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Christina Accomando

William Attaway was born 19 November 1911, in Greenville, Mississippi, to Florence Parry Attaway, a teacher, and William Alexander Attaway, a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. When he was five, his family moved to Chicago, taking part in the Great Migration that he later chronicled as a novelist. The family moved to protect the children from the corrosive racial attitudes of the South.

Attaway's early interest in literature was sparked by Langston Hughes's poetry and by his sister who encouraged him to write for her theater groups. He attended the University of Illinois until his father's death, when Attaway left school and traveled west. He lived as a vagabond for two years, working a variety of jobs and writing. In 1933 he returned to Chicago and resumed his schooling, graduating in 1936. Attaway's play Carnival (1935 was produced at the ...

Article

George P. Weick

writer, was born in Greenville, Mississippi, the son of William S. Attaway, a medical doctor, and Florence Parry, a teacher. His family moved to Chicago when Attaway was six years old, following the arc of the Great Migration, that thirty‐year period beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century during which more than 2 million African Americans left the South for the burgeoning industrial centers of the North. Unlike many of these emigrants, who traded the field for the factory and the sharecropper's shack for the ghetto, the Attaways were professionals at the outset, with high ambitions for themselves and their children in their new homeland.

Attaway attended public schools in Chicago, showing no great interest in his studies until, as a high school student, he encountered the work of Langston Hughes He became from that point on a more serious student and even tried his hand ...

Article

Charles L. Hughes

singer, songwriter, and politician, was one of four children born to J. T. and Alveria Butler, in Sunflower, Mississippi. The Butlers, a Mississippi sharecropping family, moved to Chicago in 1942, where they lived in the Cabrini-Green Housing Projects. J. T. Butler worked a variety of jobs to support his family until his death in 1953, and, following his passing, relatives and friends moved in to help the family make ends meet. Jerry, active in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), soon became known around his community for his musical ability and rich baritone voice, and he quickly began performing as a gospel artist with friends and fellow COGIC members. One of Jerry's friends, a prodigious musician and songwriter named Curtis Mayfield would soon join Butler in a singing group called the Roosters The group subsequently changed its name to the Impressions Signing to Vee Jay Records ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

was born in the town of Mujumi, Mhondoro province, Zimbabwe on 8 July 1946. She often asked to watch over her grandfather’s cattle herd so she could sing alone, and became determined to learn to play the mbira (thumb piano) as a young girl. However, Stella ran into much opposition in this youthful goal. The mbira is commonly associated with songs and rituals performed by men in the Shona ethnic community who believed they were communicating with ancestral spirits. Chiweshwe struggled for years to convince her family and others to allow her to master this instrument. Another problem was that Zimbabweans who went to her local mission church were forbidden to listen to traditional songs or perform on the mbira. When she was eight years old Stella attended a ceremony in which older people became possessed by ancestors while the mbira was played. Between 1966 and 1969 Chiweshe ...

Article

Peter Carr Jones

music, fashion, and movie industry entrepreneur. The former co-owner of Roc-A-Fella Records with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Damon Dash cross-promoted several products within a single brand, Roc-A-Fella. He ran the corporate side of Roc-A-Fella, especially the fashion and movie production divisions, until being bought out in 2004.

Dash was born in East Harlem, New York, to a lower-middle class, single-parent family. He earned scholarships to several prestigious private schools, though each expelled him. His mother died when Dash was only fifteen, but he continued his education until the twelfth grade, and got his GED in 1988. After this, he ran a small party promotion company, Dash Entertainment.

In 1994 he met Jay-Z and became his manager. When the established record companies passed on Jay-Z's original album, Reasonable Doubt, Dash, Jay-Z, and silent partner Burke formed Roc-A-Fella in 1996 Def Jam Records ...

Article

Lois Bellamy

gospel singer, songwriter, pianist, actor, and humanitarian, was born in San Antonio, Texas, to a barber and a seamstress. His parents’ names are not recorded. He sang his first song at the age of five and began singing, as a teenager, at the Refugee Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ in San Antonio. He also began studying classical piano at the same age. Dixon attended a local Catholic college on a scholarship but dropped out to pursue a music career. He began touring at seventeen and played black churches in California, Texas, and Louisiana.

Dixon was introduced to gospel music in his youth when his group performed at a theater in south Texas City, where gospel icon James Cleveland was in the audience Cleveland liked Dixon and persuaded him to move to Chicago as a teenager to join his group The Gospel Chimes Around ...

Article

crystal am nelson

community leader and musician, was born Occramer Marycoo in West Africa. Although his country of origin is unknown, a 1757 ship manifest shows that he was brought to America at the age of fourteen. He was on one of that year's seven slaving voyages that brought a total of 831 African slaves to Rhode Island. Gardner was one of the 106,544 slaves brought to Newport, Rhode Island, between 1709 and 1807. Caleb Gardner, a white merchant and member of the principal slave-trading team Briggs & Gardner, bought the teenage Marycoo and baptized him into the Congregational faith as Newport Gardner.

