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Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

a still photographer and documentary filmmaker, was born in Houston, Texas, the second child and only daughter of the schoolteacher Mollie Carroll Parrott and the dentist Frederick Douglas Parrott Sr. At least one grandparent had been born a slave. Both parents were the first in their respective families to obtain advanced college degrees, but racism kept the family poor. The Parrotts lived in the Third Ward, one of Houston's African American neighborhoods, and Blue attended a segregated grade school. As she wrote in her memoir, The Dawn at My Back, the challenges of growing up poor and black in a racist, classist society put a shadow over her life.

Blue did not intend to pursue a career in the visual arts. She enrolled as an English literature student, specializing in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English Renaissance period, at Boston University in 1960 with the goal of becoming ...

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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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Daniel Donaghy

film directors, producers and writers. Fraternal twins, Albert and Allen Hughes were born in Detroit Michigan to an African American father and an Armenian mother Aida who was born in Iran Albert is older than Albert by nine minutes Their parents divorced when they were two years old and at age nine the Hughes Brothers moved with their mother to Pomona California an hour from Hollywood where they first became interested in filmmaking Their mother ran her own business a vocational center and let her sons use the family s video camera to make films in part to let them pursue their passion and in part to keep them away from gangs and drugs While media outlets and the brothers own public relation representatives would later emphasize the pair s rough urban childhood experiences the two in fact were never in gangs and had stable childhoods complete ...

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Mark D. Cunningham

filmmakers and film producers, were born in Detroit, Michigan, the twin sons of an African American father and a white Armenian mother, Aida Hughes. Though information about their father is limited, the Hughes Brothers, as they are most well known commercially, have suggested in interviews that he was or tried to be a pimp. Their parents divorced when the brothers were two years old. In 1981 Aida moved her young sons to Pomona, California, a suburb near Hollywood. With little more than a fast food restaurant worker's income, Aida supported her family while simultaneously putting herself through college. She eventually established her own business to rehabilitate injured workers and satisfied her activist spirit by becoming president of the Pomona chapter of the National Organization for Women.

To keep her boys out of trouble Aida lent her company s video camera to her sons to occupy their time creating ...

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Lisa K. Thompson

writer, educator, professional speaker. Marilyn Willingham was born in Toledo, Ohio, but moved to Kosciusko, Mississippi, in 1955 with Jimmie Kern, a housepainter, and Manella Kern, a schoolteacher, who adopted her six years later. The couple had raised ten children of their own (their youngest child was a junior in high school) when they began caring for Marilyn. A very ambitious and high achieving student at Tipton Street High School, Kern hosted a radio program and served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Tipton Gazette. In 1971, Kern and a white student delivered valedictory addresses, after her senior class was forced by a Supreme Court order to integrate the city's white school.

Kern enrolled at Jackson State University (JSU) in August 1971 after receiving a four year scholarship Her mother feared for her daughter s safety after the Mississippi State Guard ...

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Ina J. Fandrich

documentary filmmaker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three sons of the engineer and contractor Frederick McDonald Massiah, a native of Barbados, and Edith Lamarre-Massiah from Haiti, who taught French at North Carolina Central College and the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Massiah grew up in North Philadelphia near Temple University. He attended Friends Select School, an independent Quaker institution in Philadelphia, from kindergarten through grade 12, and received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1977.

At Cornell, Massiah studied physics and astronomy, but also became interested in media arts. While residing at the University's Risley College for the Creative and Performing Arts, Massiah made the experimental film Exercise: Swim, Pebble, Martyr, Remember (1975 During this time he also started to work at WNET the public television station in New York City He later pursued a graduate degree in Documentary Filmmaking ...

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Debbie Clare Olson

filmmaker, producer, director, playwright, writer, and cultural critic, was born in Newark, New Jersey, but spent most of his childhood in North Carolina. Little is known about his family. After high school, Moss moved to Baltimore and attended Morgan State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1929. He also attended Columbia University in New York City, where he formed a troupe of black actors called “Toward a Black Theater.” The troupe toured around New York City and performed at various black colleges.

