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Bracken, Vivian Carter  

Shennette Garrett-Scott

was born Vivian Carter in Tunica, Mississippi, to Ludalia and Minnie Carter. Her parents’ occupations are not known. She had one brother, Calvin.

Bracken’s family moved to Gary, Indiana, in the late 1920s. In 1939 she graduated from the city’s Roosevelt High School, then worked a number of odd jobs, including a stint with the U.S. Signal Corps during World War II. It was in the corps that she met her future husband James Bracken in 1944. She got her big break in radio in 1948; that year she won a talent search contest sponsored by popular WGES DJ Al Benson who was looking for a male and female DJ duo team. Bracken and Sid McCoy, the future announcer for the TV show Soul Train prevailed over nearly a thousand contestants and debuted on WGES with a fifteen minute show After three months at WGES she started ...


Crossley, Callie Yvonne  

Donna L. Halper

was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the oldest of two daughters of Samuel Crossley, a postal worker, and Mattie (Robinson), a teacher. Her parents met at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and she was raised in a home where education was a priority. She attended all-black schools until high school, when she became one of nineteen black students who integrated Memphis’s Central High School in 1966. It was a difficult experience, but one that helped her to become more confident and taught her to stand up for herself. In high school, history was her favorite subject, but her textbooks made no mention of the accomplishments of people of color. She began to research black history and wrote reports about what she learned. She also became interested in journalism, writing a theater and entertainment column for her school newspaper.

Crossley wanted to go to school somewhere outside of the South and ...


Lil’ Kim  

Daniel Donaghy

was born Kimberly Denise Jones in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, to Ruby Mae Jones and Linwood Jones. Kim attended Queen of All Saints elementary school in Brooklyn. When she was nine her parents divorced and Kim was forced to live with her father, with whom she had a strained relationship. After one particularly violent exchange during which she stabbed her father with a pair of scissors, Kim moved out and dropped out of school. She found a sense of community within a group of aspiring young New York City rappers led by Christopher Wallace, also known as Biggie Smalls, who brought together competing musicians to form the rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A. (a backronym short for Junior Masters at Finding Intelligent Attitudes).

Lil’ Kim was the only female in the group. When Junior M.A.F.I.A. released its debut album, Conspiracy, in 1995 Biggie Smalls featured Kim in ...


Nnaji, Genevieve  

Jeremy Rich

was born in Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria, the fourth of eight children born to her father, a banker, and her mother, a teacher on 3 May 1979. Both parents viewed education as extremely important. Nnaji showed interested in drama at an early age and in 1987 at the age of eight was a child actress on the Nigerian soap opera Ripples After she completed primary school Nnaji went to the Methodist Girls High School in Yaba where she had a daughter Chimebuka Nnaji was extremely protective of her daughter s privacy and would not discuss the details surrounding her birth or the name of the child s father Chimebuka was largely raised by Nnaji s parents Nnaji graduated from secondary school and enrolled at the University of Lagos where she focused on drama and the arts She appeared in commercials for products such as Omo washing powder and ...


Richards, Beah  

Amber Karlins

was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi to Beulah, a seamstress, and Wesley Richards, who was a minister. Richards had a flair for the dramatic from an early age, and as a result, many of the people she grew up with predicted she would eventually grow up to be an actress despite the fact that, as she recalls it, their town didn’t even have a theater.

After years of suffering in Mississippi, where racism ran rampant and white children would stones at her on her way to school, Richards eventually moved to New Orleans, where she attended Dillard University. Her time at Dillard was short-lived, however, and after roughly a year, she moved to San Diego, where she studied at the Old Globe.

After three years and numerous performances in San Diego, Richards relocated to New York City in 1950 She spent the better part of the next decade establishing herself ...