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Robyn McGee

of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (MPAS), was born Cheryl Boone in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her father, Ashley, Sr., was a postal worker and her mother, Doris Boone, a stay at home mom. Boone Isaacs is the youngest of four children, one sister Velma Fahrer and two brothers, Richard Boone and the late Ashley A. Boone Jr. (1938–1994), the latter who was also a Hollywood pioneer. He was the first African American studio marketing and distribution executive whose successes included Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Ashley was a role model for his sister and is often credited for opening doors for her. Ashley and Cheryl were the first brother and sister ever to serve as governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the same time.

She graduated from Springfield’s Classical High School in 1967 and after graduation she ...

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Jim Haskins

entertainer and nightclub operator, was born in Alderson, West Virginia, the daughter of Thomas Smith, a barber, and Hattie E. (maiden name unknown), a domestic worker. Christened Ada Beatrice Queen Victoria Louise Virginia, because her parents did not wish to disappoint the various neighbors and friends who offered suggestions for naming her, Bricktop received her nickname because of her red hair when she was in her late twenties from Barron Wilkins, owner of a nightclub called Barron's Exclusive Club in Prohibition-era Harlem.

Bricktop's father died when she was four, and her mother moved with the children to Chicago to be near relatives. Hattie Smith worked as a domestic in Chicago, and her children attended school. Bricktop showed early musical talent and interest in performing. She made her stage debut as a preschooler, playing the part of Eliza's son Harry in a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin at ...

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Beatriz Rivera-Barnes

singer, hip-hop impresario, and songwriter. Combs has also been known as Puff, Puffy, Sean John, Puff Daddy, and Diddy. Sean John Combs spent part of his childhood in Mount Vernon, New York, until in 1972 his father was murdered on his way home from a party. After the tragedy the Combs family moved to the Bronx, where Sean attended a Catholic school before going to Howard University in Washington, D.C. Dropping out of Howard, Combs became an intern for Uptown Records, and he later became a top executive until he was fired in 1992.

During his tenure at Uptown Records, Combs produced successful albums with artists such as Mary J. Blige Father MC and Jodeci After his departure he worked as a remixer and created Bad Boy Entertainment which soon became a multimillion dollar business Bad Boy signed two hit artists Craig Mack and the ...

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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 ...

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Thomas A. Dorsey's name is synonymous with modern Gospel Music. Dorsey composed over 1,000 songs in his lifetime, half of which were published. With creative genius and business savvy, Dorsey popularized songs that combined the rhythm and tonality of Blues with lyrics about personal spiritual salvation. Countless gospel performers achieved their first success singing Dorsey's music. His most famous song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” is one of the most popular gospel songs in America.

Dorsey was born to Etta and Thomas Madison Dorsey. Thomas Madison was an itinerant preacher, and Etta played the organ in church. As a child, Dorsey was regularly exposed to spirituals and Baptist hymns. Extended family members introduced Dorsey to rural blues and shaped-note singing. In 1908 the family moved to Atlanta, where Dorsey learned to play the piano by watching pianists at a vaudeville theater on Decatur Street. Dorsey also saw Ma ...

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Sara Dale

vaudeville dancer and jazz club owner, was born in Asheville, North Carolina to Jessie White and Rufus Greenlee. He had seven siblings: Percy, Nello, Premular Avery, Gustarena, Jenny Mae, Josephine, and Adrian. He moved several times in his life. First he moved to New Haven, Connecticut, and later resided in New York City. As a young man he worked at a saloon on Coney Island in 1909, as well as working with traveling minstrel acts.

Greenlee learned dance at Miss Hattie Anderson's Dance School in New York City. Even at the age of twelve many people wanted to dance with him, especially a white performer known as Gertie LeClair. When he gained experience Greenlee transformed ballroom dancing, Russian dancing, and acrobatics. At the time he was one of few to tap dance to jazz music. He paired with Thaddeus (Teddy) Drayton in 1909 and partnered with Charles Johnson ...

