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Charles Haywood

(b Flushing, NY, Oct 22, 1854; d Philadelphia, May 5, 1911). American minstrel performer and songwriter. He was educated in Washington, DC, where he enrolled in the law department of Howard University and was deeply moved by the spirituals and the rhythm and harmony of the work songs of labourers on the university campus. He learnt to play the banjo, taught himself the rudiments of harmony and began composing songs. He organized musical groups and performed at various social functions, where he soon became known as a versatile entertainer. He found the perfect outlet for his musical and theatrical talents in the minstrel show and joined the Original Black Diamonds of Boston as a leading performer in 1875.

In 1876 Bland joined the Bohee Minstrels then Sprague s Georgia Minstrels who as Haverly s Genuine Colored Minstrels opened at Her Majesty s ...

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William Lichtenwanger

minstrel performer and composer, was born in Flushing, Long Island, New York, the son of Allen M. Bland, an incipient lawyer, and Lidia Ann Cromwell of Brandywine, Delaware, of an emancipated family. Bland's father, whose family had been free for several generations, attended law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and in 1867 became the first black to be appointed an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office.

James Bland entered Howard University as a prelaw student in 1870 at the urging of his father but the subject and the life associated with it did not appeal to him Instead he was attracted to the minstrel show that was approaching its peak during the 1870s He played the guitar danced the steps sang the minstrel songs and most important composed songs for the shows A free black man who attended college for two years Bland had to learn ...

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William Lichtenwanger

James Allen Bland was born in Flushing, Long Island, New York, the son of Allen M. Bland, an incipient lawyer, and Lidia Ann Cromwell of Brandywine, Delaware, of an emancipated family. Bland's father, whose family had been free for several generations, attended law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and in 1867 became the first black to be appointed an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office.

James Bland entered Howard University as a prelaw student in 1870 at the urging of his father, but the subject and the life associated with it did not appeal to him. He was attracted instead to the minstrel show that was approaching its peak during the 1870s. He played the guitar, danced the steps, sang the minstrel songs, and, most importantly, composed songs for the shows.

A free black man who attended college for two years Bland did not have ...

Article

Kevin Byrne

vaudeville entertainer and theatrical entrepreneur, was born in Dallas, Texas. The names of his parents are unknown. Though in later interviews Dudley frequently changed the story of how he broke into show business, his earliest stage work was most likely in Texas and Louisiana as part of a medicine show. This job, in which he played music and told jokes to draw a crowd to the pitchman and his wares, was an appropriate beginning for a man who always sought to be the center of attention. Dudley eventually became an artist and businessman who, as demonstrated by both his actions and writings, was passionately concerned with cultivating the rights and strengthening the dignity of African American performers during an era when what it meant to be a black entertainer was greatly in flux.

Dudley s apprenticeship in the professional theatrical world took place during the last decade of the ...

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Theresa Vara-Dannen

banjoist, actor, minstrel comedian, was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Sampson Easton and his wife, Louisa (maiden name unknown). Although there has been some confusion among scholars about his date of birth, the 1850 Federal Census indicates that a male child named “Hoser” (sic) was one year old, living with his Massachusetts-born father, a laborer and later “hackman” (a carriage driver for hire), and his Connecticut-born mother. His paternal grandfather, after whom he was named, was Hosea Easton, the minister of the Talcott Street Congregational Church in Hartford. The first Hosea Easton earned great respect for his groundbreaking work, A Treatise On the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States; And the Prejudice Exercised Towards Them; With A Sermon on the Duty of the Church To Them (1837 The family was also descended directly from James ...

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Marva Griffin Carter

entertainer, was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, the son of Luther Fletcher, a steamboat fireman, and Mary Eliza Cox, a cook. A stage performance sometime before 1888 of Harriet Beecher Stowe'sUncle Tom's Cabin that featured a cadre of African American actors and in which he played a small part initially inspired Tom Fletcher to pursue a career in entertainment. Later Fletcher became the first black actor to play the role of Uncle Tom.

Fletcher spent more than sixty years on the stage or performing in various venues As a boy soprano he sang in local talent shows and played in the Portsmouth fife corps His professional theatrical career began at age fifteen when he appeared with such groups as Howard s Novelty Colored Minstrels the Old Kentucky show Ed Winn s minstrel company and Richard and Pringle s Georgia Minstrels At the turn of the twentieth century ...

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Paul Devlin

singer, composer, minstrel performer, street musician, and one of the world's first recording stars and the first African American to make any recording, was born in Wheatland, Loudon County, Virginia, though possibly in Fluvanna County, Virginia. It is unclear as to whether he was born free or as a slave. His father, Samuel Johnson, was listed as free soon after George's birth. His mother was known as Druanna, or “Ann Pretty.” While still a small child Johnson was hired as the “bodyservant” for a young white boy his same age, Samuel Moore. Johnson grew up in the prosperous Moore household and was taught to read and write. He is thought to have spent the Civil War working as a laborer for one or both armies.