The forced exposure to Christianity aided Gardner s rise to a leadership position in the New World He quickly learned English from daily Bible studies with his master who freed Gardner after overhearing him pray for emancipation Upon gaining his freedom Gardner combined his new religious fervor with ...

Article

Suzanne Cloud

pianist, arranger, and composer, was born Clifton Edward Green Jr. in Abington, Pennsylvania, the son of Clifton Edward Green Sr., a paper hanger and carpenter, and Carrie Townes, who worked as a domestic. Self taught, Eddie Green began playing piano at five years of age and became active in music in public school. His formal secondary education ended at Abington High School when he was in the tenth grade. At age sixteen he came under the tutelage of the hard bop pianist Richie Powell and his brother, the bebop legend Bud Powell. During this time, Green learned the essentials of jazz by listening to and absorbing the lessons of his mentors. Green also formed a band and regularly played a local African American venue in Willow Grove called the Three C s Like many African American communities that supported young musicians and vocalists the ...

Article

Mark Allan Jackson

songwriter and labor activist, was born to George and Vinna Handcox on their farm near Brinkley, Arkansas. Unlike many African Americans in the rural South at this time, the Handcox family owned their own land. However, it was not very productive, so they had to rent land on which to grow cotton, the area's dominant crop.

Because of his responsibilities, young Handcox could not devote much time to education. Five months a year were all that most farm children in Arkansas could spare to attend school, a schedule dictated by the cotton-growing season. But Handcox thrived there, mainly because of his interest in poetry. His father bought him a book by the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar who became Handcox s model for his own writing Often he was asked to recite his work during school events and when he graduated from the ninth grade the end to his ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

singer, musician, producer, and philanthropist, was born India Arie Simpson in Denver, Colorado, to Ralph Simpson, at that time a basketball player for the Denver Nuggets, and Joyce Simpson, a stylist and fashion designer known as “Simpson.” Simpson's parents named her India because her expected arrival date coincided with Mohandas K. Gandhi's birthday, while Arie means “lion” in Hebrew. From a very young age, she sang at church and home and played the recorder, tenor saxophone, and other wind instruments at school. After Simpson's parents divorced in the mid-1980s, India and her younger siblings, J’On and Kamsai, moved with their mother to Atlanta, Georgia.

After Simpson finished high school in Atlanta in the early 1990s she returned to Denver to attend college but she soon moved back to Georgia after getting a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design SCAD ...

Article

Elliott S. Hurwitt

songwriter, was born Richard C. McPherson in Norfolk, Virginia. Nothing is known of his parents or his early life. He studied at the Norfolk Mission College and at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and set his sights on the study of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. At first music was merely an avocation, but he gradually found his musical interests crowding out his medical ones; he began serious music studies in New York with the eminent Melville Charlton, the organist at some of New York's leading churches and synagogues for several decades. His activities during the years around 1900 were manifold evincing a considerable degree of energy In addition to his musical activities he was an enthusiastic member of the New York Guard rising to the rank of lieutenant He was also later active in the African American entertainment brotherhood known as the Frogs together with the ...

Article

Ari Nave

Thomas Mapfumo created Chimurenga Music, a new style that drew on Shona traditions of music as a form of resistance to confront colonial oppression in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), then under white-minority rule. Raised in the rural household of his grandparents, themselves traditional musicians, Mapfumo learned traditional Shona music from an early age. The young Mapfumo played the mbira (thumb piano) and drums during his grandmother’s performances at beer parties.

To obtain a better education, Mapfumo moved to Salisbury (present-day Harare). His musical repertoire expanded as he discovered other African, European, and American musical styles—including the music of Nat “King” Cole, Otis Redding, and Elvis Presley. In Salisbury, he sang in a number of local bands, covering popular tunes by Sam Cooke and the Beatles, whose lyrics he sang in Shona. In 1973 Mapfumo formed the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band most of the band members worked in ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

musician, was born in Marondera, Zimbabwe, on 2 July 1945 to a family belonging to the Shona ethnic community. His hometown was located close to Harare (then Salisbury), the capital of the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. Mapfumo lived a fairly traditional rural lifestyle as a child. His grandparents raised him for his first ten years. As a young child on a rural farm, he watched over his family’s cattle herds and became familiar with older Shona musical styles. He became interested in songs particularly accompanied by ngoma drums and the mbira thumb-piano, which became his signature instrument later in his career.

When he was ten his father brought him to live at the family home in the Mbare township in Harare to attend school In the early 1960s the adolescent Mapfumo was exposed to the growing political crises over Southern Rhodesia s future While African political groups wanted the ...

