an obligation of the seller (W. Cook) to find enough work for them in order to pay for their home. The stage singer and comedian Ernest Hogan, seven years Pete's senior, lived in the neighborhood. Nothing is known of Hampton's childhood, education, or musical training, but by age eighteen he was earning his first money in a quartet of singing banjo players, performing for a “medicine doctor” at Columbus, Ohio. By 1896 Hampton was working with a partner under the name of Hampton and Johnson ...

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Judith Weisenfeld

actor, singer, and minister, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Charles Haynes, a bricklayer, and Mary (“Mollie”) Leech, an office cleaner. Haynes was educated in the Atlanta public schools and graduated from the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church–affiliated Morris Brown College.

Haynes worked as a porter in Atlanta and as an itinerant preacher before securing a job in the records division at the Standard Life Insurance Company in Atlanta around 1915. Founded by Heman Edward Perry in 1913, Standard was one of the nation's few black life insurance companies, and Haynes gained valuable business experience working with one of the most active black entrepreneurs in America. While at Standard, he also met Harry Herbert Pace, the company's secretary-treasurer, with whom he would later work in New York. Haynes registered for the draft in 1917 and according to one source ...

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George A. Thompson

actor and singer, is a person about whom little early information is known. He told an interviewer in 1825 that he had been born in Rockaway, Long Island, New York, but James McCune Smith who had known the Hewlett boy suggested that he might have been born in the West Indies. The 1830 census indicated that he was older than thirty-six, and the 1825 interviewer states that he had been a servant to a well-known actor who died in 1812. This all suggests that he was born in the early- or mid-1790s. It also is not known whether he was born slave or free. A number of his ancestors were Euro-Americans, however, as his light skin tone was frequently remarked upon.

As a young man Hewlett worked on boats as a steward acting as servant to the officers and passengers probably out of New York City He also ...

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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 ...

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Richlyn Faye Goddard

concert soprano, was born in Sacramento, California, the eldest of four daughters of the amateur musicians Sam B. Hyers and his wife. Anna's exact date of birth and death cannot be confirmed but most agree that she was born either in 1853 or 1855. At an early age she showed her prodigious talent. Her parents provided basic music training, and both of their daughters, Anna and Emma Louise Hyers, later studied piano and voice formally with the German professor Hugo Sank and the former Italian opera singer Madame Josephine D'Ormy. On 22 April 1867 the Hyers Sisters made their professional debut at the Metropolitan Theater in Sacramento and for the next four years they toured the California circuit and were well received by the public at each stop Anna was said to possess a pure sweet soprano voice very true even and flexible of remarkable ...

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Richlyn Faye Goddard

pioneer concert contralto, was born between 1853 and 1858 in Sacramento, California. Early on she revealed musical talent and studied music first with her parents, who were amateur musicians. She and her sister, the soprano Anna Madah Hyers, studied with opera singer Madame Josephine D'Ormy and piano and voice formally with Hugo Sank. They made their professional debut in their early teens, giving a joint recital, as the Hyers Sisters, to critical acclaim at the Metropolitan Theater in Sacramento on 22 April 1867. Writers praised young Emma Louise's beautiful contralto, one calling it “a voice of great power and depth … with a dark, rich timbre … that Miss Louise is a natural wonder, being a fine alto-singer, and also the possessor of a pure tenor voice” (Trotter, 162–163).

After their professional debut, the sisters retired from the stage for further study. Assisted by baritone John ...

Article

(b Portsmouth, VA, Jan 5, 1868/9; d Providence, RI, June 24, 1933). American soprano. From the age of 15 she studied singing in Providence, Rhode Island, and later studied privately in Boston at the New England Conservatory, and with Louise Capianni and Mme Scongia in London. On 5 April 1888 she made her début at Steinway Hall, New York, in a Bergen Star Concert. From 1888 to 1895 she toured the USA, Canada, Europe and the West Indies as a soloist, attracting national attention with her well-publicized appearances at the Grand Negro Jubilee at Madison Square Garden and the White House in 1892, and at the Pittsburgh Exposition and the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. From 1896 to 1915 she was the leading soloist of Black Patti s Troubadours a vaudeville company managed by Rudolf Voelckel and ...

