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George H. Douglas

radio and movie actor, was born Edward Lincoln Anderson in Oakland, California. Anderson was from a show business family. His father, “Big Ed” Anderson, was a vaudevillian, and his mother, Ella Mae (maiden name unknown), was a circus tightrope walker. As a youngster Eddie sold newspapers on the streets of Oakland, a job that, according to his own account, injured his voice and gave it the rasping quality that was long his trademark on radio.

Between 1923 and 1933 Anderson's older brother Cornelius had a career in vaudeville as a song and dance man, and Eddie, who had little formal education, joined him occasionally. With vaudeville dying, however, Eddie drifted toward Hollywood. In the depths of the Depression, pickings were slim. His first movie appearance was in 1932 in What Price Hollywood? For a few years he had only bit parts but then he secured a major role in ...


Richard J. Leskosky

actor, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only son of Elizabeth Baskett, a homemaker, and John Baskett, a barber. He was among the first students to attend Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, where he studied pharmacology. A lack of funds, though, forced him to forsake his plans to make that his career.

On a visit to Chicago as a teen, however, he was asked to fill in for a sick performer in a show and developed an interest in acting. On the stage, Baskett toured as singer, actor, and comic under the name Jimmie (sometimes Jimmy) Baskette for most of the top African American companies of the period. He performed with Henry Drake and Ethel Walker's touring variety troupe in Go Get 'Em (1926) and Look Who's Here (1927) and with the prolific Salem Tutt Whitney and J Homer Tutt s ...


C. S'thembile West

choreographer, dancer, and teacher, was born in Cedar Grove, Louisiana, the son of a housepainter. His parents' names are unknown. In the small town of Cedar Grove, right outside Shreveport, Beatty's earliest dance influence was the legendary Katherine Dunham. According to the historian Joe Nash, a close friend and colleague of Beatty, Dunham invited him to “watch dances in progress” when he was eleven years old. Dunham was in rehearsal for Ruth Page'sLa Guillablesse, scheduled to open at the Chicago Civic Opera in 1933, and was trying to keep the young boy's playing from disrupting her work. Beatty danced onstage for the first time in the opera's 1934 season and emerged as a dancer of note after studying from 1937 to 1940 at Dunham's Studio de la Danse in Shreveport. He danced the role of a priest in Dunham'sYanvalou a ...


Jonathan Walton

Black televangelism is a catchall category to describe a range of Protestant and predominantly evangelical ministries that utilize television and/or Webcasts as the primary means of Christian proselytization. This form of religious expression exploded in the final quarter of the twentieth century and propelled the cultural celebrity and spiritual authority of leading televangelists such as Bishop T. D. Jakes and Creflo and Taffi Dollar. Hollywood motion pictures, gospel stage plays, and bestselling publications are just a few of the outgrowths of this ministry form.

Greater inclusion of African American evangelists on white owned conservative Christian networks such as Pat Robertson s Christian Broadcasting Network and Paul and Jan Crouch s Trinity Broadcasting Network can account for in part the expanded opportunities and increased visibility of select African American evangelists Couple this with the expansion of cable networks catering to primarily African American audiences such as Black Entertainment Television and ...


Thomas F. DeFrantz

Afro‐Caribbean dancer and choreographer, was born Percival Sebastian Borde in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the son of George Paul Borde, a veterinarian, and Augustine Francis Lambie. Borde grew up in Trinidad, where he finished secondary schooling at Queens Royal College and took an appointment with the Trinidad Railway Company. Around 1942 he began formal research on Afro‐Caribbean dance and performed with the Little Carib Dance Theatre. In 1949 he married Joyce Guppy, with whom he had one child. The year of their divorce is unknown.

Borde took easily to dancing and the study of dance as a function of Caribbean culture. In the early 1950s he acted as director of the Little Carib Theatre in Trinidad. In 1953 he met the noted American anthropologist and dancer Pearl Primus who was conducting field research in Caribbean folklore Primus convinced Borde to immigrate to the United States as ...


Mary Anne Boelcskevy

actor and singer, was born Laura Bradford in Quincy, Illinois, the daughter of a Dutch mother and a father with mixed black and white parentage. She grew up in Cincinnati, where she sang in church choirs. Her early family life was difficult, and her father arranged her marriage at sixteen to Henry Ward Bowman, a railroad porter. The unhappy marriage lasted only two years. In 1902 Bowman's dream of a singing career began with her professional debut as a member of the chorus in the Midwest tour of the Williams and Walker Company's production of In Dahomey. The show went on to New York and in 1903 toured England, where it also played at Buckingham Palace for the ninth birthday of the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII.

