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African Cemetery No. 2 (Lexington, KY)
Start Year : 1869
End Year : 1976
The cemetery has been located at 419 E. 7th Street since 1869 when, according to The Kentucky Leader (02/03/1892), the Union Benevolent Society No. 2 formed "to take care of the sick, bury the dead and perform other deeds of charity." The organization purchased four acres in November 1869; the charter from the Legislature permitted the operation of a cemetery in 1870. In 1875 another four acres were purchased. The official name of the cemetery became Benevolent Society No. 2 of Lexington, Kentucky. Well over 6,000 men, women, and children are interred in the cemetery, and 100 have been identified as U.S. Colored Troops of the Civil War. The information in this entry comes from African American Cemetery No. 2, a flier published by African Cemetery No. 2, Inc. (Feb. 2005). Board member Yvonne Giles has been researching the history of the cemetery and completed the publication titled Stilled Voices Yet Speak in 2009. There is also a film about the cemetery titled Eight Acres of History: Lexington's African Cemetery No.2, produced by the Lexington Public Library Cable Channel 20. For more information about the cemetery, Juneteenth celebrations, and other events, see African Cemetery No. 2 or contact the African Cemetery No. 2, Inc., P. O. Box 54874, Lexington, Kentucky 40555. See also S. Lannen, "Reliving Slavery," Lexington Herald Leader, 6/19/05, City&Region section, p.B1; and M. Riegert and A. Turkington, "Setting stone decay in a cultural context: conservation at the African Cemetery No. 2, Lexington, Kentucky, USA," Building and Environment, vol. 38, issues 9-10 (September-October 2003), pp. 1105-1111.

*NOTE: There are five subpages at the African Cemetery No.2 website: A Brief History ; Grave Markers - Names A-Z ; Horsemen Names ; Newsletter ; Veterans.


Subjects: Businesses, Undertakers, Cemeteries, Coroners, & Obituaries, Benevolent Societies, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Anderson, Sammy Louis "Shake"
Born and raised in Louisville, KY, Anderson is a bassist, guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He has worked with Donna Summer, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, The Indigo Girls, Crystal Lewis, New Breed, and many others. As a songwriter, he was signed to Warner Brothers/Chappel for six years. His musical work with movies includes Dr. DooLittle, Boys on the Side, and Austin Powers. He has performed on Good Morning America, The Tonight Show, and Superbowl XXXVII. Anderson thought that his career had come to an end in 2004 when he was told that he was dying; gastroesophageal reflux disease had caused his esophagus to detach from his stomach, and one of his lungs deflated. After more than nine months in the hospital, Anderson overcame the odds and recovered. His album, Stories from Sammy Louis, is his tribute to another chance in life. The album was recorded at the St. Claire Studio in Lexington, KY. This entry was submitted by Michael L. Meeks. For more see the Shake Anderson website; and J. L. Puckett, "Friends of 'Shake' Anderson to unite for benefit," Courier-Journal, 09/03/2004, Weekend Extra section, p. 12W.
Subjects: Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Bell, Spencer
Birth Year : 1887
Death Year : 1935
Spencer Bell, born in Lexington, KY, was one of the first African American actors to receive a movie contract in Hollywood during the era of silent films. Bell was a comedian, he had acted in vaudeville and in minstrel shows. He performed on screen in Larry Semon movies: No Wedding Bells and The Gown Shop in 1923, and Kid Speed in 1924. Bell played the role of the cowardly lion in the 1925 Vitagraph production of Wizard of Oz, and he played in Peacock Fan in 1929. He was assistant casting director in Queen of the Jungles, one of his last assignments prior to his death. Bell was demeaningly billed as G. Howe Black in Semon's movies, and in his role as the cowardly lion, the subtitle read "Snowball." Spencer Bell lived at 1457 1/2 48th Street in Los Angeles. He was a WWI veteran of the U.S. Army, and is buried at the Sawtell Military Cemetery. For more see "Death claims famous actor Spencer Bell," Los Angeles Sentinel, 08/22/1935, p.1; and Joe Gans by C. Aycock and M. Scott. View The Wizard of Oz (Silent - 1925) on YouTube.

Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration West, Military & Veterans, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Hollywood and Los Angeles, California

Bibb, Charles Leon
Birth Year : 1922
Death Year : 2015
Charles Leon Bibb was born in Louisville, KY. A World War II veteran, Bibb became a classically-trained singer who performed folk music in Greenwich Village in the 1950s and 1960s. He relocated to Vancouver, Canada, where he continued to perform. Bibb appeared in three films with Sidney Portier and was an opening act for Bill Cosby in the 1960s. He was blacklisted for playing in Russia. Bibb had a successful Broadway career, including his performance in the production Lost in the Stars. He also toured with Finian's Rainbow. In 2006 he headlined a concert in Port Coquitlam, Canada. Leon Bibb was the father of Eric Bibb, a blues singer and songwriter. He lived in Vancouver, Canada, where he died October 23, 2015. For more see Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts, 2nd ed., by E. Mapp; In Black and White. A guide to magazine articles, newspaper articles, and books concerning Black individuals and groups, 3rd ed., edited by M. M. Spradling; J. Warren, "Bibb performs with Coastal Sound," The Tri-City News (Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada), 11/15/2006, Arts section, p. 31; and "Leon Bibb, 93, singer and Tony-nominated actor," Boston Herald, 11/01/2015, p.34.


  Hear the singing of Leon Bibb, "Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies" on YouTube.

Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Fathers, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Greenwich Village, New York City, New York / Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Brashear, Carl M.
Birth Year : 1931
Death Year : 2006
Carl Maxie Brashear was born in Tonieville, KY, the son of McDonald and Gonzella Brasher. Carl Brasher was the first African American master diver in the U.S. Navy. Brashear lost the lower part of his left leg in an accident on the USS Hoist; he was the only amputee deep-sea diver to become a master diver. He retired from the Navy in 1979 and settled in Virginia, where he died in 2006. The movie Men of Honor is based on events in the life of Carl M. Brashear. For more see Carl Brashear website.

Subjects: Military & Veterans, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Tonieville, Larue County, Kentucky / Virginia

Calvin, Mandy
Birth Year : 1850
Death Year : 1942
Mandy Calvin became an actress in 1941 when she was selected to play the part of an aged native woman in the Hollywood film Tarzan's Secret Treasure, by MGM starring Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan. Mandy Calvin, supposedly born around 1839, had been a slave in Kentucky, and was living in Los Angeles, CA. She was selected for the film after movie director Richard Thrope asked talent scouts to find the oldest African American woman. Mandy Calvin's name is not listed in the credits, nor are the names of others who had minor parts in the the film. Mandy Calvin is listed in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census with an estimated birth year of 1849, she lived with her grandson Roy P. Lanier and a lodger named Mary Dews. Mandy Calvin died June 5, 1942, according to the California Death Index, and her birth date is given as April 10, 1850. Her mother's maiden name was Ford and her father's last name was Grist, her parents were from Mississippi. For more see "Ex-slave makes her movie debut at 102," Baltimore Afro-American, 10/18/1941, p.14.; "Woman, 102 years makes screen debut," The Sunday Morning Star, 10/26/1941, p.8; and "Mandy begins career at age 102, estimated," Ogden Standard Examiner, 10/09/1941, p.19.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration West, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Los Angeles and Hollywood, California

Carroll, Robert "Bob"
Birth Year : 1905
Death Year : 1952
Carroll, born in Louisville, KY, was a tenor saxophonist who played with the Kentucky Derbies and Jonah Jones' first band, Tinsley's Royal Aces; both were bands in Louisville, KY. Carroll later joined Benny Carter's band in the 1920s and played at the Arcadia Ballroom in New York. In 1934, he was a soloist with Don Redman's band and was in the film short, Don Redman and his Orchestra. Carroll played on a number of recordings with various bands, including that of Fats Waller. Carroll was an army veteran, having served during World War II. For more see Robert Carroll, an website; a picture of Tinsley's Royal Aces on p. 163 in The World of Swing, by S. Dance; and "Bob Carroll" in the Oxford Music Online Database.
Subjects: Migration North, Military & Veterans, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / New York

