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David B. McCarthy

musician, educator, and prominent Presbyterian, was born Melva Ruby Wilson in Due West, South Carolina, one of five children of Azzie Lee Ellis Wilson and John Theodore Wilson Sr., both of whom were college graduates and teachers. Because the local black public schools were unaccredited, her parents sent her to a black boarding school, Harbison Junior College in Irmo, South Carolina, at the age of fourteen. Two years later, at the age of sixteen, she entered Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. There she met fellow student James Hutten Costen. She graduated with a BA in Education in 1952 and married Jim Costen the day before he graduated in 1953. They eventually had two sons and one daughter, James Jr., Craig, and Cheryl.

Costen taught elementary school in the Mecklenburg County school system from 1952 to 1955 the year her husband ...


Sholomo B. Levy

preacher, was born Clarence LaVaughn Pitman in Sunflower, Mississippi, to Elijah J. Pitman and Willie Ann Pitman, sharecroppers. Elijah served in Europe during World War I, returned to Mississippi briefly, and then departed. Shortly thereafter, Willie Ann married Henry Franklin, a farmer; the family took his name, and Franklin became Clarence's father. As a boy Clarence usually went to school from December to March, which was when he was not needed in the field. His mother took him and his stepsister, Aretha, to St. Peter's Rock Baptist Church, where he sang in the choir, and eventually became lead tenor. His father, religious but not a churchgoer, exposed Clarence to the blues idiom of Blind Lemon Jefferson and other soulful musicians.

At the age of nine or ten Clarence attended a revival meeting and took his first step toward a career in the ministry when he joined the ...


Crystal Renée Sanders

Baptist minister and community leader. Clarence LaVaughn Franklin was born in Sunflower, Mississippi, to Willie Walker and Rachel Pittman Walker, who were sharecroppers. Before 1920, his mother remarried, to Henry Franklin, who subsequently adopted Clarence. Young “C. L.” picked cotton with his parents and three siblings, which prevented him from completing grade school.

In the summer of 1931, Franklin preached his trial sermon at Saint Peter's Rock Missionary Baptist Church. He served as an itinerant minister for several years at churches throughout the Mississippi Delta. On 16 October 1934, Franklin married Alene Gaines, but little is known about the marriage. On 3 June 1936, Franklin married Barbara Vernice Siggers and adopted her young son, Vaughn. To this union were born four children: Erma, Cecil, Aretha, and Carolyn. Aretha became a Grammy Award–winning singer.

Aware of the limited opportunities and ...


Marti K. Newland

composer, pianist, and conductor, was born Moses George Hogan in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of six children of the New Orleans natives Moses and Gloria. Hogan was raised in a home of working-class parents. His father served in the military during World War II and his mother worked as a nurse. Their work ethic and support of Hogan's musical talent fostered his commitment to developing his musicianship at an early age. By the age of nine he was already an accomplished pianist. Marie Moulton, Hogan's first piano teacher, remained an influence throughout his life.

Hogan utilized his music skills at the New Zion Baptist Church where his uncle, Edwin Hogan was the organist and choir conductor Edwin Hogan became a model of how to balance keyboard skills compositional facility and choral conducting It was at the New Zion Baptist Church that Hogan gained his ...


Mary Frances Early

composer, arranger, and choral conductor, was born Francis Hall Johnson in Athens, Georgia, the son of William Decker Johnson, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, and Alice (maiden name unknown). Music was an important part of Hall Johnson's childhood. He heard his grandmother and other former slaves as they sang the old spirituals in his father's Methodist church. This grounding in the original performance of Negro spirituals was to represent a significant influence on his later life. Johnson, exhibiting an early interest in music, received solfeggio lessons from his father and piano lessons from an older sister. As a teenager he developed an interest in the violin and taught himself to play.

Johnson was educated in the South at the Knox Institute at Atlanta University and at Allen University in Columbia South Carolina where his father was president Frustrated by his inability to find a violin ...


