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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 ...


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 ...


Pamala S. Deane

radio, stage, and screen actor, was born in Muncie, Indiana, and raised in Hammond and, later, Anderson, Indiana. He was the eldest of nine children born to James Valley Edwards, a laborer, and Anna M. Johnson, a domestic (she would earn a degree in theology in 1949). He graduated from Anderson High School, and after a brief career as a prizefighter, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Knoxville College in Tennessee in 1938. He was employed for a time in the department of industrial personnel at the Calumet Steel Mill and also worked for two years as a district representative for the War Production Board.

Edwards either enlisted or was drafted (his service records were later lost in a fire) in the U.S. Army sometime around 1944 starting as a private in the all black 92nd Infantry Division of the 370th ...


Michael Adams

actor, director, and educator, was born Albert Cornelius Freeman Jr. in San Antonio, Texas, to Albert Cornelius Freeman and Lottie Brisette Coleman Freeman. His parents divorced when Freeman was nine, leaving him to shuttle between his mother in San Antonio and his father, a jazz pianist, in Columbus, Ohio. Freeman later said that he regretted never getting to know his father, who died in 1968.

Freeman entered Los Angeles City College in 1951, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1954, and returned to college in 1954, studying theater, broadcasting, and speech. He made his stage debut in a 1954 Ebony Showcase Theatre production of Sidney Kingsley'sDetective Story. Freeman also studied acting in Los Angeles with Harold Clifton, Jeff Corey, and the legendary black actor Frank Silvera. In an interview with Ebony he joked ...


John Hanners

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 ...


Jason Philip Miller

actor and performer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the oldest of seven children of George Gunn, a blue-collar laborer, and Mary Briggs Gunn. He attended local schools and had a relatively uneventful upbringing until, when he was twelve, his mother died of complications related to asthma, and the family imploded. Gunn ran away and drifted, riding the rails and generally living an unmoored life, until he at last returned to St. Louis and fell in with a foster family headed by Jewel Richie, an English teacher and diction coach. Richie recognized Gunn's nascent dramatic talents and encouraged him to pursue training and further education.

Gunn was an able student and upon his graduation from high school he found himself with a veritable raft of scholarship offers He attended historically black Tennessee State University TSU in Nashville paused for a three year stint in the army ...


Shennette Garrett-Scott

child actor, was born Allen Clayton Hoskins in Boston to Florence (maiden name unknown) and Allen C. Hoskins Sr. He had one sister, Jane Florence. His parents’ occupations are not known.

Silent film director Hal Roach signed Hoskins to star in his Our Gang short comedy films when Hoskins was between twelve and eighteen months old. Roach had asked the father of Ernie “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, a black child actor in the series, to find a dark-skinned child actor with long hair to play Sammy's younger sister. Morrison returned with Hoskins; Roach liked the toddler immediately and felt that he could play either a boy or a girl because of his long braids. Initially, the studios remained vague about Farina's gender in the earliest Our Gang shorts he sometimes wore dresses and at other times pants After several films his character Farina was established as Sunshine Sammy and ...


Mark Steven Maulucci

singer, guitarist, and songwriter, was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. His mother died when he was five years old, and he moved to the L. C. Haves plantation in Hollindale, in southern Mississippi, to be reared by his grandmother. He never knew his father. Jones was interested in music and sang in the church choir. He made his living working in the cotton fields and visited the local juke joints to sing and dance with the bands passing through. His accomplished dancing skills would serve him well as he developed his stage act. Jones began working with fellow Greenwood native Willie Warren's band and started playing guitar at Warren's encouragement. He was deeply moved by the slide guitar playing of Robert Nighthawk. Jones met his first wife, Virginia Dumas when he was eighteen years old but the marriage was short lived as he spent time in ...


Willie Hobbs

visual artist and educator, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Alyce and Edward Love, about whom little is known. After attending Manual Arts High School, Love, a baseball standout, was slated to be recruited by the San Francisco Giants. The U.S. Air Force proved more attractive to Love than baseball. While serving a five-year stint in the military that ultimately took him to Japan, Love became deeply influenced by Japanese culture. He also developed an affinity for the music of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and the discourse of the Black Arts Movement, as well as a fascination with architectural design.