Chenault, Lawrence E.
Birth Year : 1877
Lawrence E. Chenault was born in Mt. Sterling, KY, and his family later moved to Cincinnati, OH, where he was a soloist at the Allen Temple Church. Chenault joined Al G. Field's Negro Minstrels in 1895 and two years later was a featured tenor and character, "Golden Hair Neil," with A. G. Field's Darkest American Company. He was also in Black Patti's Troubadours and a number of other groups. He performed with Ernest Hogan in the M. B. Curtis Minstrels, touring America, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Hawaii. On the return to the U.S., Chenault spent time performing in San Francisco before rejoining Hogan on the Smart Set. He would become the first leading man with the Lafayette Players Stock Company. In 1928, Chenault collasped and had to take time away from acting to cope with the death of his friend, ventriloquist Johnnie Woods, who was Chenault's roommate and "constant friend, companion, and co-worker" [source: "Chenault stricken by loss of friend," The Afro-American, 09/08/1928, p.2]. He would return to acting and performed in Black films, appearing in more leading roles than any other actor in silent films: 22 films between 1920 and 1934 [filmography]. For more see "Lawrence E. Chenault" in Blacks in Blackface, by S. T. Sampson.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Mount Sterling, Montgomery County, Kentucky

Cobb, Lewis Arthur Gill "Shoe Shine"
Birth Year : 1966
Death Year : 2009
Lewis Cobb was a modern day, professional shoe shiner who promoted his business in downtown Lexington, KY. [His first name has also been written as Louis in various articles.] Cobb was well known by business owners and others who worked or frequented the downtown area. It was a rare sight to see an African American shoe shiner soliciting business on the streets of Lexington in the 21st Century, most had disappeared during the early decades of the 1900s [1907 picture of African American shoe shiner on Lexington street]. Shoe making and repairs, and shoe care had been predominately slave trades in Kentucky prior to the Civil War. After slavery ended in Kentucky with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, African American shoe makers were abundant in Lexington. By the 1930s, there were more than one hundred African Americans in Lexington who earned a living as self-employed shoe shiners and repairers, or they were employed within businesses such as cleaners, barbershops, hat shops, horse industry businesses, train and bus stations, and shoe stores. When Lewis Cobb started his shoe shine business in Lexington, it was said that he could be controversial, often humble, and offered a bit of philosophy, therapy, and spiritual inspiration while shining an individual's shoes. Not everyone welcomed Cobb's presence and when authorities received complaints, Cobb was ticketed by the police for operating his business without a peddler's license. With the help of attorney Gaitwood Galbraith, the charges were dropped; shoe shiners are not peddlers. But that did not prevent Cobb from receiving tickets for jaywalking and other infractions. Over time, Cobb refined his approach toward potential customers, the ticketing eventually stopped, and Cobb became well known in downtown Lexington. Lewis Cobb had learned the shoe shine business from a professional shoe shiner in Washington, D. C who also went by the name "Shoe Shine". Cobb had moved to D.C. from Virginia. He lived in Virginia for ten years and while there he established Cobb's Cleaning Service. Prior to living in Virginia, he had earned a college degree in North Carolina. Cobb was a native of Lexington and graduated from Bryan Station High School. He grew up in the Charlotte Court housing projects [now the Arbor Grove neighborhood]. In 2002, Lewis Cobb returned to Kentucky from D.C. and began his shoe shine business that summer. Two years later, he met Erin McAnallen-Wilson, a University of Kentucky student who completed a documentary about Cobb's life. The film, Can't Stop the Shine, was shown at the Kentucky Theatre in downtown Lexington on May 25, 2006. Lewis Cobb was the son of Betty Beatty and William A. Cobb. Information about his life was provided by his sisters Velma Johnson, Valois Lewis, and Arletta Taylor. Articles about Lewis Cobb include C. Thompson, "Shoeshine pro becomes subject of documentary," Lexington Herald-Leader, 05/23/2006, section D, p.1; and J. Brammer, "Shoeshine, well-known in downtown Lexington is remembered as a character," Lexington Herald-Leader, 11/12/2009, City/Region section, p. A3.
Subjects: Businesses, Shoes: Finishers, Makers, Repairers, Shiners, Stores, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Conley, Nellie [Madam Sul-Te-Wan]
Birth Year : 1873
Death Year : 1959
Nellie Conley, an actress, was born in Louisville, KY, the daughter of Silas Crawford Wan and Cleo de Londa. In 1983, she was posthumously inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Conley went by the name Madame Sul-Te-Wan, acting in early films such as Birth of a Nation and later films such as Carmen Jones and Tarzan and the Trappers. Prior to moving to California and acting in films, Conley had moved from Louisville to Cincinnati, Ohio. While there, she formed "The Black Four Hundred," an acting company that employed 16 performers and 12 musicians. The company was successful, as was a minstrel company that Conley established. Conley soon married and eventually moved to California. Two years later, she had just given birth to her third son when her husband left her. Her money was gone, so for a period of time Conley had to rely on charity. Times got better when she was hired by Kentucky native D. W. Griffith for the movie The Clansman; her pay was three dollars a day and increased to five dollars a day. She and D. W. Griffith remained friends for the rest of their lives, and she had bit parts in seven of his films. She also continued to perform in vaudeville, silent films, and talkies [films with sound]. In 1949, Conley married Anton Ebenthur, who was French; the couple married five years before interracial marriages were legal in California. According to writer Victor Walsh, Conley and Ebenthur were active members of Club Miscegenation in Los Angeles. [It has also been written that Conley was the mother of Ruby Dandridge (1900-1987) and the grandmother of Dorothy Dandridge (1922-1965).] For more see Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, vol. 18: Sept. 1992-Aug. 1993; Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts, 1st ed., by E. Mapp; The Negro Trail Blazers of California, by D. Beasley; and V. Walsh, "Women's History Month: Madame Sul-Te-Wan; Hollywood's first African American actress," Oakland Post, 03/19/1997, p. 8.

See photo image and additional information about Nellie Conley at
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Businesses, Migration North, Migration West, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Grandparents, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Interracial Marriage and State Laws, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio / California

Connors, Charles Raymond "Chuck"
Birth Year : 1930
Death Year : 1994
Connors, born in Maysville, KY, was a bass trombonist who studied at the Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C. He earned a MusB degree in 1956 from the Boston Conservatory. Connors played with Dizzy Gillespie and was employed at other non-music related jobs before joining the Duke Ellington Orchestra, 1961-1974. He was recorded on film with the group, including the documentary Mexican Suite in 1972, and The Duke Live in Europe 1963-64. Connors's performances can be heard on the albums Soul Call, Ellington 65, hits of the 60's, and many other Ellington albums. Connors also recorded with Teresa Brewer and with Mercer Ellington, who was Duke Ellington's son. Mercer took over the orchestra after his father's death in 1974. It is believed that Chuck Connors lived in Cincinnati, OH, after he retired from performing. For more see "Chuck Connors" in the Oxford Music Online Database; and he is included in the picture on p. 332 in Music is My Mistress, by D. Ellington.
Subjects: Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio

Crump, Steven
Birth Year : 1957
Steven Crump, a news reporter and an award-winning documentary filmmaker, was born in Louisville, KY. He has won a number of awards for his work. Crump is a reporter with WBTV 3 in Charlotte, NC. He has produced more than 20 documentaries that focus on African Americans and the Civil Rights Era. The titles include Forgotten at the Finish Line, Souls of Passage, Nickles from Heaven, Airmen and AdversityLessons from the Lunch Counter, and Louisville's Own Ali, which was recognized as a 2008 NABJ Salute to Excellence Award title. The documentaries are aired at WTVI (Charlotte, NC) and have also aired on other educational and public television stations around the U.S. Crump is a graduate of Trinity High School in Louisville and Eastern Kentucky University. This entry was submitted by Suzanne D. Cordery. For more see M. Washburn, "Steve Crump's documentary takes us to landmarks of Civil Rights Era," The Charlotte Observer, 01/18/2009, Carolina Living section, p.1E; "New ASC Award honors lifetimes of creativity," The Charlotte Observer, 09/21/2008, Carolina Living section, p.3E; and L. M. Imuhammad, "Louisville's own Ali," The Courier-Journal, 01/15/2007, Features section, p.1E.

