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Allensworth, Josephine Leavell  

Venise Wagner

pianist, educator, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Trenton, Kentucky, to Mary Dickinson, also a slave, and Mr. Leavell, likely a scion of the white Benjamin Leavell family, pioneers of Trenton. According to family history, Josephine's father wanted to send her and her sister to Canada on the Underground Railroad, but their mother objected because of the danger and distance. Sometime between 1868 and 1875 Josephine attended the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (also known as the Baptist Institute), a college for African Americans that was later renamed Roger Williams University. Daniel W. Phillips, a white Baptist minister, had started the school in 1864, teaching Bible classes to freed people in his home. The school was later acquired by Vanderbilt University and incorporated into its George Peabody campus, a teachers' college.

While at the Baptist Institute Josephine studied music particularly piano and ...


Asberry, Nettie J.  

Antoinette Broussard Farmer

classical pianist, civil rights activist, and social worker, was born Nettie Craig in Leavenworth, Kansas, the daughter of William P. Wallingford, an immigrant farmer from England, and Viola, his former slave. In 1837, prior to Nettie's birth, Wallingford moved his family from Kentucky and settled on the Platte purchase in Missouri. He was married three times and fathered seventeen children including six by Viola. Nettie, the youngest of these, was the only one born free. Information is scarce about Viola. After she was emancipated she rejected Wallingford's name and adopted Craig as her surname, likely because she was born on the Craig plantation in Kentucky. She took her children to Leavenworth, Kansas, where she married Taylor Turner. Her occupation was listed as a domestic. She died in Denver, Colorado, on 29 September 1906 at the age of seventy‐six.

Nettie Craig began studying the piano at eight ...


Dent, Ernestine Jessie Covington  

Michael Zhang

was born Ernestine Jessie Covington in Houston, Texas, the only child of Dr. Benjamin Jesse Covington and Jennie Bell Covington (nee Murphy). At age four, Dent was introduced to the piano by her mother. Dent began taking private lessons at age five from a neighbor, Corilla Rochon, an established piano teacher in Houston. Dent continued taking lessons with Rochon through her youth until she left Houston to attend college in Ohio. During her youth, Dent played as a church pianist during Sunday school, for which she was paid two dollars per month. Around 1915, she began taking violin lessons so that she could perform in the Ladies Symphony Orchestra. Her mother was a founding member of the group. Dent studied violin under Will Nickerson, the brother of the esteemed musician and Howard University music professor Camille Nickerson.

Dent attended Houston Colored High School known today as Booker T Washington ...


Dixon, Jessy  

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 ...


England, Carmen  

Peter Fraser

Pioneering black businesswoman and one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival. Born Carmen Maingot in Port of Spain, Trinidad, she came to England in 1931 to attend the Royal Academy of Music, studying piano and violin. Among her friends in England were C. L. R. James and Eric Williams. She stayed in England, pursuing her musical career, until 1938, when she returned to Trinidad, playing the piano in public concerts, teaching music, and starting a hairdressing business. She returned to England in 1946, travelling with one of her pupils, Winifred Atwell.

She met and married the impresario Paul England but unlike Atwell decided not to continue her career in music Instead she continued hairdressing setting up a salon in a Forces club managed by her husband and beginning to produce hair products for her black customers an example imitated by Atwell in ...


Green, Eddie  

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 ...


Pritchard, Robert Starling, II  

Lois Bellamy

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 ...


Valdés, Jesús (Chucho)  

James Sellman

Born in Quivican, Cuba, Jesús “Chucho” Valdés is the son of the Cuban pianist and bandleader Bebo Valdés, who was for many years musical director at Havana's famed Tropicana nightclub. In 1960, when his father defected from Cuba following Fidel Castro's revolution, Chucho Valdés remained behind. Because of the embargo that the United States imposed on Cuba in 1960, Valdés remained virtually unknown to the American Jazz public for many years. But during the 1990s, he found opportunities to perform and record in the United States, and has begun to reach a wider American audience, despite the continued political intransigence between the United States and Cuba.

Valdés began playing piano at age three, and by the time he was sixteen was leading his own group. He was particularly inspired by American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, the co-creator—along with alto saxophonist Charlie Parker ...