Jeffrey Green

choir leader, was born in Portage County, Ohio, the son of a farmer whose name is now unknown and whose financial contributions to a nearby college neither overcame the local prejudice nor secured a place for his son among the student body. Educated in Ravenna, Ohio, Loudin went on to train as a printer, only to find his opportunities restricted by white printers who refused to work with him. Even his Methodist church rejected his application to join its choir. For all its positive associations for their kinfolk in the slavery states, mid-nineteenth century Ohio was a hard place for the Loudins, as it had been for Frederick Douglass who was mobbed in Columbus, Ohio, when Frederick Loudin was a boy. He was to recall that the “ostracism was even more complete and unchristian in the free than in the slave States” (Marsh, 106).

After the Civil War Loudin ...


SaFiya D. Hoskins

musician, composer, and liturgist, was born Leon Cedric Roberts in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, the youngest of two sons of John Arthur and Thelma Bookman Roberts. His father was from Savannah, Georgia, and his mother was from Coatesville. Roberts grew up in a religious household and among an extended family diverse in religious affiliations from Baptist to Pentecostal and Methodist. At age six, he began to study piano under the tutelage of a local instructor known as Mr. Ben; his grandmother, Mrs. Mary Bookman oversaw the religious direction of his musical development Roberts attended First Apostolic Fire Baptized Holiness Church of Coatesville with his mother there he assumed the role of choir director and the responsibility for congregational worship At the same time he grew in faith and devotion to his religious beliefs Roberts founded and directed two musical groups Voices of Love and the Jubali ...


Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

minister, musician, and photographer, was born in Bayou Rapides, Louisiana, to Irene Lair and Giuseppe “Joe” Nasello. Nasello, who immigrated to the United States from his native Sicily in 1901, owned a dry goods store in Alexandria, Louisiana, that Willie remembered visiting with his mother from time to time. However, Joe Nasello had another family, and given the mores of the time, “Papa” Joe never acknowledged the two children he fathered with Irene. (A daughter, Alice, was born in 1912.) Although Joe Nasello lived until 1958, it appears that father and son never met face to face nor openly acknowledged their relationship. Seals talked freely yet sparingly of his paternity, and he jokingly noted to his children that he was an “Italian.”

According to Willie, “Seals” was a made-up name that he took from Lucille Ceil a favorite grade school teacher ...


John G. Turner

teacher, missionary, and social worker, was born Lucy Gantt in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the daughter and only child of a mixed-race former slave, Eliza Gantt. Her father, who may have been white, played no role in her upbringing. As a young child Lucy attended school between cotton seasons. At the age of eleven she gained admission to Talladega College, a school for blacks run by the Missionary Association of the Congregational Church. Eliza Gantt worked as a domestic servant to pay her daughter's tuition for the nine years that Lucy spent at Talladega.

During her last several years at Talladega, Gantt taught in one-room rural schools during the summer months. She took voice lessons at Talladega and toured for a year with Frederick J. Loudin's Jubilee Singers. In 1886 she secured employment as a teacher in Grayton Alabama where she lived and taught in a ...


Meghan Elisabeth Healy

South African music composer and choirmaster, was born in 1873 near Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. Little information on his family background and youth exists, and various secondary sources cite different years for his birth. His obituary in Imvo Zabantsundu , however, gives 1873 as his date of birth, and the authoritative scholar of South African music David Coplan has accepted the veracity of this date. Sontonga’s parents were Tembu amaXhosa of the Mpinga clan; their names and religious and educational backgrounds are not clear from published secondary accounts. Sontonga attended school at the famous Free Church of Scotland institution, Lovedale, near Alice in the Eastern Cape. There he trained as a teacher.

After completing his training at Lovedale, Sontonga moved to Johannesburg, where he took a teaching job at a Methodist school in Nancefield. In Johannesburg, Sontonga married Diana Mgqibisa. In 1897 when Sontonga was ...