See photo image and additional information about Steven Crump at
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Authors, Historians, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Television, Migration East, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Charlotte, North Carolina

Dean, Dora [Dora Dean Babbige Johnson]
Birth Year : 1872
Death Year : 1949
Dean, whose birth name was Dora Babbige, was born in Covington, KY. She was known in vaudeville as "The Black Venus." She was married to Charles E. Johnson, and they performed as a couple, often billed as the creators of the Cake Walk dance. Dean and Johnson were a stylish and graceful dance team who perfected the Cake Walk into a high-stepping swank. They also performed soft shoe and wing dancing; they were stars of "The Creole Show," emphasizing couples dancing. Dean and Johnson were the first African American couple to perform on Broadway. They were also the first to perform in evening attire; they were the best dressed couple on stage. Dean was described as possessing a plump, striking figure; she posed for German painter Ernest von Heilmann, and the painting was unveiled in 1902 at the coronation of King Edward VII and exhibited at the Paris Expo. The couple was also the first to use steel taps on their shoes and the first to use strobe lighting. Beginning in 1903, they lived and performed mostly in Europe and some in Australia and the U.S. They returned home in 1913. The couple had divorced in 1910, and once back in the U. S. they continued performing but did not perform together for a long while. In 1930, Dean had an acting role in the film Georgia Rose, an all African American talkie by white director Harry Gant. Dean and Johnson reunited as a team and a couple in 1934, and both retired by 1942. They spent the remainder of their lives in Minneapolis, MN. For more see Tap Roots, by M. Knowles; "Dora Dean" in the Biographical Dictionary of Dance, by B. N. Cohen-Stratyner; and vol. 2 of the African American National Biography, edited by H. L. Gates, Jr. and E. B. Higginbotham.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration West, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Covington, Kenton County, Kentucky / Europe / Australia / Minneapolis, Minnesota

Duncan, R. Todd
Birth Year : 1903
Death Year : 1998
Born in Danville, KY, Robert Todd Duncan was the son of John Duncan and Lettie Cooper Duncan, who was a music teacher. The family moved to Indianapolis when Todd was a boy. After graduating from high school, Duncan earned his B.A. from Butler University and an M.A. in teaching from Columbia University Teaching College. He taught at the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes from 1925-1930 and at Howard University from 1931-1945. He played Porgy in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, breaking the color barrier in American opera. Duncan also appeared in the films Syncopation and Unchained. For more see Blacks in Opera, by E. L. Smith; Who is Who in Music, 1941; and Current Biography, 1942. View images and listen to Todd Duncan, Ann Brown "Bess, You Is My Woman" Original Porgy and Bess (1940) on YouTube.

Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Education and Educators, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky / Indianapolis, Indiana

Early African American Theaters in Lexington, KY
The Frolic Theater, operated by an African American, opened in 1907 and closed in 1910. In 1910, the Gem Theater opened, closing by 1916; the Gem had films and live entertainment and was part of the vaudeville circuit. The Pekin Theatre at 415 West Main Street, owned by Gray Combs, was also in operation in 1910. Of the six movie theaters in downtown Lexington, four allowed African Americans to sit in the segregated balcony seats. In 1947, the American Theater Corporation in Indianapolis opened the Lyric Theatre at the corner of Third Street and Elm Tree Lane in Lexington. When the theater opened, it was billed as "the nation's finest colored theater." There were movies and live entertainment from greats such as Big Maybelle, the Oreos, Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway, and many others. The Lyric Theater closed in 1963, but the building was still standing, though in disrepair. The Lyric theater was restored and opened to the public in 2010. For more see C. T. Dunn's Gaines Fellowship Senior Thesis, Finding Voice for the Lyric Theater: an Oral History; Brazley and Brazley, Inc., the unpublished Research for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Survey and History of the Lyric Theatre; G. A. Waller, Main Street Amusements: movies and commercial entertainment in a Southern city, 1896-1930; articles in the Lexington newspapers: the Herald, the Leader, and the Lexington Herald-Leader; and H. T. Sampson, The Ghost Walks; a chronological history of blacks in show business, 1865-1910.

See photo image of the Lyric Theatre and additional information at the Lyric website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

The Gem Theater, and the Lincoln Theater (Lexington, KY)
Start Year : 1910
End Year : 1916
Announced in the "Colored Notes" of the Lexington Leader newspaper on November 10, 1910, p.9, was the anticipated opening of the Gem Theater by two colored businessmen from Cincinnati, OH, John Clark and Chester Brady. The theater opened in the Old Blue Grass Theater location, 404 W. Main Street and there was seating for up to 300 people. In print, the theater was sometimes referred to as a "Negro showhouse" [source: The Moving Picture World, v.29,  July-September 1916, p.120]. The theater was part of the Grand Central Vaudeville Circuit and the Dudley Circuit. The Grand Central Vaudeville Circuit was formed in Chicago in 1911 and included colored theaters in Lexington, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Springfield (Ohio), and Dayton [source: "New Circuit Formed. Vaudeville Managers of the Middle West Have Harmoninous Meeting in Chicago-New," Freeman, 02/04/2011, p.5]. The Gem was a picture house, and a stage for local talent shows and vaudeville entertainment. Sunday shows ran from one hour after lunch to about 10:30pm. In 1915, the Gem was one of the Lexington theaters that opposed the Sabbatarian Movement that wanted the movie shows, base ball, and other public pastime activities closed on Sundays during morning and evening church service hours [source: Main Street Amusement by G. A. Waller, pp128-136, "Sabbatarian Campaigns"]. When the theaters did not close on Sundays, indictments were handed down against the owners of the following Lexington theaters: Colonial, Orpheum, and the Gem. Wilbur F. Crafts, founder of the American Sabbath Union, was brought to Lexington and he held several rallies at local churches. The rally for African Americans was held at the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). The grand jury indictments went to court in 1916 and each of the theater owners paid a $10 fine, and the Gem and other theater houses continued to be open on Sundays. R. F. Bell was an early manager of the Gem, and in 1911 he purchased and reopened the Lincoln which was another colored theater in Lexington, KY that first opened in 1910 [sources: "Colored Notes" in the Lexington Leader on 11/26/1911, p.13, and 01/04/1912, p.11]. Bell purchased the Lincoln Theater at a sheriff's sale. The Lincoln was located at 415 W. Main in the building that had been the Pekin Theater; it was across the street from the Gem. In addition to movies and entertainment performances, the Lincoln also served as a distribution point for the sale of the Freeman newspaper [source: last sentence in the article "Lincoln Theater, Lexington KY" in the Freeman, 07/15/1911, p.6]. For a brief period, R. F. Bell managed both colored theaters. In 1912, R. F. Bell, under the name of Gem Theatre Company, opened a "vaudeville and moving picture house in Winchester [KY]" [source: "Colored Notes," Lexington Leader, 05/19/1912, p.4]. There was also a base ball team called The Gem Theaters, the team defeated the All-Stars in 1912 [source: "Colored Notes," Lexington Leader, 06/10/1912, p.7]. In 1914, the Gem, then at 415 W. Main Street, was sold to Willis Elwood Burden. Willis and his wife, Bertha Burden, are listed on p.154 in Polk's Lexington City Directory, 1914-1915 and again on p.165 in R. L. Polk & Co.'s Lexington City Directory, 1916-1917. Willis E. Burden was born abt1883 in Indiana, according to the 1910 U.S. Census, and his wife Bertha Burden was born abt1883 in Kentucky. In 1910, the couple lived in Madison, IN, and was the servant and cook for a private family. In 1911, the couple lived in Muncie, IN, and Willis and his brother James were the proprietors of Burden Brothers, owners of the Royal Cigar Store and Pool Room; and Willis, who was a tailor, also owned a cleaning, pressing, and repairing business [source: p.232 in Emerson's Muncie Directory, 1911-1912]. When Willis E. Burden purchased the Gem in Lexington in 1914, he moved his family to Kentucky. They were in Lexington for at least 2 years, 1914-1916, then left and settled in Cleveland, OH, where Willis Burden was employed as a chauffeur in 1923 [source: p.731 in Cleveland City Directory, 1923]. The Gem Theater nor the Lincoln Theater existed beyond 1916. The address 404 W. Main Street, the initially address given for the Gem, was the business location for Mutual Beneficial Life Insurance Company in 1914, as was the same for 1916; the Gem Theater had moved [sources: p.63 in Polk's Lexington City Directory, 1914-1915; and p.66 in R. L. Polk & Co.'s Lexington City Directory, 1916-1917]. The address 415 W. Main Street was the location of the Gem in the 1914 city directory [p.652]; R. F. Bell had moved the Gem into what had been the Lincoln Theater. Neither the Gem Theater, nor the address 415 W. Main, was listed in the 1916-1917 city directory. For a more detailed account of the history of the Gem Theater, see "Gem Theater" in Main Street Amusement by G. A. Waller, pp.170-179.
Subjects: Baseball, Businesses, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky, Movies and Films, Tailors
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Gough, John
Birth Year : 1816
Death Year : 1906
Gough had been a slave in Graves County, KY; he moved to Illinois and married Kentucky native Louisa Smith. One of their children, Belle Gough Micheaux (1856-1918), was the mother of Oscar D. Micheaux (1884-1951); Oscar was an author and later established the Micheaux Film and Book Company. He became a producer of films, the first of which was The Homesteader (a silent film). For more on Oscar D. Micheaux see African-Americans in Motion Pictures, the Past and the Present, by Long Island University Library; and The Life and Work of Oscar Micheaux: Pioneer Black Author and Filmmaker, 1884-1951, by E. J. Young.
Subjects: Fathers, Migration North, Grandparents, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Graves County, Kentucky / Illinois