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Sissieretta Jones came early to music. Her father was the pastor and choir director of their Portsmouth, Virginia, African Methodist Episcopal Church, and her mother a soprano in the choir. She married at the age of fourteen, and began voice training the next year in Providence, Rhode Island. Jones continued her studies at the New England Conservatory in Boston, making her performance debut in that city in 1887. She acquired the nickname “Black Patti” from a newspaper review that praised her as an African American match for the renowned Italian soprano Adelina Patti.

National fame arrived with Jones's performance at the 1892 Grand Negro Jubilee at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Before an audience of 75,000, she sang selections from the opera La Traviata as well as the song Swanee River This combination of high opera and a popular repertoire continued throughout Jones s ...

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Marta J. Effinger-Crichlow

classical prima donna and musical comedy performer, was born Matilda Sissieretta Joyner in Portsmouth, Virginia, less than four years after the abolition of slavery. Jones was the only surviving child of Jeremiah Malachi Joyner, a former slave and pastor of the Afro-Methodist Church in Portsmouth, and Henrietta B. Joyner, a singer in the church choir. Thus, she was exposed to music during her formative years. When she was six years old her family moved to Rhode Island, where Jones began singing in the church choir, which her father directed. Her school classmates were mesmerized by her sweet, melodic, soprano voice and nicknamed her “Sissy.”

She began studying voice as a teenager at the prestigious Providence Academy of Music with Ada, Baroness Lacombe, an Italian prima donna. Not long afterward, in 1883, when she was only fourteen, Sissieretta met and married David Richard Jones a newspaperman ...

Article

Diane Epstein

Discovering Sissieretta Jones is like uncovering a buried treasure. In the twenty-first century, her name may not be a household word, but she was a well-known and respected performer in her time.

Jones was born Matilda Sissieretta Joyner in 1869 in Portsmouth, Virginia, in a middle-class environment. Her father, Malachi Joyner, was a Baptist minister. Her mother, Henrietta Beale Joyner sang in the church choir and is said to have had a wonderful soprano voice This appears to be where young Sissieretta inherited her own naturally beautiful voice It was obvious by the time she was five years old that she had a gift and her family was instrumental in promoting her talent To give her a chance for formal music study the family moved from Virginia to Providence Rhode Island She now could study classical voice at Providence Academy of Music From the Providence Academy Jones ...

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Cheryl Black

singer, actress, and teacher, was born in New York City to an African American mother and German Jewish father. Her mother died during childbirth, and Mitchell moved to Baltimore, Maryland, with her maternal aunts, Alice and Josephine, and maternal grandmother. She attended St. Elizabeth's Convent, moving back to New York with her aunt Josephine when she was twelve to study music, a musical education that continued throughout her young adulthood. Her coaches included Harry Burleigh, Emilia Serrano, and Jean de Retzke.

Mitchell began her fifty-year career in the theater in 1898, singing in Clorindy, or the Origin of the Cakewalk, composed by Will Marion Cook and with lyrics by Paul Laurence Dunbar. This production marked the beginning of Mitchell's lifelong professional and personal relationship with Cook, whom she married in 1900 (Carter, 55). The couple had two children, Marion Abigail ...

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Abdul Karim Bangura

Paul Leroy Bastill Robeson’s character and worldview were the products of a complex mix of forces at a time when segregation was legal in the United States and blacks were being lynched by white mobs especially in the South It is within this historical context that Robeson was able to forge a revolutionary ethic from a religion that allows African influences through musical creativity that did not divorce the sacred from the secular Although he spent eight years in segregated elementary schools during his high school days Robeson had positive encounters with whites with the exception of a racist principal who hated him because of his outstanding scholarly and athletic qualities Consequently Robeson perceived whites on balance as individuals but he also realized that most of them did not welcome competition from blacks Because his father insisted on personal integrity which included the idea of maximum human fulfillment throughout ...

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Theodore O. Mason

Born in Princeton, New Jersey, the son of a Presbyterian minister, Paul Robeson attended Rutgers University, distinguishing himself as a scholar, athlete, singer, and actor. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1923 and briefly practiced law, but soon turned to the theater. His roles in Eugene O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings (1924) and The Emperor Jones (1924 in New York, 1925 in London) catapulted him to international prominence as a serious actor at a time when stage opportunities for African Americans were generally limited to racist stereotypes. Robeson's Shakespeare roles, particularly Othello, were popular and critical successes. He appeared in several films and won fame at home and in Europe for his vocal recitals featuring Negro spirituals and show tunes such as Old Man River.

