Complete A-Z list

Complete list of sources

Recent Additions / Updates

About NKAA

NKAA Brochure

African American Library Directors in the USA

Links of Interest




staff only

University of Kentucky Libraries

Notable Kentucky African Americans Database

<Actors, Actresses>

Return to search page.

Anderson, Ezzrett, Jr.
Birth Year : 1920
Ezzrett Anderson, Jr. was born in Nashville, AR, according to the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. He became one of the first African Americans from a predominantly African American school to play professional football when he joined the Los Angeles Dons in 1947. Anderson had attended Kentucky State University in Frankfort, KY, where he played football. He also played professional football with the Los Angeles Mustangs. He played for the Hollywood Bears in the Pacific Coast League when they won the title. He also played in the Canadian Football League for seven seasons (1948-1954) and was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 2010. In addition to playing football, Ezzrett Anderson, Jr. was also an actor and appeared in 20 Hollywood films. For more see Smith, T., "Outside the pale; the exclusion of Blacks from the National Football League, 1934-1946," Journal of Sport History, 15, no. 3 (Winter 1988); and Pro Football Hall of Fame, General NFL History: African-Americans in Pro Football.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Football, Migration North, Migration West
Geographic Region: Nashville, Arkansas / Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky / Canada

Anderson, Myrtle E.
Birth Year : 1907
Death Year : 1978
Myrtle E. Anderson was from Boston, MA. In 1943, she was a 1st Lieutenant in the Women's Army Corps (WACs). Anderson and 2nd Lieutenant Margaret E. Barnes Jones arrived in Camp Breckinridge, KY, with 175 enlisted African American women. The enlistees and officers were the first African American women of the U.S. Army to be stationed in Kentucky. The enlistees were given menial tasks such as cleaning latrines, and some of the women resigned from the WACs. Majors Jones and Anderson fought for better work assignments for the women. Ft. Breckinridge, also referred to as Camp Breckinridge, was disposed of by the U. S. Army on December 5, 1962. Prior to becoming a WAC, Myrtle E. Anderson had been a member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) Officers Training Camp at Ft. Des Moines, IA. The WAACs was transitioned into the Women's Army Corps (WACs) during 1943. According to her World War II Army Enlistment Records, Myrtle [D.] Anderson enlisted in the Army on November 25, 1942 in Los Angeles, CA, Inactive Reserve, Aviation Cadet. It was noted on her record that, as a civilian, Anderson had been an actress. While at Ft. Des Moines, she continued her acting career on stage and in film; she performed throughout the run of the play "Run Little Children" and other government-sponsored stage plays for the military [source: H. Levette, "Gossip of the movie lots," Plaindealer [Kansas], 04/02/1943, p. 6]. In June of 1943, Anderson was ill in an Army hospital in Maine, and it was thought that she would have to leave the Army [source: H. Levette, "Gossip of the movie lot," Plaindealer [Kansas], 06/18/1943, p. 6]. Anderson recuperated, however, and continued in the WACs until she was discharged June 1, 1943 [source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File]. She continued her acting career with small uncredited roles in films. She had first appeared in the film The Green Pastures in 1936, and her last film appearance was around 1957. Myrtle Anderson was born May 26, 1907 and she died October 5, 1978, in Los Angeles, CA. For more about the African American women enlistees see To Serve My Country, To Serve My Race, by B. L. Moore; "6 WACs Resign: WAC Clerks Decline to Scrub Floors," Philadelphia Afro-American, July 10, 1943, p. 1; and see photo image with Myrtle Anderson and others above the photo caption "WAACs departure from Des Moines" in the article "Speaking of WAACs," Arkansas State Press, 01/01/1943, p. 3. For more about Camp Breckinridge, see the Camp Breckinridge entry in the Kentucky Encyclopedia; and History of Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, by P. Heady. See also the NKAA entry WACs Protest at Camp Breckinridge, KY.

*Please note that there were other African American WAACs named Myrtle Anderson, one being Myrtle Estella Anderson in Kansas City, MO, who arrived at Ft. Des Moines around July of 1942 [source: "Myrtle Anderson feted by business group," Plaindealer [Kansas], 07/31/1942, p. 12]. Anderson had resigned her job as a dietician at the Wheatley Hospital, a job she had held for a year and a half before enlisting in the WAACs. Just prior to returning to Ft. Des Moines in July of 1942, she was voted vice-president of the Business and Professional Women's Club in Kansas City. [Wheatley Hospital was established and run by African Americans in Kansas City, MO, from 1902-1972 - - source: Wheatley-Provident Hospital—Kansas City, a flickr site].