Gough, Louisa Smith
Birth Year : 1833
Death Year : 1913
Gough, the daughter of Louis Hardin and Betty Smith, had been a slave in Graves County, KY. She later moved to Illinois and married Kentucky native John Gough in 1866. One of their children was Belle Gough Micheaux (1856-1918), mother of Oscar D. Micheaux (1884-1951), an author who established the Micheaux Film and Book Company. He became a producer of films, the first of which was The Homesteader (a silent film). For more on Oscar D. Micheaux see The Life and Work of Oscar Micheaux: Pioneer Black Author and Filmmaker, 1884-1951, by E. J. Young.
Subjects: Migration North, Mothers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Graves County, Kentucky / Illinois

Hardin, Walker
Birth Year : 1859
Death Year : 1934
Walker Hardin, born in PeeWee Valley, KY, was the inspiration for the character Walker in the Little Colonel and the 1935 movie The Little Colonel. The following information comes from the Little Colonel website. Walker Hardin was a farm laborer who lived in Brownsboro, KY. He was twice married and was the father of seven children. The family later lived in Stumptown and in Frazier Town, an African American community that developed at the close of the Civil War. The Little Colonel book series was written by Annie Fellows Johnston, a children's fiction author. Several of the novels in the series are based on the olden days of Kentucky during slavery, with a five year old girl as one of the main characters who is known as The Little Colonel. In The Little Colonel movie, the child character is played by Shirley Temple and the character Walker, a Negro house servant, was played by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. 


Additional information: Walker Hardin was probably a slave prior to him and his family gaining their freedom after the Civil War; his name does not show up in the census records until after 1870. In 1880, he was employed as a servant for the Henry Clore family in Rollington, KY [source: 1880 U.S. Federal Census]. He is listed twice in the 1880 Census, once with the Clore family, and a second time as living with his father, also named Walker, and three siblings, all in Brownsboro. In 1900, Walker Hardin (the younger) and his family were living in Peewee Valley [source: 1900 U.S. Federal Census]. Walker Hardin's mother's name is not given in the census records nor is it listed on his death certificate. Walker Hardin's birth year is given as circa 1862 in the 1880 Census, and 1859 in the 1900 Census. Walker Hardin died in Louisville, KY, in 1934 and he is buried in the Peewee Valley African American Cemetery [source: Find A Grave record]. Walker Hardin could not read or write, and there is no record of him ever being an actor or a dancer. Though an inspiration for the character Walker, he had no input in the Little Colonel movie. Nor did he have any say in the book series written from 1895-1931 by Annie Julia Fellows Johnston (1863-1931). The last book in the series was published just before Johnston's death. Annie Fellows Johnston was born in Indiana. Her stepchildren had relatives in Peewee Valley, KY, and she liked the town so much that she moved there in 1898 and would make it her permanent home [source: Annie Fellows Johnston Biography at the Little Colonel website]. She borrowed from real life people and families in Peewee Valley in creating characters in the Little Colonel book series. The selection of the actor to play Walker in the movie was made by the Fox Film Corporation head Winfield Sheehan (from NY) after discussing it with LaGrange, KY native and flim director D. W. Griffith. With Bill "Bojangles" Robinson as Walker and Shirley Temple as Lloyd Sherman, the two presented the first viewing of a white person and a black person dancing together on a Hollywood film. Robinson taught Shirley Temple the tap dance routine. When the movie was shown in southern states, the scenes of the two dancing and holding hands were cut from the film. Walker Hardin died the year before the movie was released in 1935.


  See "Little Colonel Bojangles Dance" on YouTube.
Subjects: Freedom, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Peewee Valley, Brownsboro, Stumptown, Frazier Town, Rollington, Oldham County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Harrison, Tom
Born a slave in Kentucky, Harrison escaped to Ohio around 1854 after his two brothers were sold downriver. Harrison ended up in London, Ontario, Canada, where he met and married his wife. After seeing a play with Edwin Booth playing the role of Richard III, the couple named their son Richard Booth Harrison (1864-1935); he became a famous actor playing in Negro shows, including Shuffle Along and Carmen Jones, and played the role of 'De Lawd' in the film Green Pastures. For more see The Fascinating Story of Black Kentuckians, by A. A. Dunnigan; and The Papers of Winston Coleman.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Fathers, Freedom, Migration North, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Ohio / London, Ontario, Canada

Hathaway, Isaac S.
Birth Year : 1872
Death Year : 1967
Isaac S. Hathaway was born in Lexington, KY, the son of Robert Elijah Hathaway and Rachel Scott Hathaway. His father, Robert E. Hathaway, had been a slave of Garret Davis, a U.S. Senator from Bourbon County. Isaac S. Hathaway was a sculptor; the Booker T. Washington and Carver Washington half dollars were designed by Hathaway, the first African American to design a U.S. coin. He constructed a model for the Wayne suicide case in 1904 and made reproductions for the Smithsonian Institute of the Bath-Furnace meteorite that fell in Sharpsburg, KY, in 1904. He was the first African American to be shown in a movie newsreel working professionally. For more see Who's Who in Colored America, 1950; and Isaac Hathaway, a pioneer in sculptor! a website by The African American Registry. See also the NKAA entry for the Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum in Lexington, KY.