During the tour of In Dahomey Bowman fell in love with Pete Hampton another performer in the show Soon after ...


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 ...


Laura M. Calkins

physician, was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. Little is known about his family or upbringing. Some sources suggest that Brown briefly attended Shaw University, the Baptist-affiliated postsecondary school for blacks founded in Raleigh in 1865; contemporary accounts indicate that Brown graduated from Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Brown pursued undergraduate studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, earning a BA in June 1888. That fall, Brown enrolled in the medical school of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He earned his MD with a special qualification in surgery in 1891. At his graduation, friends from Ann Arbor's Second Baptist Church presented him with a new medical case, as a token of recognition and thanks for his active involvement in the church's choir and social activities during his student days in Ann Arbor.

Brown soon moved to Jefferson County Alabama where a local examining board certified ...


Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician and educator, was born in Mebanesville, North Carolina, one of eight children. Her parents' names are not known. There are no records of Brown's earlier education, but in 1881 she enrolled at Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina, and graduated in 1885. Four years later she married David Brown, a minister, and the following year entered Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, founded in 1850 and the first medical school for women in America. When Brown matriculated at the school in 1891, it was one of the best medical colleges in the country.

After graduating from Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1894 Brown returned to North Carolina and practiced medicine in her home state for two years before going to Charleston South Carolina where she became the first female physician of African ancestry in South Carolina A year later a fellow alumna from Woman s ...


Gerard Robinson

military pilot and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the elder of two children born to Vivian Brown, a public school teacher, and Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Sr., a dentist and newspaper editor who served in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's “black cabinet.” As a young boy Brown lived with his family in Depression-era Washington, D.C., where economic troubles were as harsh as racial segregation in the city's social spheres. Public education was no exception. But Brown did not allow racial bigotry to stifle his academic interests.

Brown began his formal education at Blanche K Bruce School a segregated public institution named after a black U S senator from Mississippi elected during Reconstruction He was fortunate to receive a first rate education at the academically prestigious Paul Laurence Dunbar High School formerly the M Street High School a black public school named after the eminent black poet and alma ...


Robyn McGee

journalist, radio broadcaster, and founder of Calvin's News Service, was born in Washington,-Arkansas, to Joseph Edward and Hattie Ann (Mitchell). Calvin attended the Rural School in Clow, Arkansas, until the seventh grade. From 1916 to 1920 he attended Shover State Teacher Training College in Arkansas, and from 1920 to 1921 he was enrolled at Townsend Harris Hall, City College in New York City.

In 1922, shortly after leaving City College, Calvin was hired by the labor activist A. Philip Randolph as the associate editor of The Messenger magazine. The Messenger—the third most popular magazine of the Harlem Renaissance, after The Crisis and Opportunity—had been founded in 1917 by Randolph and the economist Chandler Owen to advance the cause of socialism to the black masses. They believed that a socialist society was the only one that would be free from racism. The Messenger contained poetry stories and ...


Angela Aisevbonaye and Nataly Bernard

actress, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to Henry Carl Canty, a city hall elevator operator, and Mary Ann Gamble Canty, a housewife. She was born Mary Etta Canty, but later decided to change her name to Marietta because she felt it was a more memorable name for when she went on Broadway. She was the fourth born of five children (Arnold, Henry Jr., Carl, and Emily). She attended Northeast Elementary School and Hartford Public High School, where she became well known for her excellence in elocution and singing. She was a fervent member of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Main Street in Hartford, where she also exhibited her exquisite singing voice.

At age eighteen Marietta was asked to be a last minute replacement for her brother Carl in a Charles S Gilpin Players Production in Hartford She was given ...


Randall Clark

actress and singer, was born Eliza Virginia Capers in Sumter, South Carolina. Nothing is known of her parentage or her early education. She attended Howard College and studied voice at Julliard University before pursuing a career as a singer and actress. One of the results of her classes at Julliard was that she became proficient in several languages, a skill that would serve her well in her later career.

While barely into her twenties, Capers met Abe Lyman. Leader of the popular Lyman Orchestra, he offered Capers the opportunity to tour with his orchestra and perform on his radio program. She put her linguistic abilities to good use on Lyman's radio program, where she was sometimes called upon to sing in Yiddish; after the program left the air in 1947 she was able to find roles in Yiddish theater productions in New York City She was also ...