After an honorable discharge, Love earned a BFA in Sculpture in 1966 and an MFA in Design in 1967 from California State University Los Angeles A postgraduate fellowship to study humanities and fine arts at Uppsala University in Sweden soon followed While there ...


Pamela Lee Gray

singer, was born Frank Joseph Lymon in Washington Heights, New York City, to Jeannette and Howard Lymon. His father was a truck driver and part-time vocalist with a group called the Harlemaires. At twelve Lymon joined his brothers Lewis and Howie in a group they had formed called the Harlemaires Jr. While working as a grocery clerk in Harlem in 1954 and practicing drums with his brother at Stitt Junior High School, Lymon joined another group that called itself either the Ermines or the Premiers, or sometimes the Coupe de Villes. Lymon sang backup and duets with the group, which included Jimmy Merchant, Sherman Garnes, Herman Santiago, and Joe Negroni.

Exactly how the group was “discovered” is the subject of some conjecture. According to the most romantic version, the Premiers practiced under the apartment window of Richard Barrett lead singer of a group ...


Bruce Sylvester

rhythm and blues singer, was born in Durham, North Carolina, to George McPhatter, a preacher, and Beulah Newton McPhatter, an organist and choir director. While his birth date has also been given as 15 November 1932, 1933, and 1934, Social Security records indicate 1931. At age five, Clyde Lensey McPhatter began singing with his siblings in the choir of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, where his father preached and his mother was organist and choir director.

In the 1940s, his family moved to New York, where his father preached at Mount Lebanon Church in Harlem. McPhatter attended Chelsea Vocational School, worked in a food market, and toured in a gospel sextet, the Mount Lebanon Singers, whose members included author James Baldwin's brothers David and Wilmer Baldwin.

Despite his conservative parents objections McPhatter competed in the Apollo Theater s Amateur Night One of ...


David Sanjek

pianist and singer, was born in Houston, Texas, one of thirteen children of Amos Milburn Sr., a laborer for a general contractor, and Amelia, a homemaker. Milburn exhibited a precocious musical talent and began to play piano at the age of five. Eager to serve in the military, Milburn lied about his age and entered the U.S. Navy when only fifteen years old. He served in the Pacific Theater and was wounded in engagements at Guadalcanal and the Philippines. In his off-hours, he played at military clubs, and when he returned home to Houston at the age of eighteen, he possessed sufficient skill and organizational wherewithal to form a band.

In 1946, during a performance in San Antonio, Lola Anne Cullum the wife of a Houston dentist approached Milburn and solicited him for her booking and management agency She recorded some work by Milburn and ...


Jason Philip Miller

comedian and actor, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to parents about whom little information is available. He was raised by his grandfather, a minister in a Baptist church and the guiding hand who would direct Morris into an early version of show business. Under his grandfather's watchful influence, Morris took up singing in the church choir and showed great flair for performance, even as a young boy. After high school, he attended Dillard University in New Orleans.

In 1958 Morris took part in a National Association of Negro Musicians singing competition, but on his way home to New Orleans, he stopped off in New York City and found a place with the Harlem YMCA Drama Club. The young man who wanted to be a singer had now been bitten by the theater bug. Not long after, Morris found work with the Harry Belafonte Singers with whom he ...


Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Murphreesboro, Tennessee, one of two children of Frank E. Sr. and Rosa Sublett, who were divorced in 1931. When Sublett was about five years old, the family moved to Highland Park, Illinois, and a year later to Glencoe, Illinois, another Chicago suburb. Sublett spent most of the rest of his life in Glencoe. His education in the first eight grades was in Glencoe, and he then went to high school in nearby Winnetka. He was among the very few black students in the high school, from which he graduated in 1938, but he later recalled that he encountered no prejudice there (Stillwell, 149). As a teenager he got his first exposure to service life when he attended Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Riley, Kansas, for two summers. He spent the 1938–1939 school year at the University of ...


