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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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Mary Krane Derr

multi‐instrumental musician, teacher, and orchestra conductor, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. Some sources give her birth year as 1885; however, according to U.S. census data, it was most likely 1882. Her mother, Betty Anderson, was born March 1849 in Virginia. Little is known about Hallie Anderson's father except that he was also a Virginia native. When Hallie was three, the family migrated to New York City. As a child, Hallie took public school and private music lessons. She received classical training at the New York German Conservatory of Music. Although it did not record her occupation, the 1900 census noted that Hallie's mother was a widow who could neither read nor write, and who had seven living children. Betty Anderson was then living with three of her children, all of whom could read and write: Charles (born Sept. 1872), a waiter; John ...

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John Garst

the inspiration for the “Frankie and Johnny” song, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Cedric Baker and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown), and she had three brothers: Charles, Arthur, and James. Charles, who was younger than Frankie, lived with her on Targee Street in 1900. In 1899 Baker shot and killed her seventeen-year-old “mack” (pimp), Allen “Al” Britt. St. Louis pianists and singers were soon thumping and belting out what would become one of America's most famous folk ballads and popular songs, “Frankie and Johnny,” also known as “Frankie and Albert,” “Frankie Baker,” and “Frankie.”

At age sixteen or seventeen Baker fell in love with a man who, unknown to her, was living off the earnings of a prostitute (this kind of man was known as an “easy rider,” a term made famous by W. C. Handy in his ...

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John Harris-Behling

disc jockey, impresario, and businessman, was born Arthur Bernard Leaner in Jackson, Mississippi. An ambitious young man, Benson sang with the family band, performed in black vaudeville, and produced shows at Jackson's black theater, the Alamo. He also attended Jackson Normal College. In the 1920s he moved to Chicago but returned to Jackson to weather the Great Depression. As the pains of the Depression eased, Benson moved back to Chicago, where he worked as a probation officer, a railroad cook, an interviewer for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and a preacher before making his name as one of Chicago's leading radio personalities. He lived in Chicago with his wife, Norma, and their daughters, Arleta and Bertina, until he retired in 1967.

Benson began his radio career as Reverend Arthur Leaner hosting a fifteen minute Sunday morning broadcast from his storefront church on Chicago s South Side When station ...

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Qrescent Mali Mason

Robert L. Johnson is the black entrepreneur responsible for Black Entertainment Television (BET). Johnson was born in Hickory, Mississippi, on 8 April 1946, the ninth of ten children. He went on to receive his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 1968. It was at UIUC that Johnson became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and met Sheila Crump, who later became his wife. Johnson completed graduate studies at Princeton University, earning his master's degree in public administration in 1972.

In 1976 Johnson joined the National Cable Television Association (NCTA). At this time, Johnson more closely considered an idea he had to start a channel that focused its programming on African Americans. At an NCTA convention, he met Bob Rosencrans the chief of UA Columbia Cablevision Johnson inquired about using a two hour block of programming time on Friday nights ...

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Linda Spencer

educator and community activist, was born Uvelia Atkins in Middlesex County, Virginia. She attended public elementary schools in Middlesex County, and in 1940 she graduated from the Rappahannock Industrial Academy, a private high school in Essex County. Atkins graduated in 1945 from Virginia Union University, in Richmond, where she majored in English and was vice president of the YWCA, secretary of Kappa Gamma Chi, and a member of the NAACP. She married the Reverend Walter Duncan Bowen, a Presbyterian pastor, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1954. The couple did not have any children, and throughout their lives they worked with inner‐city young people. She received a master of social service degree from Bryn Mawr College in 1957.

From 1951 to 1965 Bowen worked in Philadelphia for the United Neighbors Association a multi program agency that provided services to city residents she was the association s first woman ...

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Charles Rosenberg

the “Jay” in Vee‐Jay records, was born James Conrad Bracken in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the youngest son of Junious and Eva Bracken, born respectively in Tennessee and Florida. His older brothers, Herbert and Earnest, were also born in Oklahoma. Before 1920, the family moved to Kansas City, Kansas, where Junious Bracken worked as a porter and owned the family home.

Little has been documented about Bracken's childhood or early adult years. He may have attended Western University in Quindaro, Kansas. The Detroit Singers recalled that he had once worked as a parking lot attendant at the Harlem Inn in Detroit. For a time he made a living selling pots and pans, and was employed by the U.S. Signal Corporation. In 1948 Bracken entered into a partnership with radio WGRY disc jockey Vivian Carter, opening Vivian's Record Shop at 1640 Broadway, in Gary, Indiana.

In 1953 Bracken and Carter ...

