actor, athlete, singer, and producer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Annabelle Patricia West and John Allen Amos Sr., a self-taught diesel auto mechanic and tractor trailer driver. Shortly after his second birthday, the family moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where they lived while John Sr. served in the military during World War II. His father left after the war, and his mother struggled to support her family by working as a domestic and then as a certified dietician. Amos recalled that, “the only time [he] ever saw his mother concede to possible failure was one time when she could not find any food in the cupboards. She had to ask him to go to the next-door neighbor to borrow food” (interview with John Amos by the author, 2010 Amos first joined the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark New Jersey at about ...
Daniel A. Dalrymple
professional basketball player, was born Charles Wade Barkley in Leeds, Alabama, in 1963. Barkley was raised by his mother, Charcey Glenn, who supported the family by cleaning homes, and his grandmother, Johnnie Mae Edwards, who worked in a meat factory. In high school the five-foot-ten-inch Barkley harbored ambitions to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) despite failing to make the varsity squad in the tenth grade. However, Barkley persevered by putting in long hours on the practice court and by honing his vertical leaping ability. During his senior year in high school, Auburn University offered Barkley (who then stood six feet four inches) a basketball scholarship.
At Auburn Barkley earned the first of many nicknames he would garner throughout his career the round mound of rebound He earned this nickname because he weighed three hundred pounds and was able to consistently out rebound taller opponents Barkley ...
Sandra Y. Govan
A Los Angeles native and later resident of Vancouver, Washington, Steven Emory Barnes is the third African American author after 1960 to have chosen science fiction and fantasy writing as his primary profession. Barnes established himself through the 1980s as a determined and disciplined writer, one who had followed a cherished childhood dream to become a commercially successful professional writer.
The youngest child of Emory F. Barnes and Eva Mae (Reeves) Barnes, Steven Barnes grew up in Los Angeles. He attended Los Angeles High, Los Angeles City College, and Pepperdine University, Malibu, California (1978–1980 At Pepperdine he majored in communication arts but withdrew from school before completing a degree frustrated because he thought no one on the faculty could teach him about building a career as a professional writer It was not until Barnes made contact with established science fiction writer Ray Bradbury who sent the novice ...
Jason Philip Miller
professional football player, was born Lemuel Jackson Barney in Gulfport, Mississippi. Information about his upbringing and personal life is difficult to come by. He played football as a young man, attending local schools in Gulfport and playing a multitude of positions—including punter and defensive back—on his high school team. In 1963 he matriculated at the historically black Jackson State, where he made the team and was again a standout. He played three seasons and had twenty-seven interceptions. He also served as the team's punter.
In 1967 Barney graduated with a bachelor s degree in Health and Science and only then entered the National Football League NFL draft He was taken in the second round by the Detroit Lions and it was with the Lions that Barney would spend his entire career His life in the Lions silver and blue got off to an auspicious start Barney playing defensive ...
Thomas Edward Guastello
boxer and activist, was born Riddick Lamont Bowe in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, the twelfth of thirteen children of Dorothy Bowe, a factory worker. Little is known of Bowe's father, whose first name is believed to have been Jake, as he left the family when Bowe was very young. Brownsville was notable for its high crime rate and poverty, forces that affected Bowe directly. Several of his brothers spent time in prison, and his sister Brenda was assaulted and robbed of a welfare check, dying of injuries sustained in the incident. Bowe stayed clear of such troubles, and as a teenager began training at the New Bedford‐Stuyvesant Boxing Club. He married Judith (her maiden name is unknown) in 1986 and shortly afterward she gave birth to the first of their five children (Riddick Jr., Riddicia, Brenda, Julius, and Diamond He ...
SaFiya D. Hoskins
music pioneer, musician, and singer, was born Charles L. Brown in Charlotte, North Carolina; his parents were migrant farmers about whom little information is available. In 1942Chuck moved with his parents to Fairmont Heights in Prince George's County, Maryland, a small suburban neighborhood just outside of Northeast Washington, D.C. As a boy Chuck worked odd jobs to assist his parents financially. He sold newspapers, cut logs, shined shoes, laid bricks, and could be heard singing “watermelon, watermelon” for the horse-drawn watermelon cart. Chuck's love for music began as a boy in North Carolina, replaying the piano and rhythms he heard in church of the bass drum, cymbals, and the snare over and again in his head. In Fairmont Heights at Mount Zion Holiness Church he played piano while his mother accompanied him on harmonica. Chuck studied piano with Sister Louise Murray who exposed him to ...
