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Charles L. Hughes

singer and member of the Supremes, was born in Rosetta, Mississippi, the eighth child of Jessie and Lurlee Ballard. In 1953 the Ballards, following the Great Migration path taken by millions of African Americans, moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Jessie Ballard worked in an automobile factory until his death in 1959. The family lived in the Brewster-Douglass Projects, and Ballard's powerful singing voice distinguished her both in school and around the neighborhood. Two of her neighbors, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, who were members of the local singing group the Primes, told their manager, Milton Jenkins, about Ballard, and Jenkins was impressed enough to book Ballard—still in her teens—as a solo act at the Primes' performances.

This early connection between Ballard and the Primes is vitally important both to Ballard s career and to the history of American popular music for two reasons First the Primes would ...

Article

Amalia K. Amaki

photographer and businessman, was born in New Orleans, where he remained professionally based throughout his sixty-plus-year career.

The leading African American photographer in New Orleans in the first half of the twentieth century, Bedou saw his reputation grow to national proportions as a result of his images of the life and travel of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (later Tuskegee University) President Booker T. Washington from the early 1900s through 1915. He photographed Washington at public-speaking engagements addressing crowds in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, California, and numerous other locations during his final tour, which ended in 1915. He recorded Washington in transit by coach, train, and automobile in addition to his famous portraits of the education leader posed upon his horse.

As official photographer for the Institute, Bedou covered any number of events for the school. He recorded the 24 October 1905 ...

Article

Nancy T. Robinson

historian, collector, archivist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born Wallace Michael Branch in Brooklyn, New York, one of two sons of Byrd Branch, an entrepreneur who operated a cleaning and tailoring business in New York City and held down a thirty-five-year job at the weekly newspaper Irish Echo to support his family, and Vera Barbour Branch. In Brooklyn, Branch and his family lived a solid middle-class lifestyle, making their home in a four-floor brownstone home that they owned.

Branch was born with sickle cell anemia a hereditary incurable chronic disorder with which patients suffer severe pain and tissue and organ damage as a result of oxygen and nutrient deficiencies At the time of Branch s birth information about and treatment of the disease were limited According to his family doctors who treated Branch as a child never gave him much hope for survival At fourteen Branch became so ill that he ...

Article

Deborah Willis

James Conway Farley was born to slave parents in Prince Edward County, Virginia, on August 10, 1854. Following the death of his father, Farley and his mother moved in 1861 to Richmond, Virginia, where his mother was a storeroom keeper at the Columbia Hotel. He assisted in making candles, learned to read and write, and attended public schools for three years. After working briefly with a baker, he was employed in 1872 in the chemical department of the photographic establishment of C. R. Rees and Company in downtown Richmond. During a number of years after 1875, he set the scene and made photographs for the G. W. Davis Photograph Gallery, also in downtown Richmond on Broad Street. In 1895 he opened his own studio, the Jefferson Fine Arts Gallery.

For thirty five years Farley prospered in a profession that had few black men When four white ...

Article

Donna M. Wells

artist, photographer, and entrepreneur, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, to Thomas Freeman and Sarah Freeman. Following his father's death, in 1877 he and his sister Delilah moved with their mother to Washington, where Freeman attended Washington, D.C., public schools and excelled in drawing and painting. It is not known if he finished high school. He held a variety of jobs, including laborer and waiter, to help support the family.

In 1885, at the age of seventeen, Freeman started to advertise his services as a painter in addition to art framer and bicycle repairman. Gradually he began to pursue a career as an artist and photographer. His early work consisted of pastel drawings of Washington's elite African American community. His most famous portraits were of the Washington lawyer John Mercer Langston, completed in 1893, and of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1895 That ...

Article

John Gruber

photographer, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and attended Howard High School in Chattanooga. His parents were King and Hattie Murfrees Ganaway. Ganaway did not go to college, although his sister, Mamie Egester, graduated from college in Chattanooga. He worked as a butler from 1906 to 1925 for Mary A. Lawrence, the widow of Edward F. Lawrence, a prominent Chicagoan, who lived on Lake Shore Drive, Chicago's “Gold Coast.” During these years, he tried to revive a childhood interest in drawing, but frustrated with his efforts, he turned to photography. He was self-taught, spending his off days perfecting his photographic skills.

Ganaway's photo, “Spirit of Transportation”—an image of two sections of a passenger train, the 20th Century Limited, arriving in Chicago on a cold day in February 1918 captivated the media when it won the first prize in the fifteenth annual exhibition of photographs at ...

Article

John Hanson Mitchell

photographer and naturalist, was born in Natural Bridge, Virginia. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. In 1881, after attending primary schools in Lexington, Virginia, Gilbert was taken by his family to Lynchburg, Virginia, to complete his education. In 1886 he followed his brother William north to Boston, where he found employment as a porter on the Portland Boston steamship line. He would work various odd jobs until 1896, when psychologist James Chadbourne hired him to help with laboratory rats. Gilbert, as he was generally known in the Boston white community, also took a temporary job setting up a bird museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the renowned nineteenth-century ornithologist William Brewster. Brewster subsequently hired Gilbert as a full-time manservant, field assistant, factotum, and, as some of the early private journal records state, “friend,” to the well-respected Brewster.

Under Brewster s tutelage Gilbert learned how to develop ...

Article

crystal am nelson

photographer and businessman, was born in Florida. As a young man, he worked with his father as a stevedore while taking correspondence courses in photography. At the beginning of the twentieth century—the specific date is unknown—he married Wilhelmina Pearl Williams, a native of South Carolina, who helped Roberts open the Gem Studio in Fernandina, Florida. The two had four children during their time in Florida: Gerald Ermerson, Beverly Nash, Cornelius C., and Wilhelmina. In 1920, when Wilhelmina's health began to suffer from Florida's humidity, the couple moved to her hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, where their fifth child, Miriam was born They purchased a small house equipped with electricity and plumbing both luxuries for southerners at the time In the backyard were a barn and a smaller house the latter of which the family used as storage space for Roberts s photographic equipment ...

Article

Donna M. Wells

photographer and entrepreneur, was born in the Freedmen's Hospital in Washington, D.C., the son of Addison Scurlock, a successful photographer and the proprietor of Scurlock Studios, and Mamie Estelle Fearing, the receptionist and business manager of Scurlock Studios. George and his three siblings grew up in Washington, not far from their father's studio, which was founded in 1911. As young men, George and his brother Robert Scurlock apprenticed with their father and developed into accomplished photographers, later taking over the family business, which they operated for more than four decades. Scurlock Studios became one of the nation's most successful black businesses. George attended Garrison Elementary and Garnett-Patterson Junior High School. All of the Scurlock children attended Dunbar High School, considered one of the top black schools in the country. Robert graduated in 1933, and Addison, who was named for his father, graduated in 1932 having ...