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Alice Bernstein

carpenter, newspaper editor, and state representative during Reconstruction, was born free, of “unmixed African blood,” in New Bern, North Carolina, to Israel B. Abbott and Gracie Maria Green. His father died in 1844, and Abbott was raised by his mother and maternal grandmother, Hannah, the wife of Bristow Rue (Rhew). His mother's second husband was Nelson Brown, with whom she had a daughter, Hannah Cora, and stepsons Samuel H. Brown and George M. Brown. She married her third husband, the Reverend Joseph Green, a Methodist Episcopal Zion Church minister, in 1854. When Abbott was four, his grandmother contributed one dollar toward his education, and he attended a school taught by Mrs. Jane Stevens. He went to school regularly until age ten, when he began serving two years as apprentice to a carpenter, completing his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green ...

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Michele Valerie Ronnick

linguist, missionary, sociologist, and college teacher and administrator, was born in Anomabu in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). His father, Kodwo Kwegyir, traced the family lineage to Carthaginian times. His mother, Abna Andua, was his father's third wife, and James was one of seventeen children. He was baptized in 1883 and a few years later the Reverend Dennis Kemp, a Wesleyan missionary, transferred him and a group of other students to Kemp's Mission House for schooling. Aggrey then went to the Wesleyan Centenary Memorial School. There the gifted student and natural teacher traded lessons in Fanti for those in Latin and French. He would later tell his nephew in 1912 that he had ranked first in everything in school including Greek and Latin After becoming an assistant teacher he often lectured to the lower grades about Caesar s Gallic campaigns and was said to have ...

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David Dabydeen

African‐Americantragedian and Shakespearean actor who emigrated to England and performed extensively in Europe. Aldridge was born to Daniel and Lurona Aldridge on 24 July 1807 in West Broadway, New York. There has been some confusion concerning his genealogy. One suggestion of his lineage was that he was a descendant of a princely line of the Fulah tribe in Senegal. This version is probably a romantic tale fabricated to accentuate an exoticism that would have boosted his dramatic persona. What is known, however, is that Daniel Aldridge was a straw‐vendor and a pastor, who might have been a slave. There are no records to verify that Daniel was indeed a slave, but the name Aldridge was most probably that of a slave master.

Although Daniel had intended his son to join the ministry the young Aldridge was already passionate about the theatre After his education at the African Free School ...

Article

André Willis

Aldridge earned international recognition as one of his era's finest actors for his moving theatrical performances throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, Europe, and the United States. Although born free in New York City, he was the son of a slave turned Calvinist preacher. Aldridge saw limited theatrical opportunities in the United States and, after training at the African Free School in New York City, left the United States for Europe in 1824. Intent on pursuing an acting career, he studied drama at the University of Glasgow in Scotland for more than a year.

Debuting onstage at the Royal Coburg in London, England, in 1825 Aldridge won widespread praise for his portrayal of Shakespeare s Othello a role that became his trademark as well as for his renditions of other leading characters during the six week theatrical run After this success he performed in the Theatre Royal in Brighton England ...

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Melissa Vickery-Bareford

actor, was born Ira Frederick Aldridge, the son of Daniel Aldridge, a minister, and Lurona (maiden name unknown). Although certain historical accounts record that Aldridge was born in Senegal, Africa, and was the grandson of the Fulah tribal chieftain, modern biographical scholarship has established that he was born in New York City. It is possible that he could claim Fulah ancestry, but his lineal descent from tribal royalty is unconfirmed. Extant evidence concerning Aldridge's life is sketchy, conflicting, or exaggerated, possibly owing in part to the aggrandizements of theatrical publicity.

As a young boy, Aldridge attended the African Free School in New York City. Although Aldridge's father intended for him to join the clergy, Aldridge showed an early attraction to the stage, excelling at debate and declamation. Around 1821 Aldridge tried to perform at Brown s Theatre also known as the African Theatre but his father ...

