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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 ...

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LaVerne Gyant

actress, activist, and elocutionist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Mansfield Vinton Davis, a musician, and Mary Ann (Johnson) Davis. Davis's talents as an actress and elocutionist were apparently inherited from her father, while her inclination toward activism came from her stepfather, George A. Hackett, who was a recognized leader within the African American community in Baltimore. Both Mansfield Davis and George Hackett died while she was still young After her stepfather s death Davis and her mother moved to Washington D C where she had the advantage of attending the best schools and with her fondness for books made rapid progress in her studies At the age of fifteen she passed the necessary exams to become a teacher and began teaching in the Maryland school district During this time she was recruited by the Louisiana State Board of Education who tendered her ...

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JoAnna Wool

dancer and vaudevillian was born in Covington, Kentucky, in 1872. According to her husband, Charles E. Johnson, Dean was born Dora Babbige, and her brother, Clarence Babbige, served as a judge in Kentucky during the Reconstruction period. By the mid-1880s her family moved to Indiana, and Dean found employment as a nursemaid in nearby Ohio.

Dean entered show business as a “statue girl” in The Creole Show, a popular touring production staged by Sam T. Jack. Dean possessed a striking figure, a pleasing smile, and a quality of warmth and personal charm that she was able to project from the stage; billed as “The Black Venus,” she struck dramatic poses during musical numbers and made a hit with the audience. Paired with talented soft-shoe dancer Charles E. Johnson Dean also became known for her performance of the cakewalk a dance developed by blacks ...

Article

Randall Clark

singer and actor, was born Franceine Everette in Louisburg, North Carolina. Although Everett always gave her birth year as 1920, there is some evidence that she might have been born as early as 1915. Very little is known about her childhood. Everett got her start in show business in the early 1930s, appearing in the musical production Hummin' Sam in New York City in 1933 and performing with a nightclub act called the Four Black Cats Even though she enjoyed some success as a singer Everett aspired to be an actress as well and with that in mind she began studying acting and appearing in plays produced by the Federal Theatre Project FTP The FTP was an important part of Franklin Roosevelt s Works Progress Administration and had established sixteen theater units around the United States that were staffed by African Americans Everett joined the Harlem ...

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Pamala S. Deane

actor, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the youngest of fourteen children of Peter Gilpin, a steel mill laborer, and Caroline (White) Gilpin, a trained nurse who worked at Richmond City Hospital. Gilpin attended St. Francis Catholic School for Colored Children, where, through the encouragement of his teachers, he performed in school theatricals. He left school at age twelve to apprentice himself in the print shop of the Richmond Planet newspaper, but left Richmond in 1896 to pursue a career on stage. While earning a living in a series of odd jobs, Gilpin appeared in minstrel shows, reviews, and vaudeville. He joined the Big Spectacular Log Cabin Company and, after this troupe went bust, he was picked up by the Perkus & Davis Great Southern Minstrel Barnstorming Aggregation. This company, too, went bankrupt and so Gilpin supported himself with jobs as a barber and trainer of prizefighters.

In 1903 ...