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Kathleen Thompson

Ambitious, talented Debbie Allen has broken ground for black women in a variety of roles, primarily behind the scenes of the entertainment industry—directing, producing, writing, and choreographing television shows, films, and musical theater.

Debbie Allen was born into a remarkable family in Houston, Texas. Her father, Andrew Allen, was a dentist, and her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, is a poet who has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her sister, Phylicia Rashad, is a well-known actor, and one of her brothers is Andrew “Tex” Allen, a jazz musician.

Allen decided early that she wanted to be a dancer She began her training when she was three and by the time she was eight she had decided to go into musical theater When she tried to enroll in the school of the Houston Foundation for Ballet she was rejected for reasons her mother considered discriminatory As a ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

(now Suffolk), Virginia to Florence Avery. He was one of three children whom his mother raised on her own. When he was still very young, his family moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he spent most of his early life. After graduating high school in 1963, Avery enlisted in the Navy, serving in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969.

After leaving the military, he relocated to San Diego, California and began writing for PBS. He won an LA Area Emmy Award for a show he produced, Ameda Speaks: Poet James Avery. He received a scholarship from the University of California, San Diego, from which he graduated in 1978 with a Bachelor s degree in Literature and Drama Writing was always what he aspired to do professionally but his rich voice and imposing physical presence opened the door to an acting career He performed in community plays ...

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, St. Clair Bourne is the son of St. Clair Bourne Sr., who was an editor of the Amsterdam News and a reporter for the People's Voice in the 1930s. Although the younger Bourne began his education at Georgetown University in 1961, he was expelled for student activism. In 1967 he received a B.A. degree from Syracuse University after working with the Peace Corps. He began a degree in filmmaking at Columbia University in 1968, but was again asked to leave because of his political activities.

From 1968 until 1970 Bourne was a producer, writer, and director for the public-television series Black Journal. He established his own company, Chamba Productions, and produced African American documentary films such as Something to Build On (1971) and Let the Church Say Amen! (1973). In 1974 he received the Bronze ...

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Evan Mwangi

Moroccan novelist, dramatist, and radio commentator and producer, was born on 15 July 1926 in the French Moroccan town of Mazagan (present-day el-Jadida), near Casablanca. His father was a fairly liberal tea merchant who regarded European education as a vestibule to a better Moroccan society. As a young boy Chraïbi received his early education in a local qurʾanic school, but when the family moved to Casablanca a little later, he joined a French school. In 1946 he left for Paris to study chemical engineering, graduating in 1950. However, he abandoned his graduate studies in neuropsychiatry just before receiving his doctorate. He traveled across Europe and to Israel, settling in France with his first wife, Catherine Chraïbi (née Birckel), and their children.

From 1952 Chraïbi devoted himself to literature and journalism, and in 1954 he began writing for the National Radio and Television Broadcasting System Ranging from epics to comedy ...

Article

Stephen Bourne

Trinidadianactor and singer who settled in Britain in 1944. Two weeks after his arrival he made his debut on BBC radio in Calling the West Indies. Connor's appealing voice and charming personality endeared him to the British public, and he became a major television and radio personality. Connor saw himself as an ambassador for Trinidad and promoted Caribbean folk music and dance wherever he could. He married Pearl Nunez (also from Trinidad) in London in 1948.

For almost two decades Connor played featured roles in a number of British and American films, including Cry, the Beloved Country (1952) and Moby Dick (1956). In 1958, when Paul Robeson turned down the role of Gower in Shakespeare'sPericles for the Stratford Memorial Theatre he recommended Connor for it Connor thus became the first black actor to appear in a Shakespeare season at ...

Article

Gregory Adamo

radio DJ and programmer. A central figure in the mainstreaming of African American culture on radio, Crocker appealed to both black and white audiences without compromising any of his cultural identity. Born in Buffalo, New York, he got his start in radio at WUFO when he was studying pre-law at the University of Buffalo. During the 1960s he was the most popular DJ on the soul and rhythm and blues station WWRL in New York City. In 1969 Crocker moved to the top 40 New York station WMCA, becoming the first black member of that station's popular “Good Guys.” In doing so Crocker broke new ground for African Americans in the number one radio market in the United States.

