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Roanne Edwards

Ossie Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the son of a railway engineer, and grew up in Waycross, Georgia. The harassment of his parents by the Ku Klux Klan impelled him early on to become a writer so that he could “truthfully portray the black man's experience.” At Howard University, under the tutelage of drama critic Alain Locke, Davis developed his theatrical talent, performing in a 1941 production of Joy Exceeding Glory with Harlem's Rose McClendon Players. Following his theater debut, however, he received few job offers and for nearly a year found himself living on the street.

Davis never lost his sense of purpose. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he returned to New York, New York, where he won the title role in Robert Ardrey's play Jeb (1946). In 1948 he married fellow performer Ruby ...

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Samuel A. Hay

writer, actor, and director, was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the oldest of four children of Kince Charles Davis, an herb doctor and Bible scholar, and Laura Cooper. Ossie's mother intended to name him “R.C.,” after his paternal grandfather, Raiford Chatman Davis, but when the clerk at Clinch County courthouse thought she said “Ossie,” Laura did not argue with him, because he was white.

Ossie was attacked and humiliated while in high school by two white policemen, who took him to their precinct and doused him with cane syrup. Laughing, they gave the teenager several hunks of peanut brittle and released him. He never reported the incident but its memory contributed to his sensibilities and politics. In 1934 Ossie graduated from Center High School in Waycross Georgia and even though he received scholarships to attend Savannah State College and Tuskegee Institute he did ...

Article

Cassandra Jackson

Born in Cogsdell, Georgia, Ossie Davis grew up in nearby Waycross. He studied at Howard University for three years, then traveled to New York to pursue a career in the theater. With the encouragement of Alain Locke, Davis obtained a position with the Rose McClendon Players of Harlem, while writing in his spare time. The following year, he joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Medical Corps and in Special Services. While stationed in Liberia, he wrote and produced Goldbrickers of 1944, a musical variety show. Discharged in 1945, Davis returned to New York and gained the lead role in the play Jeb, which propelled his stage career. Also starring in the play was Davis's future wife, Ruby Dee, with whom he would continue to costar in plays and later in film. Among Davis's stage, film, and television credits are The Joe Louis Story ...

Article

Ruby Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father, Marshall Edward Wallace, was a porter and waiter on the Pennsylvania Railroad; her mother, Emma Wallace, was a schoolteacher. They moved to Harlem in New York City when Ruby was a baby. She was educated at Public School 119 and Hunter College, and her formal education was supplemented by instruction in classical literature and music at home. Although asked to leave Hunter College when her activities at the American Negro Theater—a Harlem group which also included Hilda Simms, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier—took up too much of her energy and time, Dee graduated in 1945 with a bachelor's degree in French and Spanish. She worked briefly as a translator for an import company, but her extracurricular activities soon became her career.

Dee s work has run the gamut of entertainment media ...

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 ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

actress, singer, was born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in Houston, Texas, the second-oldest child of Dr. Andrew Arthur Allen, a dentist, and Dr. Vivian Elizabeth (Ayers) Allen, a poet and educator. Her father is of Cherokee descent; her mother, an African American, won a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her first published work, Spice of Dawns. Ayers-Allen's siblings, like their mother, embraced the arts; her older brother Andrew Arthur “Tex” Allen Jr. became a jazz musician; her younger sister Debbie Allen is an actor, choreographer, and director who won an Emmy Award for her role on the television series Fame; her youngest brother Hugh Allen is a real estate banker In the 1950s Ayers Allen moved with her family to Mexico where she learned to speak Spanish fluently Ayers Allen attended Jack Yates Senior High School in her hometown and at the same time began studying ...

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Daniel Douglas

stand-up comedian and screen actor, also credited as a director and film producer. Christopher Julius Rock III was born in Andrews, South Carolina, to Julius and Rosalie Rock, and he was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. He began working as a comedian in the late 1980s; discovered by Eddie Murphy, the relationship led to a small role in Beverly Hills Cop 2 (1987) and a regular spot on Saturday Night Live, ending in 1992.

Rock briefly appeared on the Fox network program In Living Color in 1994. His first record, Born Suspect, was released in 1991. Rock then left the television circuit to pursue a film career. Though he appeared in almost a dozen films during the next eight years—including So I Married an Axe Murderer (with Mike Myers) and CB4 for which ...

Article

Mary Anne Boelcskevy

actor and playwright, was born Frank Henry Wilson in New York City. Little is known about his family and early life, although it is known that he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Wilson supported himself with a job as a postman while also pursuing his acting and writing career.

Wilson began his career in vaudeville, spending twelve years as a baritone singer, but his true calling was the stage, where he worked as a playwright and as an actor. Wilson's career as a playwright began in 1914 when he wrote one act plays for the Lincoln and Lafayette theaters in Harlem During these early years of the century African American leaders organized a push for recognition of African American arts as a road to civil rights Wilson s career as playwright and actor was set in the midst of early debates over the form and definition ...

Article

SaFiya D. Hoskins

actor and producer, was born in Washington, D.C. His father died when he was a year old; his mother, an attorney employed by the United States Customs Department, raised him with the assistance of her sister, a nurse. Wright attended the elite St. Alban's School for Boys, a respected private, college preparatory institution, located on the grounds of the world-renowned Washington National Cathedral. With early aspirations of becoming an attorney, in 1983 he enrolled at the prestigious and highly selective Amherst College in Massachusetts. Unsuspectingly, Wright developed an interest in acting during his senior year; and, when in 1987 he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Amherst, instead of attending law school, he accepted an acting scholarship from New York University (NYU). After two months with the Theater Department at NYU, Wright was presented the opportunity to act in a Lorraine Hansberry play and decided ...