Moss was active in the theater and radio and acted in his first film, The Phantom of Kenwood, in 1933. The film was directed by Oscar Micheaux, one of the more prolific early black filmmakers. Between 1932 and 1933 Moss wrote three dramas—“Careless Love,” “Folks from Dixie,” and “Noah”—for a radio series called The Negro Hour ...

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C. M. Winston

artist, curator, art historian, filmmaker, writer, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Howard Pindell and Mildred, both educators. By the age of eight Pindell already aspired to be an artist, and she attended Saturday drawing classes at the Fleischer Art Memorial.

Pindell graduated cum laude with a BFA from Boston University and earned an MFA from Yale University's School of Art and Architecture in 1967. She moved to New York City in 1967 after graduating from Yale and she worked primarily as a painter of nonobjective and figurative works during the early years of her career That year she landed a job at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA as an exhibition assistant in the department of national and international circulating exhibitions At MoMA she rose through the ranks from curatorial assistant to associate curator in ...

Article

Luther Brown

journalist, news anchor, writer, documentary producer, and activist, was born in New York City to Christopher Poussaint, a printer, and Bobbie Vance Poussaint, a social worker who would eventually become New York City's human resources administration commissioner. Poussaint was born into a nurturing family in East Harlem, surrounded by her aunts and uncles. One of them, Alvin Poussaint, later became a well-known psychiatrist, writer, and civil rights activist.

Initially Poussaint attended a neighborhood Catholic school in Harlem, but in 1953 she, her parents, and her younger brother moved to Queens, New York. Three years later her parents divorced. In Queens, she attended public schools. She had a deep curiosity about the varied cultures of the world and a passion for literature, writing, and African dance—she performed briefly with a professional company. In-1962 Poussaint graduated as salutatorian of her class at ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

journalist and prisoner, was born in Lawtell, Louisiana, to Gladys a and Rideau's family moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, when he was six years old. His parents divorced before he became a teenager. He attended the Second Ward Elementary School, followed by the W.-O. Boston Colored High School until he dropped out.

Rideau worked a series of menial jobs from age thirteen to nineteen, when he was convicted of robbery and murder. On 16 February 1961, he robbed the Gulf National Bank. During thefourteen-thousand-dollar heist, he kidnapped three of the bank's white employees and killed one of them, Julia Ferguson, a forty-nine-year-old woman. An all-white, all-male jury convicted him and sentenced him to death that same year. He would be tried again by all-white, all-male juries in 1964 and in 1970 and he would remain in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola known nationally for being ...

Article

David A. Gerstner

filmmaker, was born Marlon Troy Riggs in Fort Worth, Texas, to Jean Williams, director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Civil Rights, a federal agency, and Alvin Riggs, who had a career in military and federal service. In the late 1960s Jean and Alvin Riggs moved Marlon and his sister, Sascha, to Augusta, Georgia, where, among other racist incidents, Marlon's school would not sponsor him in the state spelling bee even though he won the local contest. Alvin Riggs's military job took the family to Germany, where Marlon spent his high school years.

Like other African Americans who had lived abroad Marlon was struck by the overt racism and segregation that he experienced upon his return to the United States In addition to the ideological divides of race Riggs s homosexuality further complicated the oversimplified determinants of identity His experiences and observations of difference however served as ...

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Malaika B. Horne

filmmaker, educator, writer, and gay and civil rights activist. Riggs was born into a military family in Fort Worth, Texas, one of two children of Jean Riggs and Alvin Riggs. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard University in 1978. In 1981 he earned a master's degree in journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. A brilliant documentary filmmaker and scholar, he had a raw aesthetic sensibility that sought to shock and galvanize. The youngest tenured professor in the arts and humanities at the University of California, Berkeley, he taught in the Graduate School of Journalism from 1987 until 1994, the year of his passing.

At age eight Riggs moved with his family to Augusta Georgia Being confronted with racism was not new but an experience in Augusta that denied him recognition for winning a spelling bee had ...