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Graham Russell Hodges

Ira Frederick Aldridge was the son of Daniel Aldridge, a minister, and Lurona (maiden name unknown). Born in New York City, Aldridge was educated at the African Free School. Although his father wanted him to become a minister, Aldridge turned to the stage when he became fascinated by the fledgling African Grove Theater, run by William Brown and starring the pioneering black actor James Hewlett. The theater closed in 1823 after the New York City government, under pressure from racist mobs, refused to grant it a license. Recognizing that his career as a serious actor was limited in the United States because of prevalent prejudice against blacks, Aldridge immigrated to England in 1824 and became an attendant to the famed thespian Henry Wallack whom he met through Wallack s brother James Aldridge and Henry Wallack would clash when the latter identified the young black man as his ...

Article

Roberto Ramos-Perea

was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. Born with a handicap in his legs that made him resemble a dwarf, he was the first son of Nicolás Alonso Marini, a carpenter, and Matilde Pizarro, a woman of African, Amerindian, and European descent. Both were descendants of freed slaves.

Alongside his training in cobbling and carpentry, Manuel soon acquired a thorough literary education under the tutelage of his private teacher Fabriciano Cuevas Sotillo, also from Guayama. Even though he distinguished himself as an excellent student, the circumstances of poverty in which his family lived required Alonso Pizarro to focus his efforts on the family’s cobbling business.

In 1884 he moved to Mayagüez, where he joined the Sociedad de Artesanos Unión Borinqueña, which commissioned Alonso Pizarro’s first play Me saqué la lotería (I Won the Lottery) in 1886. A playful one-act comedy, Me saqué la lotería was set among the jíbaro ...

Article

James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...

Article

Suzi Takahashi

actor, director, educator, and artist advocate, was born Osceola Marie Macarthy in Albany, Georgia, of black, white, and Native American racial heritage. The daughter of a life insurance executive, Archer attended Fisk University Preparatory School in Nashville, Tennessee. She then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1909, where she was a pupil of Alain Locke and the sociologist Kelly Miller. Self‐defined as a suffragette, in 1913, her senior year at Howard, Archer and twenty‐one fellow female students cofounded one of the largest black fraternal organizations in the United States, Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority dedicated to community service and the mutual support of African American women. That same year Archer began to pursue her interest in drama by performing the title role in the Howard University Dramatics Club production of The Lady of Lyon a Victorian romantic comedy known as a showcase for actors ...

Article

DaMaris B. Hill

storyteller, librarian, and author, was born Augusta Braxton in Baltimore, Maryland, the only child of two educators, Winford J. and Mabel Braxton. Her father later became a wood craftsman, and her mother retired from formal teaching to raise her daughter. Baker skipped at least two grades in elementary school and might have skipped more—she explained later in an interview with Robert V. Williams—if her father hadn't insisted that she be educated among her peers. Baker's maternal grandmother, Augusta Fax Gough, was an integral part of-Baker's childhood and found that the only means of quieting the young Baker was to entertain her through storytelling. These beloved experiences with storytelling would become the catalysts for a career in storytelling and would inspire Baker to write children's literature.

At age sixteen Baker was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh She did well with the academic material despite ...

Article

Charles Blancq

jazz clarinetist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Theogene V. Baquet, a music teacher and the leader of the Excelsior Brass Band of New Orleans, and Leocadie Mary Martinez. Baquet and his younger brother, Achille Baquet, were descendants of “downtown” Creoles, whose musical training was closely allied to the traditions of the French musical conservatory—a musical tradition held at that time to be far superior to that of the “uptown” jazz musicians. At age fourteen, Baquet was already playing E-flat clarinet with the Lyre Club Symphony Orchestra, a Creole ensemble with twenty to thirty pieces, directed by his father. Baquet later received additional training from the legendary Mexican-born clarinetist Luis “Papa” Tio, who, with his nephew Lorenzo Tio Jr., was among the founding members of the New Orleans school of clarinetists, a group that included Johnny Dodds, Albert Nicholas, Omer Simeon ...

Article

Allison Kellar

actor, singer, and philanthropist, was born Etta Moten in Weimar, Texas, the only daughter of Reverend Freeman F. Moten and Ida Norman Moten. The ten-year-old Etta took an active part in church, singing in the choral group and instructing Sunday-school lessons. Standing on a makeshift step stool, in order to be at the same height level as the rest of the choir, she shared her voice with the congregation.

