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Donna Waller Harper

dancer, choreographer and actress, was born Deborrah Kaye Allen in Houston, Texas, to Andrew Allen, a dentist, and Vivian Ayers-Allen, a poet and librarian; her parents had two other children, the actress Phylicia Rashad, and Hugh Allen, better known as Tex. Although she exhibited an early interest in dance and desired to join the Houston Foundation for Ballet, she was denied admission when she applied in the 1950s in what her mother saw as a clear example of discrimination. Her parents were able to pay for private ballet lessons with the Ballet Russes. She later traveled and trained in Mexico City with the Ballet Nacional de Mexico. In 1964 she returned to Houston where she once again auditioned for the Houston Foundation for Ballet This time she was not only accepted to the prestigious organization but was awarded a scholarship Her talent won her ...


Sibyl Collins Wilson

actor and director, was born in Havana, Cuba. In 1950, when he was seven years old, he moved with his family from Cuba to the United States, where they made their residence in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. At age fifteen, he formed a music group called the Parthenons, which disbanded after one television appearance. While some biographies list him as having graduated from New York's William Howard Taft High School, Brown did not graduate but dropped out at the age of sixteen. He appeared to be a disinterested student, skipping more than forty days of class each of his last semesters in high school, and school leaders allowed him to quit because of his lack of performance.

A year after leaving school Brown decided to try out for a scholarship to attend the Juilliard School s Institute of Vocal Arts He won the scholarship but declined it ...


Dylon L. Robbins

was born Jorge da Silva on 21 September 1937 in Rio de Janeiro. His father, Sebastião Alves de Brito, was an itinerant laborer without long-term or regular employment. His mother, Rita Maria da Silva, worked to raise Bulbul and his sister after separating from his father. In interviews, Bulbul recalled his childhood as characterized by his living in a single dwelling with several other families in the Rio neighborhood of Botafogo. It is during this time that he came to be called Zózimo. Because of disciplinary problems in school, Bulbul was sent to a youth reform school where he felt a greater sense of community with what he described as its almost exclusively black student body.

After leaving the reform school Bulbul enlisted in the army Upon his discharge he took university courses in accounting before enrolling at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes National School of Fine Arts from ...


Zózimo Bulbul was born in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1970s he appeared in several films including Compasso de Espera (1973), Sagarana (1973), Pureza Proibida (1974), and Deusa Negra (1979). In 1974 Bulbul directed Soul in the Eye a powerful ...


Cynthia A. Young

writer, director, producer, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His parents’ names are unknown, but his father is believed to have been in military service at the time, while his mother worked as a nurse's aide. At the age of three, his family moved to the Watts section of Los Angeles, seeking jobs in California's postwar economy. Unfortunately, the end of World War II also meant the end of well-paid wartime jobs, and the Burnetts struggled to find work. Soon after the move, his parents parted, leaving Burnett to be raised by his grandmother.

Burnett's teenage years from 1957 to 1963 overlapped with the civil rights era, which by the early 1970s had profoundly transformed the United States. In Watts and other inner-city ghettos, the struggle to overturn de jure segregation and discrimination promised to address the institutional racism that cut off Watts from the prosperity and progress evident elsewhere ...


Meredith Broussard

actor and director, was born Levardis Robert Martyn Burton Jr. in Landstuhl, Germany, to Levardis Robert Burton Sr., a career army photographer, and Erma Christian. The couple separated when their son was three. Erma returned to the United States with her son and his two elder sisters and settled in Sacramento, California. The family were devout Roman Catholics, and Burton decided at thirteen to enter a Catholic seminary to become a priest. While there, he changed his mind and decided to become an actor instead.

Burton's big break came while he was a drama student at the University of Southern California's School of Theatre. While playing Ali Hakeem, the Persian rug dealer in the musical Oklahoma!, he tried out for the miniseries Roots, based on Alex Haley s landmark book tracing the generations of his family through America and back to Africa Burton landed the part ...


SaFiya D. Hoskins

playwright, screenwriter, novelist, filmmaker, educator, was born Kathleen Conwell in Jersey City, New Jersey, daughter of Frank and Loretta Conwell. Her father was employed as a mortician prior to being appointed as the principal of a New Jersey school. Conwell attended Skidmore College in Sarasota Springs, New York, where in 1963 she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Religion. Upon graduating from college she became active with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) initiative to advance voter registration in the South, where African Americans had been historically discouraged from voting. Conwell attended graduate school in Paris, France, where in 1966 she earned a Master of Arts degree in French Literature and Cinema through the Middlebury College program at the Sorbonne.