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Lawrie Balfour

Reflecting on the death of Marlon Troy Riggs from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), cultural theorist Kobena Mercer observed, “Independent cinema lost the voice and vision of an important artist at the very moment that he was coming into his own.” At the time of his death, Riggs was at work on Black Is & Black Ain't. This feature-length film, complete by Riggs's collaborators in 1995, chronicled the variety of American identities seen as black.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Riggs grew up in a military family, moving from Texas to Georgia to Germany before returning to the United States to attend Harvard University. As an undergraduate he began to explore connections between black and gay identities. His studies led to a senior thesis on the treatment of male homosexuality in literature. After graduating magna cum laude in 1978 Riggs worked briefly at a Texas television station ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

As a pioneer of ethnographic filmmaking, which documents the lives, customs, and cultures of ethnic groups, Jean Rouche developed styles and techniques that influenced a generation of African moviemakers. Rouche's mother was a painter and his father was a naval explorer. Born in Paris, Rouche trained to be an engineer. He graduated from a prestigious Parisian engineering college in 1941 and immediately left Nazi-occupied France for the freer West African colony of Niger.

Rouche was hired to oversee the construction of a road, but lack of equipment halted the project. The engineer, however, had taken an interest in aspects of Songhai culture, including spirit possession ceremonies conducted by African workers he had befriended. Fascinated by the rites and curious to learn more, Rouche returned to France, where he enrolled in a doctoral program in anthropology and studied with the famous ethnographer Marcel Griaule Taking a break from his ...

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Barbara A. Desmarais

educator, scholar, and documentary filmmaker, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the elder child of Randolph and Evelyn (Turnipseed) Stakeman. He had one sister, Gail. Dr. Stakeman's father was a building superintendent; his mother was a bookkeeping clerk until 1960. Then, from 1961 to her death in 1993, Evelyn Stakeman fostered dozens of children, including young women and their babies.

Stakeman attended New York City public schools through tenth grade; then completed two years at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Wesleyan University in 1971 and his masters from Stanford University in 1976. He completed his PhD in history at Stanford in 1982.

When an undergraduate Dr Stakeman took European American and African history during the same semester Each course covered the same time period allowing him to see relationships between wide ranging ...

Article

Donna L. Halper

was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the younger of two children of Charles C. Walker, a Congregationalist minister, and his wife Bessie (Trotter). Elizabeth’s mother died in childbirth, and her father remarried in 1953 to Geneva (Powell), a teacher. Elizabeth and her brother, Charles, were mainly raised by their stepmother, as their father died in 1963. Despite growing up in a deeply religious home, young Elizabeth did not plan for a career in the church. Rather, she was interested in the media. A 1969 graduate of Little Rock’s Central High School, where she was the school newspaper’s first black assistant editor, she attended Olivet College, a Christian liberal arts school in Olivet, Michigan, graduating with a B.A. in Speech and Theater in 1973 Sources that say her major was Communication are incorrect Subsequently she studied broadcasting at the University of Wisconsin school for one semester but did not ...

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Amalia K. Amaki

photographer and film producer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to William Howard Wallace, a chef and musician, and Margaret Shannon Wallace, a real estate broker. William was the younger of the couple's two children; his older sister, Jacquelyn, was born 9 August 1936. William attended Chicago's public schools, graduating from Betsy Ross Elementary in 1951 and Central YMCA High in 1955.

Wallace's uncle gave him a camera on his tenth birthday, triggering his fascination with photographic images. With money he earned from his paper route, Wallace bought his first developing kit the following year. Three years later his family moved to a new apartment, and their landlord, Anthony Haywood was an accomplished freelance photographer with his own darkroom Noticing Wallace s interest in the medium Haywood took him under his tutelage Guided by Haywood Wallace developed the fundamental technical skills that prepared him for ...

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Jeff Loeb

independent filmmaker, playwright, director, actor, professor, and community activist, was born in Junction City, Kansas, the son of Lee Douglas Willmott, a hodcarrier and plastic tender, and Ruth Lee Willmott, a homemaker. Junction City, located in the central part of the state, in many ways owes its existence and takes its character from its proximity to Fort Riley, an army post dating from the 1850s that was home to the Tenth Cavalry, the Buffalo Soldiers, one of two all-black cavalry units created essentially to guard settlers from Indian attack following the Civil War.

Junction City s unusual history helped form Willmott s viewpoint from the beginning Contributing to the early presence of the Buffalo Soldiers in the nineteenth century was a substantial population of African American settlers originally attracted to Kansas as a free state haven for escaped and manumitted slaves As ...