Article

was born on 12 September 1954 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Marcelin’s father, Jean Michaux, never recognized him, so his mother Jeanne, who was a seamstress, gave her family name to her son. Though he was from a humble household, Marcelin grew up in the Bas Peu de Chose neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, a wealthier area known for being culturally diverse. Marcelin is considered the founder of the late-twentieth-century mouvman sanba (Sanba movement), which later was overshadowed by the roots movement. The former has been one of engaged grassroots work subsidized by musical performances, whereas the latter has come to signify a “musical corollary to populist political movements” (Averill, 1994, p. 178). Some scholars and musicians fail to distinguish between the two, and others attribute the beginning of the roots movement to Theodore (Lolo) Beaubrun and Mimrose Beaubrun of the group Boukman Eksperyans.

As a child Marcelin grew up listening to ...

Article

Dominique-René de Lerma

composer and teacher, was born Undine Smith in Jarrat, Virginia, the daughter of James William Smith, a brakeman for the railroad, and Hattie Turnbull. When Undine was four, her family moved to Petersburg, Virginia, but they returned to Jarrat every summer to visit family. Moore felt that her early years spent in Jarrat “among the rich musical culture endemic to ‘Southside’ Virginia” were the inspiration for quite a few of her later compositions. Instilling in their children the importance of education, the Smiths were supportive of Undine's early interest in music and were able, despite their limited financial resources, to provide their daughter with a Steinway piano. While in Petersburg, Undine began to study with Lillian Allen Darden and was able at age eight to provide accompaniment for a local high school graduation.

Moore continued her musical study at Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee particularly under the ...

Article

Olivia Mattis

(b Jarratt, VA, Aug 25, 1904; d Petersburg, VA, Feb 6, 1989). American composer. She studied at Fisk University (AB and diploma 1926), Columbia University Teachers College (AM and diploma 1931) and privately with Howard Murphy. A professor at Virginia State University, Petersburg (1927–89), she co-founded and co-directed the university's Black Music Center (1969–72). Her many honours included the Governor's Award in the Arts (Virginia, 1985) and honorary doctorates from Virginia State (1972) and Indiana (1976) universities.

Moore's compositional style is strongly rooted in the tonal tradition and in her spiritual heritage. Many of her choral works set explicitly Christian, often Biblical texts and employ a style derived from southern hymnody. Who Shall Separate Us From the Love of Christ?, Lord,We Give Thanks to Thee and the seven Choral Prayers in Folk ...

Article

Born in Lafayette, Alabama, Sister Gertrude Morgan became an evangelist and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1939. She took the title “Sister” in the 1950s when, with two other street missionaries, she founded a church and an orphanage.

Morgan began painting in 1956, concentrating primarily on religious visions and biblical scenes. She believed that she was mystically married to Jesus Christ which she symbolized by dressing entirely in white Her paintings frequently depicted her with Jesus as bride and groom often with herself in black before and in white after the marriage As a street preacher Morgan eschewed the formal art world preferring to make folk art with any material at hand including Styrofoam cardboard lamp shades and jelly jars Her work frequently includes calligraphy which communicates a spiritual message or a biblical verse All her inspiration she felt came from God saying He moves ...

Article

Katherine Bonil Gómez

free black, captain comandante of the free colored militias, merchant and man of great political and social influence in Mexico City, was born in the “kingdom of Castile” (present-day Spain) in the late seventeenth century. Little is known of his early life and, in fact, it is unknown whether he was born as a slave or freeman. In either case, he moved to Mexico City at a very young age and lived there as a freeman. As a peculiar feature of Spanish (and Portuguese) America, a population of free people of African descent, categorized mainly as negros (blacks) and mulatos (a Spanish term used to refer to a racially mixed person of both African and European ancestries), appeared soon after the Conquest, and by the seventeenth century became considerably larger than the enslaved population. In New Spain (present-day Mexico) in 1646 the free colored population numbered 116 529 while ...

Article

concert pianist, composer, humanitarian, educator, and advocate of Black History Month, was one of three children born to R. Starling Pritchard Sr. and Lucille Pickard Pritchard in Winston Salem North Carolina His parents adopted two children Lucille had a vision before Robert s birth that he would be the first viable African American classical pianist She would place a hand wound Victrola record player close to her stomach so that the baby would be saturated with jazz spirituals and the blues as well as the classical European music of Beethoven Chopin and Mozart Due to Robert Sr s inability to find work and their experience with racism in North Carolina the family moved to Buffalo New York shortly after Robert s birth They soon found out that racism also existed in Buffalo Moreover Pritchard s father could not find work in that city so ...

Article

Sterling Recker

Rwandan poet, scholar, and composer, was born Sipiriyani Rugamba in Rwamiko in southern Rwanda. He was a member of the Hutu ethnic group but was considered by many to be a Rwandan who created art for all people due to the general impression that his works, which included actors from all ethnic groups, embodied a concentrated focus on writing about Rwandan history and culture, regardless of ethnicity. Due to his affinity for Rwanda culture, he wrote music that spoke to Rwandans by approaching his craft from an African perspective as opposed to other writers and composers of his era who incorporated European aspects of art into their own. Rugamba was known to incorporate Rwanda’s past into his works in order to create an art form that was distinctly Rwandan.

Rugamba studied philosophy and literature and received a doctorate in history at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium Soon after ...