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Barry Kernfeld

blues and vaudeville songwriter, publisher, and musical director, was born John Henry Perry Bradford in Montgomery, Alabama, the son of Adam Bradford, a bricklayer and tile setter, and Bella (maiden name unknown), a cook. Standard reference books give his year of birth as 1893, but Bradford's autobiography gives 1895. Early in his youth Bradford learned to play piano by ear. In 1901 his family moved to Atlanta, where his mother cooked meals for prisoners in the adjacent Fulton Street jail. There he was exposed to the inmates' blues and folk singing. Bradford attended Molly Pope School through the sixth grade and claimed to have attended Atlanta University for three years, there being no local high school. This is chronologically inconsistent, however, with his claim to have joined Allen's New Orleans Minstrels in the fall of 1907 traveling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras ...

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Linda M. Carter

singer, songwriter, producer, and arranger, was born John William Bristol in Morganton, North Carolina, the son of James and Mary Bristol. While in high school, Bristol was named to the All-State Football Team, and he formed a singing group known as the Jackets. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Fort Custer, in Battle Creek, Michigan. Bristol and Robert “Jackey” Beavers formed part of the group the High Fives, though soon left to form the duo Johnny and Jackey. In 1959 Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis signed the two young men to their Anna Records label, and Johnny and Jackey recorded two 45s before Gordy and Harvey Fuqua established Tri-Phi Records in 1961 Johnny and Jackey recorded four 45s The duo s songs garnered a modicum of success in the Midwest but failed to ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

surgeon and Tennessee legislator, was born to a single mother, Edna Brown, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When she was five months old, her mother placed her in the Troy Orphanage. In 1932Brown's mother reclaimed her daughter, but the two clashed and Brown ran away from home. She was subsequently taken in by Samuel Wesley and Lola Redmon. Brown obtained a job as a mother's helper in the W. F. Jarrett home and graduated from high school, possibly Troy High School, about 1937.

Several factors inspired Brown to become a surgeon. As a child, she entered the hospital for the removal of her tonsils and adenoids. She loved the special attention that she received and wanted to duplicate that experience for other patients. Later, in her teens, she attended a performance by the African American opera star Marian Anderson. Impressed by Anderson's greatness and graciousness, Brown ...

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Monica Berger

singer, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Barnwell, South Carolina, to Joe Brown (né Gardner), a turpentine worker, and Susan Behlings, James Brown experienced extreme poverty in early childhood. His mother left the family when Brown was four. When he was six, he was sent to Augusta, Georgia, to live with an aunt who ran a brothel. In addition to picking cotton and shining shoes, the young Brown earned money by tap-dancing for World War II troops and by singing in talent contests.

As a teenager Brown broke into a car to steal a coat and was sentenced to eight to sixteen years in prison. He served three years and was released in 1953. He then sang in a doo-wop and gospel ensemble headed by Bobby Byrd Brown soon emerged as the lead singer and the band the Fabulous Flames wowed audiences with their dancing ...

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Shennette Garrett-Scott

the first woman to lead an otherwise all-male orchestra, was the older sister of the well-known bandleader Cab Calloway. Born in Rochester, New York, Blanche and her three younger siblings moved to Baltimore when she was a teenager. She grew up in a comfortably middle-class family; her father, Cabell, was a lawyer and her mother, Martha Eulalia Reed, taught music. Calloway's father died in 1910, and her mother married insurance salesman John Nelson Fortune a few years later and had two more children.

Calloway s mother likely instilled a love of music in all of her children Calloway s brother Elmer also briefly pursued a musical career Martha made sure that young Calloway took piano and voice lessons as a child but Martha never imagined music as a career for a proper young woman She expected that her daughter would pursue a respectable career as a nurse ...

Article

Ulrich Adelt

rap artist and entrepreneur, was born in Miami Beach, Florida. His father, Stanley Campbell, who emigrated from Jamaica, was a janitor, and his mother, Yvonne Campbell, worked as a beautician. Campbell grew up in the impoverished Liberty City area of Miami and had to share a bedroom with his four brothers. Although his family was relatively stable and able to send his three older brothers to college, Campbell had to learn to survive in a dangerous environment. In a gang-related incident in Campbell's neighborhood, for instance, a fourteen-year-old male shot to death his best friend in 1986. Campbell developed his entrepreneurial skills early on by selling ice cream and lemonade from his mother's kitchen to children from the neighborhood. He went to predominantly white schools on football scholarships and started disc-jockeying for school dances.

Before Campbell became a member of the rap group 2 Live Crew in ...

Article

Hope W. Jackson

also known as Lorene Carter, Lorraine Carter, and Betty Bebop, jazz vocalist, arranger, composer, and musician. Betty Carter was born Lillie Mae Jones in Flint, Michigan, to James Jones II and Bertha Jones. Her father worked as a press operator for the Ford Motor Company, making the family middle class.

Carter s musical influences were varied She sang in her church s choir which her father led Her parents forbade listening to secular music and did not own a record player but Carter listened to her brother in law s jazz albums particularly those of Duke Ellington and to radio jazz programs She cut school to listen to bebop a type of jazz that uses fast tempos and improvisation on local jukeboxes at the time the 1940s bebop was the latest musical craze As a teenager Carter took piano lessons at the ...