Upon completing her graduate studies in Paris Conwell returned to New York where she had attended college and promptly began working ...


Jason Philip Miller

filmmaker and screenwriter, was born George Arthur Cundieff in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was one of two children born to John and Christina, who would later appear in one of their son's most well known films. He attended local schools and matriculated at Loyola University in New Orleans, where he studied journalism, but soon changed course and enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the traditionally black college fraternity, and from which he graduated in 1982 with a bachelor's degree in Religious Studies.

Somewhere along the line Cundieff was bitten by the performance bug. Upon graduating from USC, he began doing stand-up comedy around Los Angeles, where he met and rubbed elbows with some of the young black comics who themselves were soon starring in feature films and television series, particularly the Wayans brothers He also began picking up ...


Natasha Baafi

screenwriter, director, producer, and novelist, was born in Long Island City, New York. Although Dash grew up in New York City, she often visited the South Carolina Sea Islands. Her father and his family were raised in the Gullah culture, and Dash ate Gullah cooking and heard the Gullah language spoken among them. She was inspired by her uncle, St. Julian Bennett Dash—a tenor saxophone player who introduced Dash to his Bolex and the camera equipment he used to document his tours with his band—to make films. The young Dash explored the equipment and began to experiment with photography.

Dash's film career got an early start when she enrolled in a film production workshop at the Studio Museum of Harlem in 1968 At first she thought she had enrolled in a course in photojournalism but she soon learned that it was a motion picture workshop She had accidentally ...


Roanne Edwards

Ossie Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the son of a railway engineer, and grew up in Waycross, Georgia. The harassment of his parents by the Ku Klux Klan impelled him early on to become a writer so that he could “truthfully portray the black man's experience.” At Howard University, under the tutelage of drama critic Alain Locke, Davis developed his theatrical talent, performing in a 1941 production of Joy Exceeding Glory with Harlem's Rose McClendon Players. Following his theater debut, however, he received few job offers and for nearly a year found himself living on the street.

Davis never lost his sense of purpose. After serving in the United States Army during World War II, he returned to New York, New York, where he won the title role in Robert Ardrey's play Jeb (1946). In 1948 he married fellow performer Ruby ...


Samuel A. Hay

writer, actor, and director, was born in Cogdell, Georgia, the oldest of four children of Kince Charles Davis, an herb doctor and Bible scholar, and Laura Cooper. Ossie's mother intended to name him “R.C.,” after his paternal grandfather, Raiford Chatman Davis, but when the clerk at Clinch County courthouse thought she said “Ossie,” Laura did not argue with him, because he was white.

Ossie was attacked and humiliated while in high school by two white policemen, who took him to their precinct and doused him with cane syrup. Laughing, they gave the teenager several hunks of peanut brittle and released him. He never reported the incident but its memory contributed to his sensibilities and politics. In 1934 Ossie graduated from Center High School in Waycross Georgia and even though he received scholarships to attend Savannah State College and Tuskegee Institute he did ...


Cassandra Jackson

Born in Cogsdell, Georgia, Ossie Davis grew up in nearby Waycross. He studied at Howard University for three years, then traveled to New York to pursue a career in the theater. With the encouragement of Alain Locke, Davis obtained a position with the Rose McClendon Players of Harlem, while writing in his spare time. The following year, he joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Medical Corps and in Special Services. While stationed in Liberia, he wrote and produced Goldbrickers of 1944, a musical variety show. Discharged in 1945, Davis returned to New York and gained the lead role in the play Jeb, which propelled his stage career. Also starring in the play was Davis's future wife, Ruby Dee, with whom he would continue to costar in plays and later in film. Among Davis's stage, film, and television credits are The Joe Louis Story ...


Niambi Lee-Kong

actor, playwright, producer, director, and civil rights activist. Ossie Davis, though commonly known for his work in the dramatic arts, was a humanitarian and activist who used his talents and fame to fight for the humane treatment of his people and for recognition of their contributions to society.

Raiford Chatman Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, to Kince Charles Davis and Laura Cooper Davis. Though neither parent was formally educated, Davis's father was a preacher and a railroad construction engineer. Davis's name “Ossie” came from a clerk's misunderstanding the pronunciation of the initials “R. C.” when recording his birth.

In 1935 Davis graduated from Central High School in Waycross, Georgia. He then attended Howard University, where he met Alain Locke a professor of philosophy who had been the first black Rhodes scholar Locke recognized Ossie s talent introduced him to black theater and encouraged ...