As music listeners migrated from AM to FM in the early 1970s so did Crocker moving to WBLS as DJ and program director There Crocker created the urban contemporary format ...

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Hilary Mac Austin

Suzanne de Passe learned from her mentor, Berry Gordy, that “a business based on principles is more important than a business based on revenue.” She has held true to that motto. Amazingly, in the cutthroat, white-male-dominated world of Hollywood, she has not only survived but succeeded magnificently.

One of the first and still one of the only African American women powerbrokers in the television and film businesses, Suzanne Celeste de Passe grew up middle-class in Harlem. Her parents, both West Indian, were divorced when she was three. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father worked for Seagrams. He remarried six years after the divorce and is credited with providing de Passe with a strong role model. De Passe attended an elite, integrated private school in Manhattan, the New Lincoln School. While still young, she began modeling clothes designed by DeVera Edwards.

De Passe entered Syracuse University as ...

Article

Zebulon Miletsky

executive producer of the award-winning public television series Eyes on the Prize. Henry Eugene Hampton Jr. was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. Stricken with polio as a teenager, Hampton suffered from some paralysis into adulthood. After graduating from Washington University in 1961, Hampton went to work for the Boston-based Unitarian Universalist Association as spokesperson and media liaison. In 1968 he served as press officer for an international peace delegation, meeting with political and religious leaders. It was in that same year that Hampton founded Blackside, Inc., a film production company that over subsequent years produced more than sixty films, including the landmark series Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years which documented the struggles of African Americans to gain civil rights in America The documentary series was completed at great personal and financial cost to Hampton who nearly went bankrupt producing it mortgaging his house to keep ...

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Anthony Brown

(b Chicago, March 14, 1933). American producer, arranger, composer and entertainment entrepreneur. He was raised by his father and stepmother in Seattle from the age of ten, and learned various brass instruments before settling on the trumpet. He performed in dance bands with early musical associates including Charlie Taylor, Bumps Blackwell and Ernestine Anderson, and at 14 met the 16-year-old Ray Charles, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship and from whom he first received instruction in jazz harmony and arranging. While in high school, Jones performed with Billie Holiday and Billy Eckstine, and studied the trumpet with Clark Terry. He studied briefly at Seattle University and at the Berklee School of Music, Boston, but left to tour. He first toured Europe and made his first recordings while with Lionel Hampton, playing a solo on the 1951 recording of his own composition, Kingfish ...

Article

Donald Roe

jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, music impresario, and music, film, and television producer. Quincy Delight Jones Jr., or Q, as Frank Sinatra dubbed him, is an international icon in the music industry. From producing Leslie Gore's multimillion-selling soft-rock hit single “It's My Party” (1963) and Michael Jackson's all-time best-selling record album Thriller (1982) to working with rappers like Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and others, Q has had a pervasive impact on contemporary music. Astoundingly, many African Americans born during the 1970s know little of his prowess as a jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger or that he jammed with many of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.

Jones was born in 1933 on the South Side of Chicago to Quincy Delight Jones Sr and Sarah Jones Jones spent his early years learning about life on the mean streets of Chicago ...

Article

James Sellman

Quincy Delight Jones, Jr., has had several careers in popular entertainment, including roles as a big-band musician, composer-arranger, record company executive, producer of films and music videos, magazine publisher, and partner in a television production company. He has emerged as one of the most influential figures in Hollywood. He commenced his music career in Seattle, Washington, where his family moved during the mid-1940s from Chicago, Illinois, where he was born. He sang in a vocal harmony group directed by Joseph Powe, who had once been with Wings over Jordan. After trying various instruments in high school band, Jones settled on the trumpet.

As a teenager, Jones played in local Jazz and Rhythm and Blues groups. He became acquainted with Ray Charles, an early musical influence, who moved to the Seattle area in 1950 Besides leading his own trio Charles wrote and arranged for the five ...

Article

Zachery R. Williams

African Americanactor, director, writer, and producer. Woodie King Jr. was born in Baldwin Springs, Alabama. He moved with his mother to Detroit after his parents separated. His mother supported the family, working as a domestic. King attended Cass Technical High School, cultivating an early interest in theater. He was awarded a scholarship that afforded him the opportunity to attend the Will-o-Way Apprentice Theatre School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1961. From 1959 to 1962 King began his career as a drama critic for the Detroit Tribune, a predominantly African American newspaper.

