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Susan Richardson-Sanabria

musician, composer, educator, priest, and artist, was born James Hawthorne in Yamassee, South Carolina, to Mary Hugee and Roland Hawthorne. When he was still a boy he and his family moved to New Jersey, then to New York City—first to Brooklyn and later to Harlem. In Brooklyn James and his parents lived with his grandparents, and his grandfather encouraged him to join the church choir.

His musical talents became more evident after his move to Harlem, when he began to study dance and percussion with Isame Andrews, a specialist in African music and dance and a student of Asadata Dafora. Attracting notice with his vocal skills, Hawthorne was admitted to both the Eva Jessye and the Francis Hall Johnson choirs In the mid to late 1930s he studied African drum making and performance especially the ashiko drum with Moses Miannes Mianns a Nigerian who had come to ...


Kofi Natambu

actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, and novelist, was born William Harrison Gunn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of William Gunn, a songwriter, musician, comedian, and unpublished poet, and Louise Alexander, an actress, theater director, and community activist. Gunn grew up in a middle-class neighborhood and attended integrated public schools in Philadelphia, graduating from high school in 1952.

After serving two years in the U.S. Navy, Gunn moved to New York City's East Village in 1954, intending to become an actor. At twenty, he won critical acclaim in 1954 for his portrayal of the young boy in the New Theatre Company's revival of Take a Giant Step. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he continued to appear in plays on and off Broadway, including The Immoralist with James Dean and productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida in 1956 and 1957 ...


David Sanjek

pianist and singer, was born in Houston, Texas, one of thirteen children of Amos Milburn Sr., a laborer for a general contractor, and Amelia, a homemaker. Milburn exhibited a precocious musical talent and began to play piano at the age of five. Eager to serve in the military, Milburn lied about his age and entered the U.S. Navy when only fifteen years old. He served in the Pacific Theater and was wounded in engagements at Guadalcanal and the Philippines. In his off-hours, he played at military clubs, and when he returned home to Houston at the age of eighteen, he possessed sufficient skill and organizational wherewithal to form a band.

In 1946, during a performance in San Antonio, Lola Anne Cullum the wife of a Houston dentist approached Milburn and solicited him for her booking and management agency She recorded some work by Milburn and ...


Mark Steven Maulucci

singer, musician, and songwriter, was born Mathis James Reed in Dunleith, Mississippi, the son of Joseph Reed and Virginia Ross Reed in Dunleith, Mississippi. The Reeds were sharecroppers, moving from plantation to plantation, and Jimmy was the youngest of their ten children. Virginia sang in church, and Joseph played harmonica and encouraged his youngest son in music. Jimmy was a childhood friend of Eddie Taylor, who was two and a half years older and tutored Jimmy on guitar after they worked all day in the fields. Taylor was a more advanced player and already steeped in the Delta blues, having followed master bluesmen like Charlie Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson, and Howlin' Wolf around the area. He also knew the young Muddy Waters.

Jimmy Reed worked at sharecropping until he was sixteen years old then he relocated to Chicago to live with ...


Angela R. Sidman

painter, dancer, playwright, and set designer, was born in White City, Kentucky, to parents whose names and occupations are unknown. John Robinson, a coal miner uncle with an interest in drawing and painting, encouraged young Sebree's artistic talents. “Robinson tutored Charles in drawing by having him sketch pictures with a stick in the soil and taught him how to make little figures of men out of mud and twigs” (Marshall, 3). In 1924, when Sebree was ten years old, he and his mother joined the flood of African Americans moving north in the Great Migration. They settled in Chicago, where the preadolescent Sebree soon launched himself into the city's thriving cultural scene.

An elementary school teacher jumpstarted Sebree s career when she showed his artwork to members of the University of Chicago s Renaissance Society The group was impressed enough with the fourteen year ...


John Wriggle

jazz composer, arranger, and saxophonist, was born Ernest Brooks Wilkins in St. Louis, Missouri, the eldest son of Ora Webster, a hospital nurse originally from Mississippi. The name of his father is unknown. Ora's brother Berry, who worked as a cook, apparently took some role in the household. Ernest's brother Jimmy, two years his junior, became a successful jazz trombonist. As a child, Ernest—known at the time as “Pudd” or “Pudding”—had been exposed to jazz on his uncle's Victrola phonograph, but when he was perhaps ten years old his mother gave him a violin for Christmas, “so I could have some ‘culture,’ ” Wilkins later recounted (Rusch, 3).

One of Wilkins's earliest jazz influences was a neighborhood friend, the saxophonist Jimmy Forrest It was Forrest who encouraged Wilkins to take up the saxophone in high school and gave him his first lessons on the ...


Donald James

trumpeter, bandleader, arranger, composer, and educator, was born in Shelby, Mississippi, to Shelby J. Wilson, a blacksmith, and Lillian (Nelson) Wilson, a schoolteacher who also taught music. The second of four children, Wilson began taking piano lessons from his mother, an accomplished pianist, at the age of five. His love of music expanded through the spiritual songs heard in church, and by the music he listened to on the radio. Wilson began playing the trumpet while attending Manassa High School in Memphis, Tennessee, where his parents had sent him to live with friends of the family. In 1934 he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he once again lived with friends of the family. He attended Cass Technical High School, a school that has produced a remarkable number of performing artists, where he played trumpet in the band and studied composition and orchestration.

Between 1934 ...


John Saillant

singer, guitarist, and songwriter, was born William H. Withers Jr. in Slab Fork, West Virginia, the youngest of six children of William H. Withers Sr., a coal miner, and Mattie Galloway. After his father's death in 1951, Withers was reared by his mother and his grandmother. His mother worked as a maid. Withers served in the U.S. Navy from 1956 to 1965. While he was on duty in the Far East, he made his first attempts at songwriting.

After his discharge from the navy, Withers moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and began pursuing a musical career. While promoting his compositions, he worked at a factory. Clarence Avant of Sussex Records gave Withers his first break. The result was the classic album Just as I Am (1970 which included the hits Ain t No Sunshine and Grandma s Hands Ain t ...