Jenny Murray

Algerian writer and filmmaker, was born Fatma Zohra Imalhayène in Cherchell, Algeria, on 30 June 1936 to Tahar Imalhayène and Bahia Sahraoui. Her father was a teacher in the French colonial school in Mouzaïaville in the Mitidja region, and her mother was a descendant of the Berkani tribe. Djebar attended the school where her father taught, and from 1946 to 1953 she studied classics and English at the French secondary school in Blida. In October 1953, after passing the Baccalauréat examination, she enrolled in the Lycée Bugeaud in Algiers for the hypokhâgne, the first year of a preparatory course for entrance examinations to the École Normale Supérieure. Djebar moved to Paris in October 1954 to complete Première Supérieure in literature Greek and Latin at the Lycée Fénelon The following year she was offered a place at the prestigious École Normale Supérieure de Sèvres and from May to ...


María de Lourdes Ghidoli

His endeavors were centered on defining a national form through his art. Ferreyra directed more than forty films between 1915 and 1941, a great number of which belong to the nation’s silent film period that lasted until 1933.

Ferreyra was born on 28 August 1889 in the city of Buenos Aires. His father, Juan Ferreyra, was born in Uruguay and worked as a day laborer, according to the 1895 national census. His mother, Manuela Teresa del Corazón de Jesús Saavedra, was an Afro-descendant. In 1924 he married the actress and singer María Turgenova, with whom he had a son, Juan Carlos Ferreyra. The marriage lasted seven years, during which time Turgenova starred in seven of his films. Previously, Ferreyra had had a romance with Lidia Liss, an Argentine actress famous at the beginning of the national silent film era and the protagonist in Ferreyra’s first films.

Beginning in ...


Rodney Saint-Eloi

was born on 27 November 1915 in Saint-Marc, Haiti. He studied in law and literature at the Université de Port-au-Prince. After completing his degree, he worked as a literature teacher and as a journalist and the editor-in-chief of the quotidian Le National. He published two collections of poetry: Message (1946) and Symphonie en noir majeur (1962). His poetry is marked by the desire to express the inexpressible, an aspiration reflected in Fouché’s definition of poetry: “Poezi se tout pawòl ki pa di/tout mo ki pa ekri” (Poetry is any unspoken phrase, any unwritten word)—hence the desire to remove one’s metaphorical mask, to name the real, and to make it transparent. At the heart of this approach were struggles for social justice and a democratic society. Art, for Fouché, was the way through which the world could be transformed.

Passionate about theater Fouché played an active ...


Debbie Clare Olson

actor, producer, director, nightclub owner, and restaurateur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Mayme Edna Revere Freeman and Morgan Porterfield Freeman. When he was two years old, Morgan's parents, like many others at the time, went north to look for work and to escape the Jim Crow conditions of the Deep South. Morgan and his sister, Iris, went to Mississippi to live with their paternal grandmother until her death four years later. Morgan and his sister then rejoined his parents in Chicago. A few months later, Morgan's mother and father separated and for a few years Morgan and his sister moved back and forth between Mississippi and Chicago.

After graduating in 1955 from Greenwood High School in Mississippi, Morgan joined the air force, where he served as a radar mechanic between 1955 and 1959 After he was discharged Morgan went to Los Angeles ...


Shantel Agnew

actor, director, producer. Morgan Freeman was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and was raised in Greenwood, Mississippi, by his grandparents. He spent summers in Chicago, Illinois, with his parents, who moved there for better job opportunities. This is where Freeman developed a passion for the cinema. At the age of eight, he made his acting debut when he played the lead role in the school play. He won a statewide drama competition at age twelve and during high school he performed in a Nashville, Tennessee–based radio show. In 1955, Freeman was offered a partial drama scholarship by Jackson State University but decided to join the United States Air Force, where he worked as a mechanic. He left the Air Force in 1959 and moved to Los Angeles He worked as a transcript clerk at Los Angeles Community College where he took free acting singing and dancing ...


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 ...


Rob Bowman

(b Detroit, Nov 28, 1929). American songwriter and founder of Motown Records. Born into a middle-class family, he initially wanted to be a boxer and later opened a record shop specializing in jazz. When both these career options failed, he began to write songs, quickly achieving success between 1957 and 1959 by co-writing such hits as Reete Petite, To be Loved and I'll be satisfied for Jackie Wilson, You've got what it takes for Marv Johnson and Money for Barrett Strong.

At Smokey Robinson's suggestion, Gordy ventured into the record business with Tamla Records in 1959. He began Motown in 1961, followed by Gordy in 1962, Soul and VIP in 1964 and several lesser labels over the ensuing ten years Collectively these labels are commonly referred to as Motown Gordy promoted the label as the Sound of Young America since from the ...