Jack Sohmer

jazz trumpeter, was born Thomas Carey in Hahnville, Louisiana, a small town west of New Orleans. Nothing is known of his parents, but of seventeen siblings, five of his brothers, including the legendary trombonist and bandleader Jack Carey, were also musicians. His first instruments were drums, guitar, and alto horn, but around 1912 he started playing cornet, working in his brother Jack's ragtime marching band and other similar groups. In 1914, along with the clarinetist Johnny Dodds and the bassist Pops Foster, he played in the trombonist Kid Ory's band and in 1917 toured with Billy and Baby Mack's Merrymakers revue in a group that included Dodds and the pianist Steve Lewis. After leaving the Merrymakers, on the suggestion of the cornetist King Oliver Carey took a job with the clarinetist Lawrence Duhé s Original Creole Band at the Pekin Café in Chicago but not ...


Richard B. Allen

bandleader and trumpeter, was born Oscar Philip Celestin in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, the son of Joseph Celestin, a sugarcane cutter, and Lucy (maiden name unknown). About 1900 Celestin got his first cornet, and for a few years he worked as a cook for a railroad. In 1902 he moved to Saint Charles Parish, where he got his first job as a musician with J. C. Trist's band. In 1906 he moved to New Orleans and worked first as a longshoreman and, in 1909, as a musician at Josie Arlinton's saloon in the local red-light district. The first New Orleans band of which he was a regular member was the Indiana Brass Band. Then he joined Jack Carey's band, where he began to play jazz. Celestin also worked with other New Orleans bands, including Red Allen's Brass Band, the Silver Leaf Band, and Armand Piron s band ...


David Marc

actor on stage, screen, television, and radio, was born in Meridian, Mississippi, where his father was a dentist and his mother a schoolteacher. Their names are not known. He attended Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, where he received a BA in 1931. Though Childress had intended to become a doctor when he entered college, he moved to New York City only months after graduation to begin an acting career. He performed on Broadway in stylized, sometimes stereotypical, roles in such plays as Savage Rhythm (1932), Brown Sugar (1937), and Two on an Island (1940). He also appeared in a number of New York-produced all-black films, including Dixie Love (1933), Hell's Alley (1938), and Keep Punching (1939).

For a good deal of his career Childress was affiliated with Off Broadway acting companies He joined the Federal Theater ...


Scott Yanow

jazz pianist, was born in Flemingsburg, Kentucky. His father, Charles Chittison, was a carpenter who also played several instruments in a street band while his mother, Sarah Jane Chittison, worked as a laundress and a cook. Herman began playing piano when he was eight years old, starting with church hymns. In high school he was the pianist and director of the school orchestra. Chittison studied briefly at Kentucky State College.

Chittison's first professional job was in 1927 with the Kentucky Derbies, a local group. Already a powerful pianist, Chittison spent 1928 to 1931 as a member of Zack Whyte's Chocolate Beau Brummels, a legendary territory band. Chittison made his recording debut with Whyte in 1929. He recorded several songs with the bandleader Clarence Williams in 1930 and 1933 and accompanied the banjoist and singer Ikey Robinson on two duets in 1933 the latter act which had Robinson ...


Constance Valis Hill

tap dancer, raconteur, and stage, vaudeville, and television performer, was born Charles Coles in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of George Coles and Isabel (maiden name unknown). He learned to tap-dance on the streets of Philadelphia, where dancers challenged each other in time-step “cutting” contests, and he made his New York debut at the Lafayette Theater in 1931 as one of the Three Millers, a group that performed over-the-tops, barrel turns, and wings on six-foot-high pedestals. After discovering that his partners had hired another dancer to replace him, Coles retreated to Philadelphia, determined to perfect his technique. He returned to New York City in 1934 confident and skilled in his ability to cram several steps into a bar of music Performing at the Harlem Opera House and at the Apollo Theater Coles was reputed to have the fastest feet in show business And at the Hoofer s Club where only ...


Todd Steven Burroughs

In the late nineteenth century, black comedy was about to burst out of the shadows of minstrelsy that it had been forced into by whites. Born in Africa via folktales and verbal contests and raised in America, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century African American humor was created by several tensions: the relationship between the master and the slave, the folktales stressing trickery and mental skill, the stories that showed the superiority of the slave over the master, and the parodies of slave life. The creation of the minstrel shows had resulted in a struggle between whites attempting to control black humor and black minstrels attempting to subvert the degrading black stereotype, performing instead a pantomime that mocked the white audience by playing exaggeratedly to its expectations while at the same time injecting a strain of human dignity into the parts they played.

Bert Williams, who appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies ...


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 ...