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Brenna Sanchez

classical singer, author, gay rights activist, and former literary assistant to writer Langston Hughes, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Abdul's father, Hamid Abdul, was from Calcutta, India, and his mother, Bernice (Shreve) Abdul, was able to trace her ancestry back to the pre-Revolutionary War era. Abdul got his start in theater at a young age, participating in children's theater by age six. He attended John Hay High School and, after graduation, worked as a journalist for the Cleveland Call and Post. He would later go on to earn a diploma from the Vienna Academy of Music in 1962. He also studied at Harvard University, the New School for Social Research, the Cleveland Institute of Music, New York College of Music, and the Mannes College of Music.

In 1951 at age twenty two Abdul relocated to New York City There he began studying music and was ...

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Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Chicago. He began studying piano at age seventeen and is largely self-taught, though in the late 1940s he studied briefly at Chicago Musical College and at Governors State University in Chicago. Abrams played his first professional gig in 1948, and during the early 1950s he wrote arrangements for the saxophonist King Fleming and other rhythm and blues groups. From 1957 to 1959 he was pianist, composer, and arranger for the hard-bop group MJT+3. Throughout the 1950s he also accompanied visiting soloists like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Dexter Keith Gordon, and Max Roach.

In the early 1960s Abrams and a group of young Chicagoans that included saxophonist Eddie Harris and bassist Donald Garrett began to make plans for a rehearsal band. This initial attempt failed, but Abrams and Garrett revived the effort in 1961 and ...

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April Taylor

Born Wesley Cook in Philadelphia, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a political activist from adolescence. At the age of fourteen he was arrested and beaten for demonstrating against segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace. He was a founding member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and worked on the party's newspaper in California during the summer of 1970.

Returning to Philadelphia, Abu-Jamal became a radio journalist with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and had his own talk show on station WUHY. He was highly critical of Philadelphia's police department and of the city's “law and order” mayor, Frank Rizzo. He provided coverage of the police treatment of MOVE, a Philadelphia black militant group, which further alienated the authorities. Forced to leave his position as a journalist, Abu-Jamal took a job as a taxi driver.

While Abu Jamal was driving his cab on the ...

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Donna M. DeBlasio

The acculturation of newly arrived enslaved Africans to the New World involved the interaction between Europeans and Africans. In this complex process Africans were often able to fuse their native culture with that of the Europeans who were their new masters. Indeed, elements of African traditions survived in many forms, including religion, dance, music, folklore, language, decorative arts, and architecture. With the closing of the slave trade and a decreasing number of native-born Africans, intense acculturation abated. Over time both cultures, European and African, were transformed by their coexistence and sharing of traditions. The richness and variety of American culture owes much to traditions brought by Africans to the New World.

Religious practices and beliefs were central to both the Africans and the Europeans Early in slavery s history in North America many whites actually opposed converting slaves to Christianity They believed that baptizing African slaves might give them ideas ...

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James M. Salem

musician, songwriter, and rhythm and blues star, was born John Marshall Alexander Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of John Marshall Alexander and Leslie Newsome. His father earned his living in Memphis as a packer, but his lifework was as a commuting minister to two rural Baptist churches in eastern Arkansas. At LaRose Grammar School in South Memphis, John Jr. as his family called him displayed both musical and artistic talent He mastered the piano at home but was allowed to play only religious music Along with his mother and siblings he sang in the choir at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Becoming restless at Booker T Washington High School John Jr dropped out in the eleventh grade to join the navy and see the world His sisters recalled military police coming to the house in search of their brother and thought of his brief period ...

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Acting venues: See American Negro Theatre; Apollo Theater; Black Theatre Alliance; Film, Blacks in American; Lafayette Theatre; Lincoln Theater; Negro Ensemble Company; Radio and African Americans.

Nineteenth-century actors: See Aldridge.

Twentieth-century actors: See Anderson; Bailey; Barnett; Bush ...

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Rob Fink

The first image of an African American in film occurred in 1903 with the silent movie Uncle Tom's Cabin. The twelve-minute-long movie, though, starred a white actor in blackface as the title character. For African American actors and actresses, the opportunity to appear in films, and subsequently in television and serious theater productions, took a while to develop. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the white actors who portrayed black characters, such as those who performed in D. W. Griffith'sThe Birth of a Nation in 1915, established several derogatory characters. Over the next century, black actors and actresses found themselves working against these stereotypes.

The practice of excluding African Americans from performing began during the post Civil War period and extended to all forms of acting In Wild West shows and circuses black actors and actresses were almost nonexistent The African Americans who appeared usually ...