After high school Barnett wedded Lieutenant Curtis Brooks During their seven year marriage she had four children one of whom died at birth Following in the footsteps of her college educated parents she attended the University of Kansas in the 1920s however in order to receive her education Barnett had to sacrifice her conventional family life She divorced her husband and left her three daughters under her parents supervision while she attended school On weekends she cared ...

Article

Richard J. Leskosky

actor, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only son of Elizabeth Baskett, a homemaker, and John Baskett, a barber. He was among the first students to attend Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, where he studied pharmacology. A lack of funds, though, forced him to forsake his plans to make that his career.

On a visit to Chicago as a teen, however, he was asked to fill in for a sick performer in a show and developed an interest in acting. On the stage, Baskett toured as singer, actor, and comic under the name Jimmie (sometimes Jimmy) Baskette for most of the top African American companies of the period. He performed with Henry Drake and Ethel Walker's touring variety troupe in Go Get 'Em (1926) and Look Who's Here (1927) and with the prolific Salem Tutt Whitney and J Homer Tutt s ...

Article

Wayne L. Wilson

actor, was born Matthew Beard Jr. in Los Angeles, California, to Johnnie Mae Beard and Matthew Beard Sr. The oldest boy, he and his father were born on New Year's Day. Little is known about his parents, except that his father was a longtime minister in Los Angeles. Beard's father heard that there was an audition being held by Hal Roach, the creator and producer of the popular Our Gang film series, for a black child to replace Allen “Farina” Hoskins, who was growing too old for the role. Three hundred and fifty children auditioned, but director Bob McGowan was so impressed by little Matthew's confidence, nonchalance, expressive eyes, and contagious smile that he signed him up for five years without a screen test.

Matthew's younger sister, Betty Jane preceded him in two earlier shorts His other siblings and even his mother made later appearances in the ...

Article

Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...

Article

Linda K. Fuller

actress, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of William Beavers. Her mother's identity is not known. As a child Louise moved with her musically inclined family to California, where in 1918 she graduated from Pasadena High School. She then joined the Ladies' Minstrel Troupe for a year before being recognized by talent scouts.

Beavers, who would appear in more than one hundred motion pictures, began her Hollywood career by playing a maid to leading lady Lilyan Tashman in Gold Diggers (1923). Early on, maid was a role that Beavers had to play offscreen as well as on. From 1920 to 1926 she worked first as a dressing room attendant and then as the personal maid of the actress Leatrice Joy. In 1927 Beavers landed a major role in Uncle Tom's Cabin, followed in 1929 by roles in Coquette and Nix on Dames In the ...

Article

Kerry Dexter

singer and actor, was born Charles Leon Arthello Bibb in Louisville, Kentucky. His father, also Leon Bibb, worked as a mail carrier and his mother, Elizabeth (McCloskey) Bibb, was a homemaker, although she sometimes assisted her mother, a domestic servant. Bibb's grandparents were born in slavery, and his forbears worked as slaves on vegetable plantations in western Kentucky. When he was a young child Bibb's aunt taught him spirituals, some of which he continued to sing throughout his career. His aunt recognized his vocal talent early, and she gave him a vision beyond the heavily segregated world of the South of the 1920s and 1930s by telling the young Bibb about Roland Hayes a black concert singer who moved to Europe when he could not find career opportunities in the United States because of his race and later returned to perform at Carnegie Hall Bibb continued to ...

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Edward A. Kemmick

decorated soldier and expert marksman, was born in Pungoteague, Accomack County, Virginia, the eighth of nine children born to Severn and Elizabeth Bivins. His father was a farmer who was also active in religious and educational endeavors. Four years before Horace Bivins was born, his father provided the money for the first church and schoolhouse for freed slaves built on the eastern shore of Virginia. The Accomack County census of 1870 said of Bivins's mother only that she “keeps house.”

Bivins worked on his parents' farm until the age of fifteen, when he was put in charge of another farm near Keller Station, Virginia. Three years later he entered Hampton School as a work student and received his first military training. “Having a very great desire for adventure and to see the wild West,” as Bivins later put it (Cashin, 58), he enlisted in the U.S. Army on 7 ...

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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 ...