  See photo images at "The Hathaway Family and Isaac Scott hathaway" at the University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology website.
Subjects: Education and Educators, Sculptors, Movies and Films, Suicide
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Higgins, Chester A., Jr.
Birth Year : 1946
Chester Higgins, Jr. was born in Lexington, KY, and grew up in New Brockton, AL. He is a graduate of Tuskegee Institute [now Tuskegee University]. A staff photographer with the New York Times, he also wrote The Black Woman, Drums of Life and a number of other books. He appeared in the documentary film, BrotherMen. His photographs have appeared in Look, Life, Time and numerous other publications. Higgins resides in New York, he is the son of Veridee Young Smith and award winning journalist Chester A. Higgins, Sr. For more see Who's Who Among African Americans, and Current Biography (2002).

See photo image and additional information about Chester Higgins, Jr. at the Kentucky Educational Television, BrotherMen website.

See photo image and additional information about Chester Higgins at The HistoryMakers website. [Higgins was born in Lexington, KY according to the Kentucky Birth Index. Original data at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.]
Subjects: Authors, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Migration North, Photographers, Photographs, Migration South, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / New Brockton, Alabama / New York

Horn, Bobby Joe "Bob Nighthawk Terry"
Birth Year : 1936
Death Year : 1977
Horn was born in Franklin, KY. His on-the-air name was Bob 'Nighthawk' Terry. Horn was a prominent disc jockey of Black radio in Washington, D.C. at stations WOL-AM, 1965-1971, and WHUR-FM, 1971-1975. He had attended the New York School of Announcing and Speech then worked as an on-air personality, producer, host, program director, and manager at a number of radio stations before coming to D.C. He was voted Best Air Personality of the Year, WOL-AM, 1966-1970. Horn left radio to form his own entertainment company and in 1977, he disappeared. In the 2007 movie, Talk to Me, Cedric the Entertainer plays the role of Bob 'Nighthawk' Terry. For more see The Washington Post articles, T. S. Robinson and C. Schauble, "Disc jockey was officials suspect victim of murder," 03/15/1978, Metro section, p. C1; "Missing persons: 5 unsolved cases," 10/23/1983, First Section, p. A16; and F. Ahrens, "A century's strongest signals," 12/28/1999, Style section, p. C1. See also Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business, by F. Dannen; and Who's Who Among African Americans, 1975-2000.
Subjects: Businesses, Migration North, Radio, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Franklin, Simpson County, Kentucky / Washington, D.C.

Humes, Helen
Birth Year : 1913
Death Year : 1981
Born in Louisville, KY, Humes made her first recording in 1927 in St. Louis. She then moved to New York and worked with the Vernon Andrades Orchestra. She replaced Billie Holiday in the Count Basie Band, recorded tunes for film and television, and appeared in the film Simply Heaven [Langston Hughes]. Humes moved to California in the 1940s and when her career slowed in the 1960s, returned to Kentucky. Humes' career picked up in the 1970s. For more see Kentucky Women, by E. K. Potter; and Contemporary Musicians, vol. 19, by S. A. McConnel.

Access InterviewListen to the Helen Humes Oral History (includes transcript) at the University of Louisville Libraries.

View Helen Humes with Dizzy Gillespie c.1947 on YouTube.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration North, Migration West, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Television, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / St. Louis, Missouri / New York / California

Kelly, James M. "Jim"
Birth Year : 1946
Death Year : 2013
Born in Millersburg, KY, Jim Kelly was a martial artist who co-starred in the film, Enter the Dragon, starred in Black Belt Jones, and acted in other movies. He was also a professional tennis player and was a tennis coach. Kelly was an athlete in high school and participated in several sports. He briefly attended the University of Louisville, but left school to study karate. In 1971 he won the International Middleweight Karate Championship. Jim Kelly resided in San Diego, California. His family is from Millersburg, KY, where they resided for more than a century, and includes Kelly's great-grandparents William and Lizzie Lewis, both born in the 1840s according to the U.S. Federal Census. For more see Jim Kelly (II); and Jim Kelly (martial artist) a Wikipeida web site.

See Jim Kelly, Actor In 'Enter the Dragon," Dies, a NPR website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Athletes, Athletics, Migration West, Tennis, Martial Arts, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Millersburg, Bourbon County, Kentucky / California

Kentucky Jubilee Singers
Start Year : 1870
The chorus was probably formed in the mid-1870s but may have existed prior to that. The group toured around the country singing spirituals, and, unlike other jubilee groups, survived at least until the 1890s. In 1928, Forbes Randolph organized an eight-man chorus by the same name; the group was used in a stage production, made film shorts and recordings, and toured in Australia and Europe until the beginning of World War II. Arthur J. Gaines was one of the group members. A trio from the group, known as Day, Dawn, and Dusk, continued to perform until the 1950s. For more see chapter 7 of Lost Sounds: blacks and the birth of the recording industry, 1890-1919, by T. Brooks; and "The Kentucky Singers" in Under the Imperial Carpet edited by R. Lotz and I. Pegg, pp.157-163. *Songs performed by Forbes Randolph's Kentucky Jubilee Singers can be heard on the album, Church Choirs, Gospel Singers and Preachers Vol. 2 (1925-1955), availabe in African American Song, an online listening service by Alexander Street Press.
Subjects: Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Australia / Europe

Lewis, Meade Lux
Birth Year : 1905
Death Year : 1964
Lewis was a pianist and composer. He was born in Louisville, KY, and raised in Chicago. Meade was the son of Hattie and George Lewis. George was employed as a postal clerk and was also a Pullman Porter. Hattie and George were Kentucky natives, and according to the U.S. Federal Census, in 1920 the family was living in apartment 29, a rear unit on LaSalle Street in Chicago. Meade Lewis's first instrument was the violin, which he learned to play when he was 16 years old. He taught himself to play the piano and developed a boogie-woogie style. His best known work is Honky Tonk Train Blues, recorded in 1927. Boogie-woogie was still a new sound. To supplement his income, Lewis worked washing cars and driving a taxi. He played the piano at house parties, clubs, and after-hours joints. His fame is said to have begun in 1938 when Lewis performed in John Hammond's concert at Carnegie Hall. He is regarded as one of the three noted musicians of boogie-woogie. For more see the Meade Lux Lewis entry in the Afro-American Encyclopedia; and "Meade Lux Lewis pianist, is killed," New York Times, 06/08/1964, p. 18. A picture of Lewis and additional information are available in Men of Popular Music, by D. Ewen. View film with Meade Lux Lewis playing boogie woogie on YouTube.

Subjects: Fathers, Migration North, Mothers, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Postal Service, Pullman Porters, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois

Louisville (KY) African American Film and Video Festival
Start Year : 2005
The two day festival was first held May 28-29, 2005, at the Kentucky Theatre in downtown Louisville, KY. All of the films were independently produced. For more about the festival see L. Muhammad, "Black images: Festival focuses on African-American films," Courier-Journal (Louisville), 05/27/05, Metro section.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Martin, Sara [Dunn]
Birth Year : 1884
Death Year : 1955
Born Sara Dunn in Louisville, KY, she began singing in church. At the age of 16 she was married and widowed. Sara took her second husband's last name, Martin. She began as a vaudeville singer in 1915 and later became the highest paid blues singer of the 1920s. She lived for a while in Chicago, then moved to New York. Martin sang with the W. C. Handy Band, sometimes billed as "Moanin' Mama" and sometimes performing under other names. Her first recording was Sugar Blues. She appeared on film with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and in 1930 appeared in the first all African American sound films, Darktown Scandals Revue [produced with The Exile]. Martin returned to Kentucky where she was a gospel singer; she also operated a nursing home in Louisville. For more see All Music Guide to the Blues. The experts' guide to the best blues recordings, ed. by M. Erlewine, et al.; The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3rd ed., edited by C. Larkin; and Classic Jazz, by S. Yanow. View image and listen to Sara Martin & Her Jug Band - I'm Gonna Be a Lovin' Old Soul on YouTube.

Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Businesses, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration South, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois / New York

McClain, William C. "Billy"
Birth Year : 1857
Death Year : 1950
Multi-talented William McClain was a minstrel actor and Hollywood motion pictures actor, he was also a dancer, a musician, a playwright, wrote music and lyrics, and was a short story writer. He played cornet in Lou Johnson's Minstrels, and spent many years with the minstrels in Europe and lived in Paris, France from 1906-1913. He was also a member of Orpheus McAdoo's Jubilee Singers and Concert Company in Australia. One of McClain's works was The Smart Set, written in 1901. He wrote several songs including Shake, Rattle, and Roll. McClain had also trained as a boxer, and he managed and trained famous heavyweight boxer Sam McVey. On the screen, McClain played the role of The King in Nagana in 1933, and appeared in more than 20 movies, the last in 1946. He played various restricted roles, such as a servant, butler, footman, cook, and janitor. In 1938, he played the role of Zeke in Kentucky, and in 1939, the role of a horse groomer in Pride of the Bluegrass [aka Steeplechase]. McClain was the husband of Cordelia McClain, and the father of actress Teddy Peters. At the time of his death, his age was estimated to be 93, but his birth year has also been given as 1866, and his birth location has been given as Kentucky and Indianapolis, IN. For more see "Arrangements incomplete for actor's rites," Los Angeles Sentinel, 02/02/1950, p.A4; "Billy McClain" in Who Was Who On Screen, by E. M. Truitt; A History of African American Theater by E. Hill and J. V. Hatch; and The Ghost Walks by H. T. Sampson.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Boxers, Boxing, Migration West, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Indianapolis, Indiana / Paris, France, Europe / Australia / Hollywood and Los Angeles, California

Micheaux, David
Micheaux was a slave in Calloway County, KY, who was later sold to an buyer in Texas. His wife was Melvina Micheaux. David was the father of Calvin Swan Micheaux, Sr. (1847-1932), who was the father of Oscar D. Micheaux (1884-1951). Oscar was an author and later established the Micheaux Film and Book Company. He became a producer of films, the first of which was The Homesteader (a 1919 silent film). For more on Oscar D. Micheaux, see The Life and Work of Oscar Micheaux: Pioneer Black Author and Filmmaker, 1884-1951, by E. J. Young. For more on David Micheaux, see The Conquest, by O. D. Micheaux. David Micheaux was the father of Andrew Jackson Micheaux, who was the great, great grandfather of pro football player Austin Wheatly. See an Andrew Jackson Micheaux photo.
Subjects: Fathers, Migration West, Grandparents, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Calloway County, Kentucky / Texas

Micheaux, Melvina
Birth Year : 1832
Death Year : 1916
Micheaux was born in Alabama. She and her husband, David Micheaux, were slaves in Calloway County, KY. Melvina and her three children moved to Illinois, later joining other Exodusters in the move to Nicodemus, Kansas. One of her children, Calvin Swan Micheaux, Sr. (1847-1932), was the father of Oscar D. Micheaux (1884-1951), an author who established the Micheaux Film and Book Company. He became a producer of films, the first of which was The Homesteader (a silent film). For more on Oscar D. Micheaux, see The Life and Work of Oscar Micheaux: Pioneer Black Author and Filmmaker, 1884-1951, by E. J. Young. Melvina Micheaux was the mother of Andrew Jackson Micheaux, the great, great grandfather of pro football player Austin Wheatly. See Andrew Jackson Micheaux and Melvina Micheaux photos.
Subjects: Migration West, Mothers, Nicodemus, Grandparents, Exodusters [African Americans migrating West around Reconstruction Era], Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Alabama / Calloway County, Kentucky / Nicodemus, Kansas

Moonglows (musical group)
Start Year : 1952
The Moonglows, the group that perfected blow harmony, are recognized as one of the most innovative vocal groups. The group began in Cleveland, OH, with members Harvey Fuqua from Louisville, KY; Danny Coggins, singing lead; and Prentiss Barnes. [Fuqua is the nephew of Charlie Fuqua, who sang with the Ink Spots.] They were originally known as the Crazy Sounds. Coggins would leave, and Bobby Lester [nee Robert L. Dallas] from Louisville and Alexander Graves were added to the group. Their first recording was "I Just Can't Tell No Lie," a song composed by Harvey Fuqua and Bobby Lester; the two had sung together as teenagers in Louisville. The group's name was soon changed to the Moonglows, and they moved to Chicago, where their first recordings were "Baby Please" and "Whistle My Love." They continued recording on the Chance label until 1954 when they signed with Chess Records; they later signed with the Checker label. In 1956, the group appeared on film in Rock Rock Rock. Over the next few years, the group continued recording and preforming around the U.S. Harvey Fuqua met 14 year old Marvin Gaye in Washington, D.C., and when the Moonglows split up in 1960, Fuqua and Gaye went to Detroit, where Fuqua helped found Motown Records. In 1964, Alexander Graves formed a second group known as the Moonglows, with Doc Green, George Thorpe, and Bearle Easton; the group did not last very long. In 1970, Bobby Lester was back in Louisville, where he formed a third group known as the Moonglows, with Albert Workman, Gary Rodgers, Robert Ford, and Billy McPhatter; this version, too, was short lived. In 1972, the Moonglows were once again restructured with Lester, Fuqua, Alexander Graves, Chuck Lewis, and Doc Williams. The group recorded the chart hit album The Return of the Moonglows. The group was again restructured in 1978 and stayed together until the death of Bobby Lester in 1980, after which Billy McPhatter took over the group that continued performing into the 1990s. The Moonglows were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. For more see Moonglows' entry in American Singing Groups, by J. Warner; Doo-Wop, by R. Pruter; Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul, by I. Stampler; and Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups, by M. Rosalsky. View the video from the 1956 movie Rock, Rock, Rock with The Moonglows - I knew from the start on YouTube.

Subjects: Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Cleveland, Ohio / Chicago, Illinois

Nwangwa, Shirley A. Bacon
Birth Year : 1944
Death Year : 1996
Born Shirley Bacon in Christian County, KY, she received her B.A. in elementary education from Lane College in 1966 and her M.S. in public health and community organization from the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill in 1970. She was employed by the Halifax County Health Department and worked in the area of teenage pregnancy. Nwangwa was the executive producer of the film, The Eye Can Story, a 30-minute documentary created to promote the self-esteem of teenagers and to deter early sexual involvement. For more see Contemporary Black American Playwrights and Their Plays, by G. L. Peterson, Jr.
Subjects: Authors, Medical Field, Health Care, Poets, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Christian County, Kentucky / Halifax County, North Carolina

Powell, William Jennifer, Sr.
Birth Year : 1899
Death Year : 1942
William J. Powell, Sr. was born William Jennifer in Henderson, KY; he had a sister named Edna Jennifer. Their father died, and their mother moved to Chicago and married Mr. Powell, who adopted the children. After high school, William Powell enrolled at the University of Illinois at Champaign [now University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] but left in 1917 to join the U.S. Army. At the end of World War I, he returned to college and earned his electrical engineering degree. In 1928 he left Chicago to enroll in the Warren School of Aeronautics in Los Angeles. Powell learned to fly, and his lifetime goal was to encourage African Americans to become pilots. He saw the field as a way for African Americans to get ahead economically by becoming part of the air age and to help break down the racial barriers in public transportation. Powell was the successful owner of Craftsmen of Black Wings, Inc., an aviation company that offered flying lessons. He also made the documentary film, Unemployment, the Negro, and Aviation (1935); published the trade journal Craftsmen Aero-News (1937-1938); and organized all-black air shows with pilots such as Betsy Coleman and Hubert Fauntleroy Julian. Powell wrote an autobiography, Black Wings (1934). He was the husband of Lucylle Powell and the father of William Jr. and Bernadyne Powell. William Powell, Sr. was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. For more see Black Aviator: the story of William J. Powell, a new edition of William J. Powell's 1934 Black Wings; and see William Jennifer Powell in Encyclopedia of African American Business History, by J. E. K. Walker.