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Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

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Joseph S. Mella

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, and publisher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ned Adams, an electrician and occasional sign painter, and Laura. Adams first explored art making by mimicking his father, who, according to Adams, enjoyed drawing. After the divorce of his parents around 1944, Adams lived with his aunt and uncle, Claudia and Caleb Spivey. Although he sought to attend a program for gifted children at the Detroit Institute of Arts, his uncle vehemently prohibited it, preferring that Adams spend his free time working jobs such as delivering newspapers. Adams attended Northwestern High School in Detroit while continuing to live with the Spiveys until age fifteen, when he moved to his father's home.

After graduating from high school in 1951 Adams moved to Romeo Michigan a then rural town forty one miles north of Detroit There Adams worked at ...

Article

André Willis

Born Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Florida, Adderley earned the nickname “Cannonball,” a corruption of “cannibal,” for his huge appetite. Adderley was introduced to music by his father, a cornetist, and was performing in bands by the time he was fourteen. He played in local bands as well as in the United States Army (he enlisted in 1950) and taught music before moving to New York to join his brother Nat in 1955. He immediately found success on the New York Jazz scene, joining the bands of bassist Oscar Pettiford.

The recordings Adderley made with Davis, which included John Coltrane on tenor saxophone, Paul Chambers on bass, and Wynton Kelly on piano, are some of the most celebrated of the 1950s. In 1959 Adderley and his brother Nat formed their own quintet and built on the influence of Davis and saxophonist Charlie Parker During ...

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Frank Tirro

jazz saxophonist, was born Julian Edwin Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the son of Julian Carlyle Adderley, a high school guidance counselor and jazz cornet player, and Jessie Johnson, an elementary school teacher. The family moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where Adderley attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College High School from 1941 until 1944. He earned his bachelor's degree from Florida A&M in 1948, having studied reed and brass instruments with the band director Leander Kirksey and forming, with Kirksey, a school jazz ensemble. Adderley then worked as band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and jobbed with his own jazz group.

Adderley served in the army from 1950 until 1953, leading the Thirty-sixth Army Dance Band, to which his younger brother, the cornetist Nathaniel “Nat” Adderley, was also assigned. While stationed in Washington, D.C., in 1952 Adderley continued to play ...

Article

Donald James

cornetist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, and college educator, was born Nathaniel Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the second of two sons of Julian Adderley Sr. and Jessie Adderley. Julian Sr. was an educator who played trumpet and cornet, thus becoming Nat's first music teacher. Jessie was also a teacher. Nat's only sibling, Julian Adderley Jr., nicknamed “Cannonball” because of his rotund build, was three years older than his brother. The Adderleys moved from Tampa to Tallahassee, Florida, when Nat was a toddler so that Julian Sr. and Jessie could take teaching jobs at Florida A&M College (FAMC), a historically black school. The college changed its name to Florida A&M University (FAMU) in 1953.

Cannonball was the first of the two brothers to play trumpet He later became more interested in the alto saxophone leaving his trumpet to sit idle Nat showed no ...

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Jerry C. Waters

an interdisciplinary artist and musician, was born Terry Roger Adkins in Washington, D.C., the eldest of five children of Robert Hamilton Adkins, a teacher and a musician, and Doris Jackson Adkins, a homemaker and musician. Adkins was raised in Alexandria, Virginia.

The artistic and musical achievements of Terry Adkins are linked to his formative years. Born in the racially segregated South, he attended a predominantly black primary school in Alexandria, Virginia, and graduated in 1971 from Ascension Academy a mostly white Catholic high school Adkins s parents encouraged his artistic talents and academic pursuits because education was valued within the extended Adkins family His father Robert Hamilton Adkins was a chemistry and science teacher at Parker Gray High School a predominantly black school in Alexandria and performed within the community as an organist and vocalist Adkins s grandfather the Reverend Andrew Warren Adkins pastored Alfred Street Baptist ...

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David N. Gellman

The African Grove Theater, also known as the American Theater and the African Theater, entertained black and white New Yorkers from 1821 to 1823. The theater, founded by the former ship steward William Brown, was the first theater in the United States owned and operated by African Americans. The theater company performed a wide array of material in a series of Manhattan locations, attracting an interracial audience while drawing ire from contemporary white commentators and competitors. The theater gave scope to the ambitions of New York's emerging free African American community, while the hostility it attracted was indicative of the refusal of many whites to accept free blacks as social or political equals. The theater also provided a stage for two pioneering African American performers, James Hewlett, who was one of the first American one-man show artists, and Ira Aldridge who went on to fame in ...