David F. Smydra
athlete, actor, and activist, was born James Nathaniel Brown on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Theresa and Swinton Brown, a onetime boxer, who abandoned Theresa and their son two weeks after his birth. A couple of years later Theresa departed for Long Island, New York, to take a domestic job, leaving Jim to be raised by his great-grandmother and grandmother, the latter an alcoholic. By 1944 Theresa had saved enough money to send for Jim, and they were reunited in Manhasset, Long Island, for the first time in six years. Despite the usual friction of being the new kid—he was once accused by his peers of fighting dirty—Brown eventually distinguished himself athletically. He gained the attention of a local policeman, who lent Brown keys to the high school gym so that the youth could organize Police Boys' Club games whenever he and his friends wanted to play.At Manhasset ...
Julian C. Madison
athlete, actor, civic activist. Jim Brown is generally recognized as the greatest football player and the greatest lacrosse player of all time. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 228 pounds, and with a 32-inch waist, Brown combined great speed with a powerful running style and fearsome stiff-arm to terrorize National Football League (NFL) defenders for nine years. The only person in history voted into three halls of fame (college football, college lacrosse, and the NFL), Brown is arguably the greatest athlete of the twentieth century.
James Nathaniel Brown was born on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Swinton “Sweet Sue” and Theresa Brown Swinton Brown left his family barely two weeks after his son was born and they rarely heard from him afterward When Jim was two his mother left him in the care of his great grandmother and moved to Great Neck Long Island where ...
Donna L. Halper
radio personality and advertising executive, was most likely the first black announcer in the history of broadcasting, on the air as early as 1924. His successful radio career would span four decades and make him a wealthy man. Cooper did not come from an entertainment background. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he was one of ten children of William and Lavina Cooper. Jack Cooper quit school after the fifth grade to help support his impoverished family. He held a number of low-paying jobs and for a time got interested in boxing, winning more than a hundred bouts as a welterweight fighter. But he found his calling on the vaudeville stage, where he became a singer and dancer, beginning in 1905 and continuing well into the 1920s. He was more than just a performer, writing and producing skits and entire shows, often in collaboration with his first wife Estelle ...
professional boxer, actor, product spokesperson, and minister. George Edward Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas, to J. D. Foreman and Nancy Foreman. By the seventh grade he had dropped out of school, engaging in petty crimes, such as muggings. At age sixteen he enrolled in a Job Corps training program in Oregon. While working at a conservation camp affiliated with the program, Foreman found that he had a talent for boxing, and he won the Corps Diamond Belt Boxing Tournament.
In 1968 Foreman made the U.S. Olympic boxing team and won the gold medal in the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Vietnam War protests, the rise of black nationalism, and episodes of civil unrest in U.S. cities after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination earlier in the year were a sign of the times. The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City were also the scene ...
football player, social activist, author, singer-actor, and ordained minister, was born Roosevelt Grier on a farm in Cuthbert, Georgia, the seventh of Joseph and Ruth Grier's eleven children. At age thirteen he moved with his family to Roselle, New Jersey. Offered an athletic scholarship to Penn State University, he enrolled in 1950 and studied psychology, music, and education. His college athletic career was exceptional. Not only did he receive first-team All-American football honors in 1955, but he also set an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics of America shot-put record (fifty-eight feet) in track and field.
In 1965 Grier signed with the National Football League's New York Giants for a $500 bonus and a yearly salary of $6,500. During a long career that lasted from 1955 through 1968 Grier was a dominant defensive tackle in an era known for excellent defensive players His size ...
jazz trumpeter, figure skater, and psychiatrist, was born in New York City. His father, Billy Williams, was the lead singer in Billy Williams and the Charioteers, while his mother was a dancer who was one of the Brown Twins at the Cotton Club. She danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers and can be seen in the Fats Waller short film of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” sitting on the piano while he sang to her. After Billy Williams's death, Henderson's mother married a doctor in San Francisco. His stepfather had many musician patients, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington.
Henderson began on the trumpet when he was nine. His first teacher was Louis Armstrong who gave him a few informal lessons Henderson moved to San Francisco with his family when he was 14 He studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of ...
Gage Averill and Louis Carl Saint-Jean
was born in Fond Droit, a section of Léogâne, on 10 May 1925. His father, Alexis Saint Fleur Henry, from Grande-Rivière-du-Nord, was a farmer and later a commercial truck driver, and his grandfather Joseph a banjo player. His mother, Denise Delance, worked for the Hôpital Sanatorium of Port-au-Prince and engaged in small business. Over four decades in the music industry, Coupé Cloué became one of Haiti’s most beloved troubadours, admired (and sometimes disparaged) for his wit, puns, and playfully ribald lyrics. Although little is known publicly of his marriage, he was married to Augusta Théodat Henry, and the couple had three children, including Jean Gesner Henry Jr. In interviews, Henry revealed that he was the father of seven children in all.
At the age of about 5 or 6 Jean Gesner Henry and his mother joined his godmother a devoted Seventh Day Adventist in the Portail Saint Joseph neighborhood ...
