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Roxanne Y. Schwab

singer and actor, was born in Mangum, Oklahoma. Neither the exact date of her birth nor her parents' names are known. An only child, Margaret quickly developed a sense of independence that provided the foundation for a number of the strong characters she later played in her career as an actor. Her father's naval career took the family to San Diego, where Avery attended high school and performed in several drama competitions.

Upon graduation she enrolled in San Francisco State University, where she was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. s commitment to cultivating and mentoring the next generation of black leaders She fostered King s notion of preparing African American youth for a brighter future by attaining her goal of becoming an elementary school teacher Her interest in the stage never waned however despite the scarcity of roles for African American women and she continued pursuing performance ...


James Clyde Sellman

and a figure in the boisterous nightlife of pre-Revolution Havana. Neris Amelia Martínez Salazar (Bacallao’s name at birth) was born in the tough, crowded Cayo-Hueso section of Havana, on 26 May 1925, according to most sources. She was the only child of poor, working-class parents; her father was a longshoreman. At age 6, she was orphaned and sent to a convent school sponsored by the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first order of nuns founded by and for women of African descent. Young Neris Amelia developed no sense of religious vocation while under the nuns’ tutelage. Rather than turning her toward God, the adversities she faced seemed to redouble her self-reliance. “I grew up alone,” she has said in interviews. “And when you don’t have anyone, you have to be a fighter” (Lagarde, 2002).

By the early 1940s the teenager had left the convent school and found ...


Rainer E. Lotz

dancer, singer, choreographer, and director, is a person whose origins are the subject of some question. According to the English-born black entertainer Gordon Stretton, Belle Davis “was a mezzo-soprano; tall black girl, native from New Orleans, very beautiful,” but on a 1938 ship passenger list Davis signed in as a Chicagoan born in 1874. On a 1904 emergency passport issued in London she swore, “I was born at Houston, in the State of Texas” in 1872. (Besides this confusion in geography, over the years Davis apparently became younger, on other documents indicating her year of birth as 1873.) Her father was George Davis; the name of her mother is unknown. After an apprenticeship in American minstrelsy, she spent most of her professional career touring Europe from 1901 until 1938 Not only had she performed in front of a movie camera ...


James Fargo Balliett

blues singer and musician, was born in New York City around 1890. Very little is known about her family or upbringing except that she may have been a niece of Les Hite, a 1930s saxophone player and big band leader. Mattie Hite, who might have also been known by the alternative first name of Nellie, was a blues and cabaret singer who worked at various jazz clubs in New York and Chicago and sang on more than a dozen albums between 1915 and 1932.

Hite began singing in Chicago in 1915 at the Panama Café for twelve dollars a week with other blues singers such as Alberta Hunter and Florence Mills. She returned to New York City in 1919 to work at Barron Wilkins s Café For the next twelve years Hite supported herself from performances at a host of New York ...


Charlotte Breese

Entertainer and recording artiste. Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson was born in Grenada, West Indies. Clever, handsome, and ambitious, he soon travelled to America, pretending to his sponsors that he wanted to qualify as a doctor. He left for Harlem, learned stride piano, accompanied blues shouters on recordings, and made a name for himself, especially with white punters like the Vanderbilts. After witnessing a violent attack in Florida by the Ku Klux Klan, he set off to seek his fortune in Europe. He taught charleston to the royal family in Madrid, created his own band in Paris, and played in Venice for Cole Porter; and he became the favourite exponent of Cole Porter's songs in Paris nightclubs.

The impresario Charles B. Cochran was tipped off by Edwina Mountbatten, the royal socialite millionairess, to invite Hutchinson to London in 1924 to play in his revues it was to be his ...


was born to Barbados-born George Washington Hutchinson, a dry goods merchant and hatter, and Marianne Simm Turnbull Hutchinson at Gouyave, St. John, Grenada, on 7 March 1900.

Attending the St. John’s Primary School in Gouyave, Miss Emily Arthur taught Hutchinson social graces as well as music; he also learned from his father, a church organist. From age 12, on scholarship to the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School at St. George’s, Grenada’s capital, he mastered elocution and diction. By graduation at age 16, he was already a gifted musician.

In September 1916 Hutchinson left Grenada for Meharry College, an African American run institution in the United States to study medicine, a project he quickly abandoned to become a musician and entertainer. He soon found himself in Harlem, New York, during the flowering of black culture known as the Harlem Renaissance.

With his father s allowance cut off due to his abandonment ...