Shanteé Woodards

ventriloquist, radio personality, and emcee, was the oldest child born to Bertha and Arthur Takeall in Annapolis, Maryland. His father worked at the Navy Experimental Station, and his mother was a homemaker and community activist. Takeall was a sickly child who stuttered and developed rheumatic fever in the seventh grade. To regain strength from his illness, he ran track at Wiley H. Bates High School, the area's all-black school. He also learned ventriloquism to cope with his stutter. Takeall continued to participate in a variety of sports throughout his life and learned karate from U.S. Marine Corps gunning sergeant Howard George. By the time he was seventeen, Takeall had a black belt and gave lessons to others at the nearby white school, Annapolis High School, in 1964 He also held a variety of jobs including one as a cashier at Dairy Queen which was an ...


Erich Nunn

actor, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Will Thomas, a janitor, and Mattie Thomas. He became famous at the age of three when he assumed the role of Buckwheat on the television series Our Gang.

In February 1934 Thomas was discovered at one of a series of auditions that Our Gang producer Hal Roach staged at the Lincoln Theatre in a predominately black section of Los Angeles to find a replacement for the show's previous African American characters, played first by Allen Clayton “Farina” Hoskins and then by Matthew Beard Thomas s character was modeled after Hoskins s both wore ragged oversized clothes had kinky pigtailed hair were of ambiguous gender and used exaggerated facial expressions These characteristics and Buckwheat s stylized dialect led to much criticism that his character like Farina perpetuated the pickaninny stereotype that originated in blackface minstrelsy Thomas however insisted ...


Amalia K. Amaki

photographer and film producer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to William Howard Wallace, a chef and musician, and Margaret Shannon Wallace, a real estate broker. William was the younger of the couple's two children; his older sister, Jacquelyn, was born 9 August 1936. William attended Chicago's public schools, graduating from Betsy Ross Elementary in 1951 and Central YMCA High in 1955.

Wallace's uncle gave him a camera on his tenth birthday, triggering his fascination with photographic images. With money he earned from his paper route, Wallace bought his first developing kit the following year. Three years later his family moved to a new apartment, and their landlord, Anthony Haywood was an accomplished freelance photographer with his own darkroom Noticing Wallace s interest in the medium Haywood took him under his tutelage Guided by Haywood Wallace developed the fundamental technical skills that prepared him for ...


James Fargo Balliett

musician and record producer, was born in Buffalo, New York, to Lillian Washington, a hairdresser and business owner, and Grover Washington Sr., a steelworker. Young Washington grew up in a family that encouraged creativity in music. His father played saxophone and was an avid record collector, and his mother sang in the church choir. Both of Washington's brothers were also musically inclined: Darryl played the drums and Michael played the keyboard At age ten Washington began playing saxophone and by his teenage years was sneaking out of the house to watch and play in jazz clubs His parents enrolled him in the Wurlitzer School of Music to study classical music He took lessons on the piano bass guitar and drums By high school he was a member of the Buffalo all city high school band as a baritone saxophonist At age sixteen Washington left home to become a professional ...


violinist and guitarist, was born Claude Gaberial Williams in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the son of Lee J. Williams, a blacksmith, and Laura Williams, a homemaker. The youngest of six children, Williams learned to play piano, guitar, and four-string mandolin from his brother-in-law Ben Johnson. He taught himself the violin in his youth after hearing Joe Venuti play. After becoming proficient on violin, Williams joined his brother-in-law's string band. The band traveled by train on a circuit between Muskogee, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. The band performed ragtime, popular standards, and blues for tips in barbershops, hotels, and on the street.

In 1927 Williams joined T. Holder's Dark Clouds of Joy at the Louvre Ballroom in Tulsa The band alternated between Tulsa and Oklahoma City playing jitney dances so called because the management would give away a car commonly referred to as a jitney as a door prize ...