*This may be the same Myrtle Anderson mentioned above. She was recognized for her military service with the American Campaign Medal; her hometown is given as Kansas City, MO.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Military & Veterans, Women's Groups and Organizations, Women's Army Corps (WACs)
Geographic Region: Fort Breckinridge [or Camp Breckinridge], Henderson, Webster, and Union Counties, Kentucky (no longer exists) / Boston, Massachusetts / Los Angeles, California

BBC's Kentucky Minstrels
The BBC's Kentucky Minstrels was a popular radio show, a blackface minstrel series produced by Harry S. Pepper and broadcast by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) from 1933-1950. The show was an exaggerated depiction of African Americans in the "good ole days" of plantation life in the U. S. South (Kentucky), accentuated with the use of stereotyped racist and sexist humor. The main characters were played for many years by three African Americans who had left the United States for the entertainment business in England: Isaac "Ike" F. Hatch (c. 1891-1961), Harry Scott (1879-1947), and Eddie Whaley (1886-1961). Hatch was a trained vocalist and songwriter who had been a member of the W. C. Handy Orchestra. He moved to England in 1925. Scott and Whaley had worked together as a comic act touring the United States; they went to England in 1909. In 1934, Scott and Whaley became the first black performers to star in a British film, Kentucky Minstrels, which was directed by John Baxter and written by Harry S. Pepper and C. Denier Warren (who was also an American). A less distorted version of blackface minstrels continued to be broadcast on BBC television during the 1950s and 1960s. A favorite was the Black and White Minstrel Show, which ran from 1958-1978; the show did well in the ratings, drawing an audience of nearly 17 million. For a more detailed analysis and history, see M. Pickering, "The BBC's Kentucky Minstrels, 1933-1950: blackface entertainment on British radio," Historical Journal of Film, Radio, & Television, vol. 16, issue  2 (1996), pp. 161-194; and "Race, Gender and Broadcast Comedy: the case of the BBC's Kentucky Minstrels," European Journal of Communication, vol. 9 (1994), pp. 311-333.

See photo image of Harry Clifford Scott 1915 at the flickr site by puzzlemaster.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: England, Europe

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 : 1921
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 is the father of Eric Bibb, a blues singer and songwriter. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. 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; and J. Warren, "Bibb performs with Coastal Sound," The Tri-City News (Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada), 11/15/2006, Arts section, p. 31.
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

Brady, Bessie May
Birth Year : 1882
Death Year : 1912
Bessie M. Brady (Thomas), born in Frankfort, KY, was an actress with William and Walker Abyssinia Company in 1906 [Egbert "Bert" A. Williams and George Walker]. Brady would later become a vaudeville performer in Chicago. She performed with Leana Mitchell, touring the vaudeville circuits and performing at the height of their careers at the Grand and Monogram Theaters in Chicago. Bessie Brady's mother, Johnsonia Buckner Brady, from Frankfort, KY, died in Chicago in 1899 [source: Cook County, Illinois, Deaths Index]. The Brady family had moved to Chicago after 1880 according to the U.S. Federal Census records. In 1900, there were ten family members and they lived on Wabash Ave in Chicago. The family included Bessie's father, Horace Brady who was a musician and he had run a saloon in Frankfort, KY, according to the 1880 U.S. Federal Census. Her brother, Charles H. Brady, was also a musician. Bessie Brady died September 13, 1912, after an operation at the Roosevelt Hospital in New York [source: "Obituary: Pretty Bessie Brady dies in New York," Freeman, 09/28/1912. Her body was brought back to Chicago for burial. She was the wife of vaudevill performer James M. "Icky" Thomas. For more see "Bessie Brady" in Blacks in Blackface, by H. T. Sampson.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration North
Geographic Region: Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois / New York