In 1961 he undertook graduate studies at Wayne State University in Detroit Disenchanted with the lack of significant roles afforded African American actors King and some fellow students created a theater called Concept East out of an abandoned bar There he directed and starred ...

Article

Steven R. Carter

Born in Mobile, Alabama, Woodie King, Jr., moved to Detroit with his parents, Woodie and Ruby King, when he was five. From 1955 to 1968 to help out his family, which was supported by his mother's housework, King worked as a model for church fans and calendars. He attended Michigan's Will-O-Way School of the Theatre on scholarship from 1958 to 1962, studying every element of the theater while immersing himself in black literature. In 1959, he married casting agent Willie Mae Washington with whom he would have three children. From 1959 to 1962, King wrote drama criticism for the Detroit Tribune.

Both at Will-O-Way and at Wayne State University and the Detroit School of Arts and Crafts, where he did postgraduate study in theater, King lamented the lack of acting opportunities for blacks and, with Ron Milner cofounded the Concept East Theatre As its manager ...

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

Born in Vidalia, Louisiana, Spencer Williams Jr. attended the University of Minnesota, dropping out to join the Army. Returning South after his 1923 discharge, he got his start in movies by writing for a series of short black films based on stories by Octavus Roy Cohen. These films were made by an affiliate of Paramount Pictures, and Williams soon moved to an office on Paramount's lot in Hollywood.

A talented actor, he appeared in some of the first African American talking movies of the 1920s, including The Lady Fare, Oft in the Silly Night, and Music Has Charms. His work as a producer included silent films such as Hot Biscuits (1929) and the earliest black Westerns, Bronze Buckaroo (1938) and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). Films that Williams wrote, directed, and starred in range from the comedy Juke Joint ...

Article

Stephanie Y. Evans

businesswoman, actress, and talk-show host. In 1994, for her fortieth birthday, Oprah Winfrey ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., and finished in four hours, twenty-nine minutes, and fifteen seconds. Her ability constantly to challenge herself, as exemplified by the Marine Corps Marathon, has resulted in Winfrey's becoming an international icon for motivation, a universal symbol of business savvy and philanthropy, and an unsurpassed representation of popular American culture.

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born to unwed parents in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her mother, Vernita Lee, was an eighteen-year-old domestic worker, and her father, Vernon Winfrey was a twenty year old doing duty in the armed forces Oprah initially was reared by her grandmother on a farm in Mississippi where she reportedly learned to read aloud and perform recitations in church at the age of three From age six to age thirteen she lived in Milwaukee ...

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Kathleen Thompson

It should surprise no one with a sense of history that, as soon as race and gender obstacles began to fall in society, an African American woman rose to a position of dizzying success and influence. All the characteristics and values that helped black women survive against the worst forms of oppression helped one black woman, Oprah Winfrey, to soar.

Oprah Winfrey was born to Vernita Lee and Vernon Winfrey in Kosciusko, Mississippi When her parents who were not married separated she went to live with her maternal grandmother on a farm Although life was austere the young girl thrived She learned to read before she was three and was in the third grade by the age of six At that point she went to live with her mother in Milwaukee Vernita Lee managed a subsistence level existence with income from welfare and domestic work and she had little ...

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Robert Fay

Oprah Winfrey was born on a farm in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her paternal grandmother raised her until she was six years old, when she moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to live with her mother, Vernita Lee. Though Winfrey did well in school, she was allegedly sexually abused by male relatives and became increasingly troubled as a teenager. Her mother, a maid who was busy raising two other children, eventually sent Winfrey to live with her disciplinarian father, a barber and businessman in Nashville, Tennessee. Winfrey flowered under Vernon Winfrey's strict supervision, excelling academically and as a public speaker. At sixteen, she won a partial scholarship to Tennessee State University in a public speaking contest sponsored by the Elks Club.

As a freshman at Tennessee State University Winfrey worked briefly as a radio newscaster before victories in two local beauty pageants helped land her a news anchor position at WTVF TV ...