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Robert H. Gudmestad

Africanisms refer to African cultural and linguistic practices that survived the passage across the Atlantic Ocean, including language, music, dance, medicine, folk culture, food preparation, and many others. The extent to which enslaved Africans retained their culture was the subject of much debate in the twentieth century.

A sociologist rather than a historian first raised the question: in the early twentieth century E. Franklin Frazier doubted the persistence of African cultural forms in America. The anthropologist Melville Herskovits disagreed, arguing that significant numbers and types of Africanisms survived the Middle Passage. Sidney Mintz and Richard Price who both examined black activity in the Caribbean provided a more nuanced interpretation they believed that no single African American culture was transported intact to the Americas but rather that the Middle Passage was crucial to a reinvention of slave self identity Modern historians commonly believe that once slaves arrived in the Americas ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Alvin Ailey was born in Rogers, Texas. He grew up in a single-parent household headed by his mother, Lula Elizabeth Cooper. As a boy, he helped her pick cotton. In 1942 they moved to Los Angeles, California, where she found employment in the World War II aircraft industry. Ailey attended George Washington Carver Junior High School and Jefferson High School, primarily black schools. He went on to study literature at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Ailey's dancing career started in 1949 when a high school friend, Carmen DeLavallade, introduced him to Lester Horton, his first dance instructor at the Lester Horton Dance Theater. When Horton died in 1953, Ailey became the director of the company. The following year, Ailey moved to New York City where he joined DeLavallade in the Broadway dance production House of Flowers While appearing in other stage ...

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Lili Cockerille Livingston

actor, dancer, and choreographer, was born in Rogers, Texas, the son of Alvin Ailey, a laborer, and Lula Elizabeth Cliff, a cotton picker and domestic. Before Ailey was a year old, his father abandoned the family, leaving them homeless for close to six years. During that time Ailey and his mother made their way, often by foot, across the unforgiving terrain of the impoverished and bitterly racist Brazos Valley in southeastern Texas to seek shelter with relatives and find work in nearby fields.A bright curious child Ailey joined his mother in the cotton fields as soon as he could carry a sack He reveled in the sights and sounds of the gospel choirs and worshipers that he witnessed in the black Baptist churches of his youth Ailey also became acquainted with the less pious side of life through those who spent Saturday nights dancing ...

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Candace Cardwell

choreographer and dancer. Born in Rogers, Texas, Alvin Ailey was raised in a single-parent home headed by his mother, Lula Elizabeth Cooper. Ailey and his mother earned money by picking cotton and doing domestic work for local families. In 1942 Ailey moved to Los Angeles; he attended George Washington Carver Junior High School and Jefferson High School, where he developed an interest in music and literature. After graduation he went on to study literature at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Ailey's dance training began in 1949 when a friend, Carmen DeLavallade, introduced him to Lester Horton, founder of the Lester Horton Dance Theater. Horton was one of the few dance instructors who accepted black students, and he became Ailey's first dance coach. When Horton died in 1953 Ailey became the director of the company The following year Ailey moved to New York City where ...

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André Willis

Aldridge earned international recognition as one of his era's finest actors for his moving theatrical performances throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, Europe, and the United States. Although born free in New York City, he was the son of a slave turned Calvinist preacher. Aldridge saw limited theatrical opportunities in the United States and, after training at the African Free School in New York City, left the United States for Europe in 1824. Intent on pursuing an acting career, he studied drama at the University of Glasgow in Scotland for more than a year.

Debuting onstage at the Royal Coburg in London, England, in 1825 Aldridge won widespread praise for his portrayal of Shakespeare s Othello a role that became his trademark as well as for his renditions of other leading characters during the six week theatrical run After this success he performed in the Theatre Royal in Brighton England ...

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Melissa Vickery-Bareford

actor, was born Ira Frederick Aldridge, the son of Daniel Aldridge, a minister, and Lurona (maiden name unknown). Although certain historical accounts record that Aldridge was born in Senegal, Africa, and was the grandson of the Fulah tribal chieftain, modern biographical scholarship has established that he was born in New York City. It is possible that he could claim Fulah ancestry, but his lineal descent from tribal royalty is unconfirmed. Extant evidence concerning Aldridge's life is sketchy, conflicting, or exaggerated, possibly owing in part to the aggrandizements of theatrical publicity.

As a young boy, Aldridge attended the African Free School in New York City. Although Aldridge's father intended for him to join the clergy, Aldridge showed an early attraction to the stage, excelling at debate and declamation. Around 1821 Aldridge tried to perform at Brown s Theatre also known as the African Theatre but his father ...