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John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

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Floyd Ogburn

farmer, was born a slave in Southampton County, Virginia. Almost nothing is known of his parents, who were also slaves. Until his nineteenth or twentieth birthday he belonged to a Dr. Seaman, who also owned his mother and father. In August 1841 Walker's master sold him to Natt Blake and General Downs, who kept him and six hundred other slaves in a slave pen in Petersburg, Virginia, pending transportation to cotton farms in the Deep South. After penning the slaves for six weeks amid “echoes and groans,” Blake and Downs marched them aboard the Pellican, which immediately sailed to New Orleans, Walker never seeing or hearing from his parents again (Gaines, 10).

The Pellican a floating carcass on the sea held six hundred slaves like cattle among toxic air and cholera It reached New Orleans six weeks after departing Petersburg losing thirty six of its human ...

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Floyd Ogburn

sharecropper and laborer, was born Odell Jones in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the son of Dollie Jones and a father whose name is not known. Shortly after Odell was born, his mother requested that her oldest sister, Annie, and her husband, Willis Waller, become his adoptive parents. After marrying Carl G. Harris, Dollie moved to Logan, West Virginia, leaving her sister and brother-in-law to raise the child. Initially the Wallers owned a twenty-five-acre farm near Gretna, Virginia, and co-owned a wheat binder, which they occasionally allowed other farmers to use. Because Odell had to help the Wallers farm, he withdrew from high school at age sixteen, completing only the third year.

While land ownership assigned the Wallers an economic status more secure than that of many of their neighbors—black and white—the Depression years engendered endless toil and struggle. When Willis Waller died in April 1938 Annie could ...