See photo image and additional information about William J. Powell, Sr. at the Find A Grave website.
Subjects: Authors, Aviators, Businesses, Engineers, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Migration North, Migration West, Military & Veterans, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Henderson, Henderson County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois / Los Angeles, California

Randolph, Amanda E.
Birth Year : 1896
Death Year : 1967
Amanda E. Randolph was born in Louisville, KY. Her married name was Hansberry. She began her career in black vaudeville, appeared in all-black films, was a character actress on radio, and was the first African American star (as a maid) in the television sitcom series, Make Room for Daddy. She was the older sister of actress Lillian Randolph. They were the daughters of Jessie W. Randolph, a clergyman born in Pennsylvania in 1845, and Jane Randolph born 1859 in Kentucky; in 1900, the family of four lived in the 7th Ward of Ponchatoula, LA [source: U.S. Federal Census]. For more see Facts on File Encyclopedia of Black Women in America. Theater Arts and Entertainment.

See photo image of Amanda Randolph at
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Radio, Television, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Robinson, Keith
Birth Year : 1976
Keith Robinson, an actor and singer, was born in Kentucky and grew up in South Carolina and later moved to Augusta, GA. He played the character C. C. White, brother to Effie White, in the 2006 award-winning musical film, Dreamgirls. He played the role of the Green Lightspeed Ranger in the TV series Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue and had a guest role in the TV series Monk (2005). He has appeared in several films, including This Christmas, Fat Albert, and the Hallmark movie The Reading Room. Robinson has recorded a few singles. For more see M. K. Hoffman, "Keith Robinson: music is my first love," Jet, vol. 112, issue 3 (July 23, 2007), p. 40; and view Keith Robinson at R&B Live - Spotlight New York on YouTube.

See photo image of Keith Robinson and additional information at IMDb.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration South, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Kentucky / South Carolina / Augusta, Georgia

Sublett, John W.
Birth Year : 1902
Death Year : 1986
Born in Louisville, KY, and also known as John Bubbles, Sublett was a singer and tap dancer who teamed up with Ford Lee Washington; they were known as Buck and Bubbles. Rather than tap-dancing on his toes, Sublett tap-danced by bringing his heels to the floor like a drummer; he also used a number of other techniques. Sublett also played the piano in some of their performances. For more see Who's Who in Hollywood. The largest cast of international film personalities ever assembled, by D. Ragan; and Blacks in Black & White. A source book on Black films by H. T. Sampson. View Buck & Bubbles sing "The Rhythm's OK in Harlem" - 1937 on YouTube.

Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Orphans and Orphanages in Kentucky, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Townsend, Bross Elvie, Jr.
Birth Year : 1933
Death Year : 2003
Townsend was born in Princeton, KY, the son of Jean Calvert and Bross Townsend Sr., who was a truck driver for a grocery store, according to the 1930 U. S. Federal Census. Both parents were Kentucky natives. The family lived on Cave Street in Princeton. Bross Jr. was a jazz pianist who had studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He played with greats such as Woody Herman, Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane as well as for singers such as Diana Ross, Big Maybelle, and Dinah Washington. He appeared in the movie Sweetback. Townsend died in Jamaica, New York. His performances can be heard on a number of recordings, including the albums I Love Jump Jazz, Darling Please Save Your Love for Me, and The Dynamic 3B's After Hours. For more see The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed.; and A tribute to jazz pianist Bross Townsend by A. Bernstein.
Subjects: Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Princeton, Caldwell County, Kentucky / Cleveland, Ohio / Jamaica, New York

Tri-City Messengers
Start Year : 1999
Tri-City Messengers is a six part a capella gospel group from the Benham-Lynch, KY, coal mining area. All but one of the men are retired coal miners. The members are Roy Wilson, Alfonson Sims, George Massey, Bennie Massie, Sanford Baskin, and Willis Bates. For more about the group see the DVD, A Beautiful Sound, by Pigeon Pie Films; and the group's performances on Rhythm of My Soul, a PBS Home Video, and More Than Music, by the Kentucky Historical Society.

Access Interview Listen to the Tri-City Messengers perform during the Berea Celebration of Traditional Music in 2002, a Berea Digital Content website. 
Subjects: Miners, Mines, & Steel Mills, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Ministers, Pastors, Preachers, Religion & Church Work, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Benham and Lynch , Harlan County, Kentucky

Tyler, Charles Lacy
Birth Year : 1941
Death Year : 1992
Tyler was born in Cadiz, KY, and his family later moved to Indianapolis, IN, where he studied piano. He also played the clarinet and the baritone and alto saxophones. He moved to Cleveland, OH, in 1960, where he performed with Albert Ayler, and later moved on to New York. Tyler moved around while playing with a number of groups. He earned a teaching certificate at the University of California, Berkeley and taught music for several years at North Peralta Community College [now Vista Community College] and Mills College. In 1974, he left teaching and continued to play with various groups and tour in the U.S. and Europe. In 1985, Tyler settled in France, where he died in 1992. His recordings include the Charles Tyler Ensemble, Sixty Minute Man, and Saga of the Outlaws. He can be seen performing on the film Rising Tones Cross. For more see "Charles (Lacy) Tyler" in the Oxford Music Online Database. Listen to clips of Charles Tyler's recordings at iTunes Preview.
Access Interview
Subjects: Education and Educators, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Cadiz, Trigg County, Kentucky / Toulon, France, Europe

Van Leer, Darryl
Birth Year : 1961
Darryl Van Leer is an actor, vocalist, writer, and photographer. He was born in Madisonville, KY, and is a graduate of Western Kentucky University. He began his career on BET's "Bobby Jones Gospel Show." Van Leer has appeared in First Time, a Nickelodeon movie, and HBO's The Second Civil War and Up Against the Wall. He was nominated for a 1996 NAACP Theatre Award and was recognized by the National Association of Campus Activities. His one-man plays, which he wrote and produced, represent African Americans such as Malcolm X, Nat Turner, and Marcus Garvey. His more recent work is Rubycat Lawson’s Roadhouse Lounge. There are several videos of Van Leer's performances on YouTube. Darryl Van Leer is also a public speaker, a musician, and he has done stand-up comedy. For more see the Darryl Van Leer website.

See Darryl Van Leer in the YouTube video Roadhouse Lounge.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Authors, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Photographers, Photographs, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Madisonville, Hopkins County, Kentucky

Vance, Richard Thomas "Dick"
Birth Year : 1914
Death Year : 1985
Dick Vance, born in Mayfield, KY, was an arranger who also sang and played the trumpet. Vance's family move to Cleveland, OH, where he studied violin and later the trumpet. Vance settled in New York, where he played with a number of bands and toured with Frank Terry, Lil Armstrong, Kaiser Marshall, Willie Bryant, and Fletcher Henderson, to name a few. He was highly sought after for his ability to write arrangements. Vance wrote for bands that include those led by Fletcher Henderson, Cab Calloway, Don Redman, Billy Eckstine, Glen Gray, and Duke Ellington. Both his arrangements and trumpet playing found on many recordings, include Ellington '55, Stompin' at the Savoy, Coleman Hawkins, 1945, and Fletcher Henderson's Sextet, 1950. He was music arranger on the film No Maps on My Taps and music director on The Spirit Moves [volume 3]. See photo image, about midway down the page, of Dick Vance and other members of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra brass section at the Keep It Swinging blog site. For more see "Dick Vance" in the Oxford Music Online Database; and Who's Who of Jazz.