Robeson understood the fight against racism within the context of antifascism Supporting the Loyalist forces during ...

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Max de Schauensee

(b Princeton, NJ, April 9, 1898; d Philadelphia, Jan 23, 1976). American bass-baritone and actor. He attended Rutgers University (BA 1919) and studied law at Columbia University (LLB 1923). He appeared in the play Simon the Cyrenian at the Harlem YMCA (1921) and sang in the choruses of several Broadway shows before establishing his reputation as an actor in All God’s Chillun got Wings (1924) and The Emperor Jones (1925). He gave his first concert in 1925 and made his mark with his singing of black spirituals. In 1926 he made a coast-to-coast tour of the USA with great success. Soon he became internationally known: he packed Drury Lane, London, by his majestic presence and his singing (especially of ‘Ol’ man river’) in Show Boat (1928 and was seen as Shakespeare s Othello in ...

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David Dabydeen

African‐Americanactor, singer, and political activist whose career was significantly based in Britain. He was born in Princeton, New Jersey, to William Drew Robeson, an escaped slave, and Maria Louisa Bustill. He was educated at Somerville high school, New Jersey, and Rutgers College and read law at Columbia University Law School, graduating in 1923. Precocious, he was an impressive figure, endowed with many talents, including that of athlete, footballer, singer, and actor, of which the last two would ultimately mark his international celebrity. Robeson's love of the theatre flourished early in his life, and his involvement in acting came in 1920, when he played Simon in Ridgely Torrence's 1917 play Simon the Cyrenian. Another early role was in Mary Hoyt Wiborg'sTaboo (1922; later renamed Voodoo which took him to England for the first time on a provincial tour of ...

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Theodore O. Mason

Paul Robson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was the child of a clergyman who had been born a slave. After winning a scholarship competition, Robeson attended Rutgers University, distinguishing himself as both scholar and athlete. While at Rutgers he augmented his scholarship income by offering concerts and dramatic performances. After graduating from Columbia Law School in 1923, Robeson turned to dramatic and musical theater where he became internationally celebrated. His roles in Eugene O'Neill's All God's Chillun Got Wings (1924) and Emperor Jones (1924 in New York and 1925 in London) catapulted him to prominence as a serious actor when opportunities for African Americans on stage were generally limited to the comic or to racist stereotypes. Robeson's performances in productions of Shakespeare, particularly Othello, were enormously popular and won him enthusiastic critical acclaim.

Robeson was always acutely conscious of the complex racial politics of ...

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James Sellman

Paul Robeson was one of the most gifted men of the twentieth century. His resonant bass and commanding presence made him a world-renowned singer and actor and proved equally valuable when he spoke out against bigotry and injustice. By the 1930s Robeson was active in a wide range of causes, but his radicalism led to a long period of political harassment that culminated in his blacklisting during anti-Communist campaigns in the 1950s. Although he resumed performing in the late 1950s, his return to public life was brief. In the 1960s serious health problems sidelined him for good.

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Larry R. Gerlach

actor, singer, and civil rights activist, was born Paul Leroy Robeson in Princeton, New Jersey, the son of William Drew Robeson, a Protestant minister, and Maria Louisa Bustill, a schoolteacher. Robeson's mother died when he was six years old, and he grew up under the influence of a perfectionist father, a former runaway slave who fought in the Union army. During his senior year at the Somerville, New Jersey, high school, he achieved the highest score in a statewide scholarship examination to attend Rutgers College (later Rutgers University). The lone black at Rutgers as a freshman in 1915 and only the third African American to attend the institution Robeson was an outstanding student and athlete A varsity debater he won class prizes for oratory all four years was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior was one of four seniors chosen for membership ...

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Paul Finkelman

athlete, actor, singer, civil rights activist, and Communist sympathizer. Paul Leroy Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the youngest of five children. In 2004 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp for Paul Robeson. The press release issued by the Post Office recounted his career as an All-American college athlete, a film star, and an internationally acclaimed singer. The release also noted his fearless opposition to racism, describing him as

well known as an activist and an outspoken participant in labor and peace movements [whose] public appearances were infused with his strong political beliefs, especially his principled stand against racism in the U.S. and around the world. He was opposed to colonialism in Africa and worked to assist and support African liberation Movements. Alarmed by the spread of fascism in Europe, Robeson was also a prominent supporter of the Allied war effort during World War II.

The ...