Maud C. Mundava
basketball player and coach, actor, and author Born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr and known early on as Lew he was a very big baby about 13 pounds and 22 inches He grew up in a racially mixed middle class neighborhood in Manhattan as the only child of Al Alcindor and Cora Alcindor Al Alcindor was originally from Trinidad and he was a fairly successful jazz musician and a New York City Transit Authority police officer Jabbar grew up a Catholic and attended St Jude s Elementary School and a boys only Catholic school Power Memorial Academy He was a shy and withdrawn child because he was taller than most of the kids his age but he showed a lot of determination in pursuit of excellence He always wanted to be the best As a result of his values and upbringing Jabbar was well spoken stayed out of ...
Born in Lansing, Michigan, Earvin Johnson acquired the nickname Magic after a high school Basketball game in which he scored 36 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, and made 16 assists. At Michigan State University, the 2.1 m (6 ft, 9 in) Johnson helped the Spartans, the university team, win the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship in 1979.
Johnson left college after his second year (1979) to join the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He helped lead the Lakers to five NBA championships (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988). Johnson was named the NBA's most valuable player three times (1987, 1989, and 1990). He played in many All-Star games and, at the time of his retirement, held the NBA record for assists (9921 Johnson helped the Lakers become one of the ...
Wayne L. Wilson
football player, was born David Jones in Eatonville, Florida, five miles from Orlando. David's parents, Mattie and Ishmeal, who worked a variety of jobs including farm workers, had eight children, three boys and five girls. He was the seventh. The poverty-stricken family lived in an old, wooden house with no indoor plumbing until David attended high school. He was a three-sport star (baseball, basketball, and football) at all-black Hungerford High School.
However, all David dreamed about as a child was becoming a star professional football player. His father demanded that all three boys play the sport. But he noticed that David had the greatest potential for success in the pros. Jones said of his father in Pro Football Weekly, “He used to watch me practice at 5:00 in the morning doing my running when nobody else did. He supported the hell out of me” (Arkush, 27 Jan ...
Kris'tina I. Ackerman
was born in Paris, Kentucky and raised in Millersburg, Kentucky. Born James Milton Kelly to Arnita and Eichler Kelly, he spent his childhood between San Diego, California, where his father ran a locker club for navy personnel, and Kentucky, where he excelled in sports throughout high school. He later attended the University of Louisville on a football scholarship, but left during his freshman year.
In 1964 Kelly began training in the Okinawan shorin-ryu style of martial arts, instructed by Parker Sheltin in Lexington, Kentucky, where he received his green belt. He met and married his girlfriend Marilyn Dishman in 1967 and in the same year the couple had their only child Sabrena Kelly kept practicing karate and later trained and taught in Chicago where he received his brown belt He and Marilyn divorced soon after After moving to San Diego Kelly earned his black belt under Sgt LeRoy Edwards ...
Canada Lee was born in New York City. Originally a boxer, Canada Lee entered the theater after a fight in 1933 left him blind in one eye. He began his acting career in the role of Banquo in a black production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Negro Federal Theatre Project, in 1936. The play was directed by Orson Welles and marked the beginning of Lee's portrayal of nontraditional roles, at a time when most black actors and actresses were relegated to demeaning roles.
Although Macbeth received some negative reviews (due more to the fact that a black cast was performing Shakespeare than to the quality of the acting), it gave Lee the needed exposure to continue in such roles. Through the WPA Negro Federal Theatre Project, he continued to experiment with the nontraditional, performing in Eugene O'Neill's One Act Plays ...
actor, bandleader, and boxer, was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata in New York City, the son of James Cornelius Canegata, a clerk, and Lydia Whaley. Lee's father came from a wealthy and politically prominent family in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, whose ancestors had adopted a Danish surname. Lee's grandfather owned a fleet of merchant ships; the family also raced horses. James Canegata shipped out as a cabin boy at eighteen, settled in Manhattan, married, and worked for National Fuel and Gas for thirty-one years. Lee grew up in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan's West Sixties and attended P.S. 5 in Harlem. An indifferent student, he devoted more energy to fisticuffs than to schoolwork. Lee studied violin from age seven with the composer J. Rosamond Johnson and at age eleven he was favorably reviewed at a student concert in Aeolian Hall his parents ...
Jason Philip Miller
professional basketball player, member of the Harlem Globetrotters, and minister, was born George Meadow Lemon III in Wilmington, North Carolina. Neither his parents' names nor their occupations are known. When he was eleven years old, Lemon went to the local movie house and saw a short reel about Abe Saperstein's famous Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and decided that one day he would be a member. Lemon attended public school in Wilmington, where he excelled at basketball and football. In 1952, while still a high school student, he wrote the Globetrotters to request a tryout and was given one, but he failed to make the team.
That same year Lemon matriculated at Florida A M University but he spent only a few weeks there before he was drafted into the U S Army He spent two years in the service and as luck would have it was stationed ...