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Alice Drum

journalist, music critic, and novelist, was born in Los Angeles to James Crouch, an absentee father, and Emma Bea Crouch, a domestic worker. Crouch's early education was in the Los Angeles public schools, where he was a highly successful student. Crouch began writing stories at the age of eight, read widely in the classics from his early years in secondary school, and was active in the civil rights movement in junior high school.

After graduation from high school Crouch attended several California junior colleges. At East Los Angeles Junior College he became involved in a poverty program in which he taught a literacy class. Witnessing the Watts riots in 1965 made Crouch even more of an activist, and he became a Black Nationalist—although he would in short time come to oppose the movement. From 1965 to 1967 Crouch was an actor and playwright at Studio Watts and ...

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Gerald Early

Stanley Crouch was born in Los Angeles. His father was a heroin addict and his mother a hard-working domestic who taught him to read before he entered school. Although Crouch attended both East Los Angeles Junior College and Southwest Junior College, he never earned a degree. In effect, he is an autodidact and his work reflects the strengths and weaknesses of the untrained intellectual. During the 1960s, Crouch became enamored of black nationalism and the theater. He was well known in black nationalist circles and was an actor, director, and playwright. He also was a drummer leading his own jazz combo during these days, recording an album with Impulse Records called Ain't No Ambulances for No Niggahs Tonight. In the 1970s, Crouch, deeply influenced by the works of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, began to distance himself from the black nationalists. In 1975 he moved to New ...

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Diane Todd Bucci

journalist, music critic, author, filmmaker, and television producer, was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He attended St. John's University, and while there began his writing career at the black newspaper the Amsterdam News, where he was a college intern. During this time he also contributed to the music trade journal Billboard. After graduating from St. John's in 1979, George worked as a freelance writer and lived with his mother and sister in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in Brooklyn. It did not take him long, though, to begin what would prove to be a flourishing career. George found employment as a black music editor, first for Real World magazine from 1981 to 1982, and then at Billboard from 1982 to 1989. He moved on to write a successful column entitled “Native Son” for the Village Voice, from 1989 to ...

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Brian P. Hochman

poet, novelist, and literary critic, was born Nathaniel Ernest Mackey in Miami, Florida, the son of Alexander Obadiah Mackey and Sadie Jane Wilcox. When Mackey was four his parents divorced, and he and his three older siblings moved from Miami to northern California with their mother. In 1958 they relocated to the southern California city of Santa Ana, where Mackey attended high school. Although Mackey neither wrote nor read seriously during these years—in fact, his earliest aspiration was to become a mathematician—weekly trips to his family's Baptist church galvanized in him a deep interest in African American music. His experiences at church, coupled with his discovery of the music of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman during high school proved formative black music would in all its varying forms eventually come to represent Mackey s literary bass line To borrow his own terminology his discrepant engagement ...

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Michelle Habell-Pallán

Florida-born Nathaniel Mackey was raised in California, graduated from Princeton University with high honors, and earned a PhD in English and American literature in 1975. From 1976 to 1979 he was director of Black studies at the University of Southern California and assistant professor in both the English department and the ethnic studies program. He joined the faculty of the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1979, where he is a professor of American literature.

Evidence of the Black diaspora echoes throughout his writings His poetry prose and essays situate African American poetry in diverse poetic and cultural traditions North American African Caribbean and to some extent Latin American He argues that these poetic traditions reciprocally influence each other The formal experimentation in his writing disrupts any notion that either African American poetry or poetry produced by either white or non white Americans is created in an ahistorical ...

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Ian Brookes

trumpeter,-was born in Kenner, Louisiana, the second of six sons of Ellis Marsalis, a jazz pianist and teacher, and Dolores Ferdinand. He was named after the jazz pianist Wynton Kelly. Wynton Marsalis was raised in a musical family with his brothers, Branford (tenor and soprano saxophones), Delfeayo (trombone), and Jason (drums).

Marsalis began playing the trumpet at the age of six, starting on an instrument given to him by the bandleader and trumpeter Al Hirt with whom his father was then playing At age eight he was playing in a children s marching band and performing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival A prodigiously talented instrumentalist Marsalis studied both jazz and classical music from an early age and at age twelve began classical training on the trumpet His early musical experience was diverse and included playing in local marching bands jazz groups and ...

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Michael Collins

Alfred B. Spellman has cut a wide swath in the world of the arts as a music critic, poet, administrator, and educator. “It's a function of social consciousness,” he said in a 1992 interview (Dance/USA Journal, Winter 1992), “to provide art, strong art.” The creation, identification, and support of “strong art” have been the alternating currents of Spellman's career, whose highlights include the publication of his book of poems, The Beautiful Days, in 1965, the appearance of his classic Black Music: Four Lives (as Four Lives in the BeBop Business) in 1966, and his two decades of service at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

One of two sons of the schoolteachers Alfred and Rosa Bailey Spellman, Alfred B. Spellman was born 12 August 1935 in his grandmother s house in Nixonton a hamlet outside Elizabeth City North Carolina Perhaps ...

Article

Christopher Harter

writer, poet, and educator, was born in the Republic of Panama, the son of Herbert Hamilton Thomas, a pharmacist and chemist, and Luzmilda (Gilling) Thomas, a community organizer. Thomas's family emigrated from Panama to New York City in 1948. Having spoken only Spanish until that time, Thomas was teased by other children for his poor English. The trauma of being derided for his lack of language skills led to Thomas's intense interest in learning to read and write English. He has cited his early attempts to master the language as the spark for his interest in poetry. In a 1981 interview, Thomas said, “I had to write the language down before talking” (Rowell, 19).

Thomas attended Queens College, where he earned his BA in 1967 He later did graduate study and worked as a librarian at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn While at ...

Article

Jennifer H. Poulos

Lorenzo Thomas emerged from the Black Arts movement as one of the most prolific poets of the 1970s. Though best–known for his poetry, he also actively promotes the understanding and appreciation of all African American cultural forms, particularly music. Born in Panama to Herbert Hamilton Thomas and Luzmilda Gilling Thomas, Thomas immigrated to New York in 1948. As a native Spanish speaker, Thomas traces his interest in literature to his struggle to learn English in order to fit in with his schoolmates. While attending Queens College in the 1960s, Thomas joined the Umbra workshop, one of several experimental literary groups from which the Black Arts movement grew. Here, Thomas developed a poetic style marked by a wariness of the media and mass culture, pride in the African heritage and history, and a strong sense of political engagement. While Thomas also works powerfully in the lyric mode such ...