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Jay-Z  

Jennifer A. Bratyanski

rapper and business mogul. Shawn Corey Carter grew up quickly in the shadows of the Marcy Housing Projects of Brooklyn, New York. His parents Gloria Carter and Adnes Reeves split up when Jay-Z was a teenager, leaving him and his three siblings vulnerable to the urban environment of New York. His father's departure left the teenage Jay-Z free to explore the streets for an alternative family structure. He found his way into the dangerous world of crack cocaine and became, as he later stated in an interview in Rolling Stone, addicted to hustling. His moniker “Jay-Z” reportedly derives from combining an early nickname with the name of a subway line that traverses Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

His successes as a hustler translated into his earliest rap lyrics, which eventually became his first album, the widely acclaimed Reasonable Doubt. The album was released in 1996 by Roc ...

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

Roanne Edwards

Don King has emerged as the most powerful and controversial figure in American Boxing. By the late 1970s he had come to dominate the boxing industry—traditionally controlled by white brokers—and since then has raised millions of dollars for such prizefighters as Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Mike Tyson. A flamboyant public figure, King's visibility has extended far beyond the field of boxing, and some commentators have likened him to the infamous gangster Al Capone. As Sports Illustrated noted in 1997, “King, who has beaten tax evasion charges and countless allegations of contract fraud over the years, is nothing if not resourceful.”

The fifth of seven children born to Clarence and Hattie King Don King was born reared and educated in Cleveland Ohio After his father a steelworker died in a workplace explosion King s mother moved the family to ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

boxing promoter. Donald King was born to Clarence King, a steelworker, and Hattie King, in Cleveland, Ohio. Don King's father died in 1941 in a steel foundry explosion. In spite of his father's premature death, or perhaps because of it, King sought a life for himself beyond the poor neighborhood in which he grew up. He dreamed of becoming a lawyer, and in order to pay for his education at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University), he worked as a numbers runner for local illegal gamblers, transporting illegal betting slips to various bookies in the Cleveland area. Before long, King rose to become one of the city's leading bookmakers. He made more than enough to pay for college, but he quit school after one year to focus on a career in gambling.

King had many run ins with the law in his teens and early ...

Article

Robert Farrell

entrepreneur in the entertainment and fashion industries. Simmons is one of the most influential African American entrepreneurs to arise out of the late twentieth century hip-hop culture. Starting as a manager of early hip-hop artists and cofounder of Def Jam Records, Simmons has since developed ventures in television, fashion, and film, and he has done much to make hip hop a mainstream part of contemporary cultural and economic life.

Simmons was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York, to middle-class, college-educated parents, both of whom worked for the City of New York. In 1965, the Simmons family moved to Hollis, Queens, a solidly middle-class neighborhood that began to decline as the use of heroin spread through New York in the 1970s. In 1975 the ambitious and highly style conscious Simmons began to attend the City College of New York which provided him with a social network connected to the ...

Article

A performer throughout her childhood, Ada Smith left school at age sixteen to begin her career as a singer and dancer in minstrel and vaudeville shows. Her bright red hair earned her the nickname “Bricktop.” She performed extensively in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In 1924 she began singing at Paris's Le Grand Duc, a nightclub favored by the Parisian elite and community of black expatriates, where she became acquainted with Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, and Pablo Picasso, among others. In 1927 she bought the club and renamed it Bricktop's; it became one of Paris's most popular nightclubs in the 1930s. Smith left Paris in 1939 because of World War II. A string of nightclubs she opened in the 1940s and 1950s failed, and Smith retired from the business in 1964, except for occasional singing engagements in the 1970s.

See also ...

Article

Known to many as “Queen Victoria,” Victoria Regina Spivey was born in Houston, Texas. She learned the piano while singing with her father's band in Dallas. After her father died she performed wherever she could find work. In 1926 Spivey moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she wrote and recorded songs, including her best-known “T.B. Blues”, for the St. Louis Music Company and for Okeh Records. Leaving Okeh but continuing to record between 1929 and 1952, she also appeared in several stage shows including Hellzapoppin' and in an all-black movie, Hallelujah. Her signature vocal sound was a nasal type of evocative moan, which she termed her “tiger squall.”

After a brief retirement Spivey returned to music with the revival of the Blues in the 1960s. In 1961 she formed Queen Vee Records changing the name to Spivey Records the following year She died ...