1-20 of 21 Results  for:

  • Theater and Film x
  • Military and Intelligence Operations x
Clear all


Marlene L. Daut

Medal of Honor recipient, actor, and playwright, was born in Richmond, Virginia, of unknown parentage. Beaty (sometimes spelled Beatty) was born a slave, but little else is known of his early years or how he came to be free. Beaty left Richmond in 1849 for Cincinnati, where he would spend the majority of his life, and became a farmer. Later, Beaty's education consisted of an apprenticeship to a black cabinetmaker in Cincinnati, as well as a tutelage under James E. Murdock, a retired professional actor and dramatic coach.

On 5 September 1862 Powhatan Beaty along with 706 other African American men was forced to join Cincinnati s Black Brigade after Confederate troops repeatedly threatened the city The Black Brigade was one of the earliest but unofficial African American military units organized during the Civil War but it did not engage in any military action since the city was ...


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 ...


Virginia Whatley Smith

W. E. B. Du Bois argued in The Souls of Black Folk (1903) that African Americans possessed a unique “double consciousness” because of their “twin rooted” heritage of being both African and American. For William Demby, this dichotomy of racial and national oppositions became an asset rather than a handicap. Born 25 December 1922 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Demby spent his formative years in a middle-class, multiethnic neighborhood where its three African American families resided harmoniously with first-generation immigrants. Individualism prevailed concomitantly with nationalism so that people felt proudly ethnic, but still American, recalls Demby. He never felt divided because of nationalistic practices of discriminating against blacks.

Demby's parents, however, experienced the color problem that Du Bois predicted would be facing the twentieth century. William Demby and Gertrude Hendricks had been aspiring architectural and medical students to Philadelphia s colleges but were denied entrance They lived during the ...


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 ...


Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, director, educator, and screenwriter, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the three children of Lillian (Anderson) and Charles H. Fuller Sr., a printer who instilled in his son the love for words. Fuller was raised in northern Philadelphia in an integrated neighborhood. When he was thirteen he saw his first theatre performance at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. The experienced made a lasting impression on him. Later, he became a voracious reader. His readings made him aware of the cultural and racial biases he made his life's mission to correct.

Success did not come easy to him, though. After graduating high school in 1956 Fuller attended Villanova University in hopes of becoming a writer There he was confronted with racism for the first time as a student being told by his professors that writing was not a good profession ...


Kofi Natambu

actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, and novelist, was born William Harrison Gunn in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of William Gunn, a songwriter, musician, comedian, and unpublished poet, and Louise Alexander, an actress, theater director, and community activist. Gunn grew up in a middle-class neighborhood and attended integrated public schools in Philadelphia, graduating from high school in 1952.

After serving two years in the U.S. Navy, Gunn moved to New York City's East Village in 1954, intending to become an actor. At twenty, he won critical acclaim in 1954 for his portrayal of the young boy in the New Theatre Company's revival of Take a Giant Step. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s he continued to appear in plays on and off Broadway, including The Immoralist with James Dean and productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Troilus and Cressida in 1956 and 1957 ...


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 ...


singer, composer, and actor, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. One of seven children, Hawkins was placed in an orphanage by his mother while still an infant, and information about his parents is scant, though Hawkins believed his father to be of Middle Eastern descent. Accounts vary as to how he spent his childhood. By some accounts he was adopted by a member of the Blackfoot tribe at eighteen months, by others that he spent his childhood in the foster care system. Hawkins was a musical prodigy, playing the piano by age three, reading music by age six, and playing the saxophone by age fourteen. He did not graduate from high school; however, he did attend the Ohio Conservatory of Music for one year in 1943 where he studied opera His goal of becoming an opera singer endured his entire life He was also a boxer winning ...


Judith Weisenfeld

actor, singer, and minister, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Charles Haynes, a bricklayer, and Mary (“Mollie”) Leech, an office cleaner. Haynes was educated in the Atlanta public schools and graduated from the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church–affiliated Morris Brown College.

Haynes worked as a porter in Atlanta and as an itinerant preacher before securing a job in the records division at the Standard Life Insurance Company in Atlanta around 1915. Founded by Heman Edward Perry in 1913, Standard was one of the nation's few black life insurance companies, and Haynes gained valuable business experience working with one of the most active black entrepreneurs in America. While at Standard, he also met Harry Herbert Pace, the company's secretary-treasurer, with whom he would later work in New York. Haynes registered for the draft in 1917 and according to one source ...


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 ...


Justin David Gifford

forensic psychiatrist, novelist, and filmmaker, was born in Washington, D.C., to Devonia Jefferson, a teacher and playwright, and Bernard Jefferson, a judge. At an early age, Jefferson moved with his family to Los Angeles where he attended integrated public schools. Raised in a family that discouraged him from pursing a career as a writer, Jefferson studied anthropology in college, earning his BA from the University of Southern California in 1961. In 1965 Jefferson earned his MD from Howard University and became a practicing physician in Los Angeles. In 1966, he married a teacher named Melanie L. Moore, with whom he would eventually have four children, Roland Jr., Rodney, Shannon, and Royce. Between 1969 and 1971 he served as a captain and psychiatrist at Lockborne Air Force Base in Columbus Ohio It was during this time that he ...


Chris Gavaler

author, actor, and Indian celebrity, was born in Winston, North Carolina, the son of Sallie Long, a nurse and midwife, and Joe Long, a janitor. Sylvester's light-skinned mother was born a slave weeks before the end of the Civil War and was the daughter of a plantation owner and an unknown Lumbee Indian. Long's father, also born into slavery, believed his own mother to be Cherokee and his father white Their claim to exclusively white and Indian ancestry established the Long family as the social elite of Winston s African American community After attending elementary school there Sylvester twice joined traveling Wild West circuses where he passed as an Indian and learned rudimentary Cherokee After returning to Winston and working as a library janitor Sylvester taught himself to type at night in the white school where his father mopped floors The principal suggested he apply ...


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 ...


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 ...


James I. Deutsch

film actor and athlete, was born Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode in Los Angeles, the son of Baylous Strode, a brick mason whose mother was a Blackfoot Indian, and Rosa Norris Strode, whose ancestors included Cherokees. Because of his imposing size—6 feet 4 inches and 215 pounds at his peak—and his physical strength and coordination, Strode first achieved renown as an athlete. At Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, he earned honors in both football and track and field (shot put, high jump, high and low hurdles), which resulted in an athletic scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. However Strode's scholastic credentials were insufficient, so he first had to prove himself academically. Over the next two years he took special classes, while also training for the Decathlon event at the 1936 Olympic Games though he was not selected for the team He finally ...


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 ...


Elliott S. Hurwitt

dancer and comedian, was born in Prescott, Arkansas, the son of George Thompson, whose father, Aaron Thompson, was a local white doctor. Thompson's mother, Hannah Pandora Driver, was six years older than his father and came from a large family that “populated that whole community,” as Thompson would later recall (Helen Armstead-Johnson Collection). The four Driver brothers, including Thompson's maternal grandfather, owned their farms. Several of the Driver girls became schoolteachers in the area, and a Driver cousin of Thompson's was nominated for a bishopric in the 1960s.

Although his family was upwardly mobile Thompson himself had only a rudimentary education men in the family were expected to work as farmers and laborers When Thompson was seven years of age his mother died after this tragic loss life at home was not pleasant for Thompson His father remarried repeatedly and Thompson had numerous half brothers and ...


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 ...