Johnson moved to New York sometime around 1873 and began performing on ferry boats. In 1890 ...

Article

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

Charles Rosenberg

who developed most of his career as an entertainer in Australia, was born in New York State. Information on his parents is not well established. Some sources give his father’s name as Ebenezer Keenan, some as Samuel. Keenan’s death certificate gives the name Ebenezer. His mother is generally held to have been Mary Ann Davis Keenan. It is likely that he had both Irish and African ancestry, and it is possible that one or both of his parents were also of mixed descent, or one may have been themselves an immigrant from Ireland, or the child of immigrants. His professional performances, perhaps constrained by the cultural expression of the notorious “one drop rule,” expressed “Negro” caricatures.

Keenan’s career began in the United States, and while little is documented, he registered to vote in San Francisco, California in 1876 listing his occupation as musician and his address at the International ...

Article

Kevin Byrne

minstrel entertainer, was born in New Orleans and at an early age moved with his family to New York City. Scant biographical information exists regarding his upbringing before theatrical manager Charles Hicks discovered him in a small Bowery music hall and placed him in his minstrel show, but it has been suggested that he had little formal education and even into his adult life had to be taught the comedic songs and routines for which he became internationally renowned.

Kersands began his career in minstrelsy as a performer in Hicks's Georgia Minstrels in 1870 or 1871 At the time the popularity of minstrelsy was unrivaled in the United States and Hicks s organization is notable for being one of the first African American minstrel companies to achieve national fame This troupe adopted the standard tripartite format of the minstrel show as established by white performers in the 1840s ...

Article

David Bradford

singer, dancer, comedian, and songwriter, was born Samuel Milady in Washington Court House, Ohio. Nothing is known of his parents except, according to some sources, that they were ex-slaves. Known as the “dean of the Negro stage,” Lucas was a multifaceted entertainer who was featured in many of the leading minstrel companies and musical plays of his age including Callender's Original Georgia Minstrels, The Hyers Sisters' Out of Bondage, Sam T. Jack's The Creole Show, and Cole and Johnson's A Trip to Coontown. He also was the first black actor to play the title role in a major stage production of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the first African American to have a leading role in a motion picture.

When he was nineteen Lucas moved to Cincinnati where he worked as a barber He sang and played the guitar and soon began ...

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Barry Kernfeld

blues singer, was born Elizabeth Mary Landreaux Miles in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of J.-C. Miles, whose occupation is unknown. Her mother was a singer, whose name is unknown (Landreaux, presumably). Lizzie's stepbrothers were the trumpeter Herb Morand, who at some point during the 1920s played in New York in a band accompanying Lizzie, and the drummer Maurice Morand. Lizzie first sang in church at age five. She also sang in school before dropping out to perform at parties and dances. From 1909 to 1911 she sang with the cornetist King Oliver, the trombonist Kid Ory, the trumpeter Bunk Johnson, and the violinist Armand John Piron at numerous venues in New Orleans. Around this time she married; no other details are known. Her second marriage was to August Pajaud; again, details are unknown.

Miles toured southern theaters as a member ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

jazz trumpeter and cornetist, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. His widowed mother, whose name is unknown, worked as a maid. Nothing is known of his father. When Mitchell was about twelve years old he became interested in music through a friend, Leonard Fields, who had a cornet (or, by another account, an alto horn). Mitchell began taking lessons from Fields's father, a member of the Louisville Musical Club Brass Band, the leading African American ensemble in the city. A year later his mother bought him a trumpet. By 1912 or 1913 Mitchell was a member of the congregational marching brass band of St. Augustine Church, and soon thereafter he joined the Louisville Music Club Brass Band, playing concert band music and ragtime. He learned to improvise while working with this ensemble and with dance and theater orchestras drawn from within the club's ranks and led by Wilbur Winstead ...

Article

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues artist, was born Booker T. Washington White in Houston, Mississippi, the son of John White, a locomotive fireman, and Lula Davisson. He spent his early years on the farm of his mother's father, Punk Davisson, a landowner and fundamentalist church leader. Booker sang in church with his sister and received rudimentary guitar instruction from his father, who played guitar, mandolin, violin, piano, and saxophone.

When Booker was nine, his father bought a guitar for him, and the youngster was soon testing his musical skills at local house parties. In 1920 he hitchhiked about fifty miles west to live with an uncle, Alec Johnson, near Grenada, Mississippi. There and in Clarksdale, White heard a number of accomplished Mississippi Delta blues artists, Charlie Patton among them. “I tried to be a second behind old Charlie Patton,” White said in later years.

In his early teens ...