Article

SaFiya D. Hoskins

singer, songwriter, and producer, was born Eugene Dixon in Chicago, Illinois. His father, Baron Dixon, was born in Arkansas. Dixon attended Englewood High School (later known as Englewood Technical Prep Academy) on Chicago's south side. Early on he was influenced by what he considered the cool and romantic singing style of (James) Pookie Hudson and the Spaniels. Patterning himself after Hudson, Dixon soon joined the ranks of youth performing doo-wop music on sidewalks and corners, forming his own group, the Gaytones. In 1957 Dixon was drafted into the United States Army and performed a tour of duty in Germany. Upon discharge from the military, in 1960, he returned to Chicago and resumed his singing career as a new member of the Dukays, a group that included singer Ben Broyles, Earl Edwards, Shirley Jones, and James Lowe.

Soon thereafter the Dukays were offered a contract to record ...

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Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz

Zydeco musician and quarter-horse trainer, was born into a farming community in Dog Hill near Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of seven children, to Marceline Pete and Arthur Chavis, tenant farmers and entrepreneurs who managed a few well-known local horse circuits, or unregulated “bush” horse races. As a young boy he was given the inexplicable nickname Boozoo, which would remain his moniker throughout the entirety of his life. The first instrument Chavis learned to play was the harmonica, but he mastered the button accordion by watching his father, uncles, and Henry Martin, all well-known local musicians in southwest Louisiana. Although his parents separated when he was three years old, he remained in contact with his father and frequently attended the local house dances in Rayne and Dog Hill, where both his father and his great uncle Sidney Babineaux frequently played. At the age of twenty-one he married Leona Predium ...

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Charles L. Hughes

singer, songwriter, producer, and leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, the eldest of Julia Keaton's nine children. His father's name is unknown, but Clinton had moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, by the time he was a teenager. While straightening hair at a local barbershop, Clinton began singing doo-wop in the back room with a group called the Parliaments. Formed in 1955, they modeled themselves after the hit makers Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and they spent the next decade on the competitive R&B circuit. Although they recorded sparingly during this period, the group's repeated trips to Detroit helped Clinton establish himself as a producer and songwriter with the Motown Records subsidiary Jobete. In 1964 the Parliaments themselves signed with Motown, but it was for Revilot Records that the group scored an R&B hit in 1967 with the gospel-drenched “(I Wanna) Testify,” sung by Clinton.In the ...

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Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

aviator, dancer, and musician, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the fifth of seven children to Sarah Ragsdale and a father surnamed Jones. Official records such as census records from 1930 and the Social Security Death Index list her birth year as 1906, but family records, photographs, and anecdotal evidence indicate her birth year as between 1900 and 1903. After she was widowed Marie's mother left Muskogee for Los Angeles, California, along with Marie and some of her siblings, where they settled in a vibrant, multiracial neighborhood in East Los Angeles. When Marie's mother married David Austin, a former guitarist for the singer Sissieretta Jones (Black Patti) in 1910, Marie took her stepfather's surname, Austin.

Coker attended and graduated from Central High School in Los Angeles and was the first in her immediate family to attain a high school diploma She was a precocious child particularly ...

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Vonzele David Reed

hip hop producer and businessman, was born Sean John Combs in Harlem in New York City to Melvin and Janice Combs. Combs's childhood years were spent in Harlem, where his father worked for the board of education and as a cab driver. His mother was a model. Eager to provide for his family, Melvin Combs succumbed to the lure of criminal activity, which ultimately led to his murder in 1973. In 1982 Janice moved her family to suburban Mount Vernon, New York, in an effort to escape the growing violence and unemployment in Harlem.

Following her husband s death Janice worked as a teacher s assistant bus driver and night attendant for children with cerebral palsy His mother s determination to provide for her family influenced Combs to work after school beginning at age twelve Too young to formally apply for his own paper route Combs convinced an ...

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Andrew Du Bois

Born in Harlem and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, Sean Combs attended Howard University and started working in the music industry as an intern at Andre Harrell's Uptown Records. Combs moved quickly through the ranks, producing hits for Uptown artists such as Jodeci and Mary J. Blige. At the age of twenty-two he was made a company vice president.

In 1993 Combs left Uptown to found Bad Boy Entertainment, where he began to assemble a crew of Hip-Hop and Rhythm and Blues talent. Combs served as executive producer on both albums by Bad Boy's biggest star, Notorious B.I.G. Following the 1997 shooting death of Notorious B.I.G., Combs (who rapped as “Puff Daddy”) recorded a tribute song entitled “I'll Be Missing You.” The single was a smash hit, and it sent Puff Daddy's solo debut album, No Way Out straight to the top of the ...