  See image and hear Dick Vance on trumpet on the song "Stealn' Apples" by The Fletcher Henderson Band, a 1936 Blue Wax label, 78 rpm record - YouTube.
Subjects: Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Mayfield, Graves County, Kentucky / Cleveland, Ohio / New York

Warren, Mark Edward
Birth Year : 1938
Death Year : 1999
Mark E. Warren was born in Harrodsburg, KY, the son of Mary Wade Warren. He was the director of the television program, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and other television sitcoms such as Sanford and Son, The Dukes of Hazzard, Barney Miller, and What's Happening. He won an Emmy Award in 1971 for Laugh-In, and was the first African American to win the award. He had also done some acting, including playing Hoon Driver in The Big Steal. He directed the movie Come Back Charleston Blue. Warren began his career in Toronto with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He was a professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. For more see Who's Who Among African Americans (1999); Who's Who in Entertainment, 2nd ed.; From Beautiful Downtown Burbank by H. Erickson; and "Mark Warren, 60, tv and film director," New York Times, 01/25/1999, p.A21.

  See photo images of Mark Warren in the article "TV's Black Skyrocket: Mark Warren becomes director of 'Laugh-In' in less than two years" in Ebony, April 1970. pp.113-120 [online at Google Books].
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Military & Veterans, Television, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky

Washington, Ford Lee "Buck"
Birth Year : 1903
Death Year : 1955
Born in Louisville, KY, Washington was a pianist, vaudeville dancer, and occasional singer. As a teen, he teamed with dancer John W. Sublett (both were orphans). Known as "Buck and Bubbles," they broke the color barrier by performing in the white vaudeville circuit. In 1922 the team performed at the New York Palace Theatre, the top venue for vaudeville performers. Washington performed in movies and recorded with Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Coleman Hawkins; he also recorded duets with Sublett. He performed for a short time with Jonah Jones. For more see Buck Washington, dancer extraordinaire! and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed., ed. by B. Kernfeld. 

  View Buck and Bubbles... Variety Show (1937) on YouTube.


Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Orphans and Orphanages in Kentucky, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / New York

White, James L.
Born in Mt. Sterling, KY, James L. White served in the Navy and later attended the University of Massachusetts. He later moved to California, where he lived for a while before he and Taylor Hackford became the screenwriters for the 2004 film Ray (about Ray Charles). The movie received six Oscar nominations, and Jamie Foxx, playing the role of Ray Charles, won an Oscar in 2005 for Actor, Leading Role in the film. For more see R. Copley, "'Ray' writer dared to dream: Kentuckian bucked odds, hit big with biopic," Lexington Herald-Leader, 02/27/05.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Artists, Fine Arts, Authors, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Mt. Sterling, Montgomery County, Kentucky / Amherst, Massachusetts / California

Wiggins, Bobbie Reeves
Birth Year : 1949
Wiggins, born in Paducah, KY, is an educator, performer, author and writer. In the 1970s, she performed in movies and other productions, including Abby, Sheba Baby, and Combat Cops / Zebra Killer, which were all produced by Louisville, KY, native William B. Girdler, Sr. Wiggins was also a features writer with West Kentucky News, Kentucky Voice, The Paducah Sun, and Paducah Parenting and Family Magazine, a free publication. Wiggins was a school teacher for 13 yeas in Dallas, TX, and in 1995 she received the Junior Women's League Award for Innovative Teaching. Using the education grant she received in 1995, Wiggins wrote and recorded Rap N Learn in 2000 and It's a Rap in 2002. Both CDs contain curriculum-based songs geared to help young learners who have difficulty grasping language rules and fundamentals. Wiggins is the author of The Legacy of Woodland. She is a graduate of Lone Oak High School and Murray State University, where she received a B.A. in speech and English and an M.A. in speech and theater. Wiggins is a sister to Loretta Reeves Stewart. This information is presented, with permission, from Bobbie R. Wiggins biography.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Authors, Education and Educators, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Children's Books and Music, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky

Wilson, Clarence "Cave", Sr.
Birth Year : 1926
Death Year : 1996
Wilson led the Horse Cave, KY, Colored School to 65 consecutive basketball victories in the 1940s. He was named to the Tennessee State University Hall of Fame. He was a forward and a point guard for the Harlem Globetrotters (1949-1964), known for his two-handed set shot from mid-court. After his basketball career Wilson was a juvenile caseworker and probation officer in Louisville, KY. He and his teammates were in the movie Harlem Globetrotters, starring Dorothy Dandridge and Thomas Gomez. For more see "Former Harlem Globetrotter Clarence 'Cave' Wilson Dies," Lexington Herald Leader, 09/20/96.
Subjects: Basketball, Corrections and Police, Grade Schools & High Schools in Kentucky, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Horse Cave, Hart County, Kentucky / Nashville, Tennessee / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Wilson, Edith Goodall
Birth Year : 1896
Death Year : 1981
Born Edith Goodall in Louisville, KY, she would marry piano player Danny Wilson. She left Kentucky for northern locations to pursue a career of singing and acting. Edith Goodall Wilson became a blues singer who first recorded in 1921. She was the third African American woman to make phonographic records. She acted on radio programs, appeared on stage and in films, and was featured in cookie advertisements as 'Aunt Jemima'. Edith Goodall Wilson was the daughter of Susie A. Goodall. In 1910, the family of six lived on 5th Street in Louisville along with three lodgers [source: U.S. Federal Census]. For more see the Lexington Herald Leader, 09/18/03, p. E2; American National Biography, by J. A. Garraty and M. C. Carnes; and Edith Wilson, a Red Hot Jazz website.

See the image and listen to Edith Wilson - Rules and Regulations by Razor Jim, 1922, on YouTube.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Radio, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Wolfe, George C.
Birth Year : 1954
George C. Wolfe was born in Frankfort, KY. A director, writer, and producer, he has received numerous awards, including the Obie Award in 1990 and the Tony Award for best director in 1993, for the first part of Angels in America, Millennium Approaches; Wolfe was the first person of color to win the award for directing a "white" play. He also produced Paradise (his first professionally produced play), and The Colored Museum and Jelly's Last Jam, both of which are also books authored by Wolfe, and he has completed many other works. Beginning in 1993, he was the producer and artistic director of the New York Shakespeare Festival and the Joseph Papp Public Theater. In 2004, Wolfe moved from theater to film and produced Lakawanna Blues, a play written by Ruben Santiago-Hudson that debuted off broadway in 2001, and Wolfe directed the 2005 award winning motion picture with the same title. George C. Wolfe is the son of Costello and Anna M. Lindsey Wolfe. For more see The African American Almanac, 9th ed.; and Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television. A biographical guide featuring performers... in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and the world, vol. 38. See photo images of George C. Wolfe on his facebook page.

    See George Wolfe with other children in photo image at Kentucky Historical Society Digital Collections.

    See video 1 - The Colored Museum - Dir. George C. Wolfe on YouTube.
Subjects: Artists, Fine Arts, Authors, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky

Wright, James L. "Jimmy"
Birth Year : 1919
Death Year : 1999
Wright was originally from Kentucky. His union work began at a Kentucky equipment factory when he returned from the service at the end of World War II. His initial duties were sweeping and cleaning, typical jobs assigned to African American employees, and he advanced to forklift operator. The factory had a union that was just being initiated, and Wright became a union leader to help other African Americans advance in the company. He was a member of the National Negro Labor Council (NNLC) in Louisville, KY. His work was perceived as subversive and Wright was accused of being a Communist. Wright eventually left Kentucky for Chicago to become a full-time union organizer. In 1980, he was the first African American elected to head region 4 of the United Auto Workers (UAW), which included Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. Wright was also the president of the UAW's political arm in Illinois; he also headed the regional civil rights department. He had received threatening phone calls during his campaign for office, but Wright persevered. He was even re-elected, but had to step down in 1984 due to health problems. For more see L. Forte, "James Wright, former UAW leader," Chicago Sun-Times, 07/28/1999, p. 74; and see Jimmy Wright in the film The Freedom Train, by Kingberry Productions & WDIV-TV.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Migration North, Union Organizations, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois


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