Burnt Cork in Kentucky Derby, 1943
Start Year : 1943
Burnt Cork was a thoroughbred racehorse owned by Edmund Lincoln Anderson (1905-1977), aka "Rochester," the Negro comedian and former vaudeville performer who teamed with Jack Benny on radio in The Jack Benny Program and in the television series, The Jack Benny Show. Several newspapers around the country accused Anderson of entering Burnt Cork in the 1943 Kentucky Derby as a publicity stunt, and prior to the race, Anderson was advised not to enter his horse; its odds were 25-1. Anderson would not be swayed, however; he attempted to hire jockey Carroll Bierman, who had won the 1940 Kentucky Derby with longshot Gallahadion. Anderson, his wife, and his valet stayed at the home of Kentucky House Member Mae Street Kidd in Louisville; the hotels in Louisville were segregated. Mae Street Kidd did not care much for Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, but got along well with his wife. Kidd was invited to join the Andersons in their box during the derby. Burnt Cork came in last place. He had come out of the gates fast, but quickly ran out of steam and came in 10th, 38 lengths behind the winner, Count Fleet, owned by Mrs. John D. Hertz. Burnt Cork was ridden by jockey Manual Gonzalez and was trained by A. E. Silver. Edmund Anderson was disappointed in his horse's performance, but the loss became part of the comedy routine with Jack Benny ribbing "Rochester" on air during The Jack Benny Program. The newspapers and other comedians also poked fun at Anderson. During 1943, there were more than 200 newspaper stories in the United States and Canada about Burnt Cork's loss in the Kentucky Derby. Anderson continued to race Burnt Cork until the horse died in July of 1944. For more see Kentucky Derby Stories, by J. Bolus; "Rochester entry in Kentucky Derby has good chance," Corsicana Daily Sun, 04/12/1943, p. 5; "Burnt Cork is long shot," Racine Journal-Times, 04/16/1943, p. 19; "Entry of Burt Cork would end doubts of last place in derby," Salt Lake Tribune, 04/29/1943, p. 19; "Burnt Cork runs in Crete Handicap," New Castle News, 05/22/1943; and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson in Passing for Black, by W. Hall.

*The term "burnt cork" refers to theatrical makeup that was first used by white blackface performers in minstrel shows, beginning in the early 1800s. The actors presented themselves as comical and stereotyped characterizations of African Americans. There were also African American minstrel performers who wore burnt cork, including one of the most famous and highest paid blackface performers, Bert Williams. Originally the makeup consisted of burnt cork that was pulverized then mixed with water, petroleum jelly, or some other substance and smeared on the uncovered areas of skin such as the face, neck, and hands. With the popularity of blackface performances in the U.S. and abroad, soon burnt cork was commercially manufactured, advertised, and sold to performers by mail. A popular item was The "Crest Brand" Burnt Cork, billed as a healthier alternative to the original mix. It was sold by the Crest Trading Company in New York for 50 cents, plus 7 cents for postage. Other burnt cork alternatives were grease paint and shoe polish. Today, there are blackface performers around the world. For more see The Witmark's Amateur Minstrel Guide and Burnt Cork Encyclopedia, by F. Dumont [available at Google Book Search]; and Behind the Burnt Cork Mask, by W. J. Mahar.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Jockeys, Horsemen, Horse Breeders, Trainers, & The Derby, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

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 he 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

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.

See stills from movies with Lawrence Chenault, available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery site.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Mount Sterling, Montgomery County, Kentucky

Colored Statue Performer
Start Year : 1885
It was reported in the New York Clipper newspaper that Charles "Barney" Hicks, manager of Kersands' Colored Minstrels, introduced the first colored statue performer, Apollo, on the minstrel stage in Louisville, KY. Hicks was the first African American to organize a company of African American minstrels; in 1865 the group of ex-slaves was known as the Georgia Minstrels. For more about the statue performer see the New York Clipper, 6/20/1885. For more on Charles Hicks see The Ghost Walks; a chronological history of blacks in show business, 1865-1910, by H. T. Sampson.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson 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 BlackPast.org.
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

Cooper, Priscilla Hancock
Birth Year : 1952
Born in Louisville, KY, Priscilla Cooper became a poet/performer, author, and teacher. As a teenager, she worked for the Louisville Defender newspaper. She is a graduate of Lincoln University of Missouri and American University Washington, D. C. Her first volume of poetry, Call Me Black Woman, was published in 1993. Cooper has numerous publications and productions and has edited three anthologies. She also teaches writing. She and Dhana Bradley-Morton founded the Theater Workshop of Louisville. They have also presented creative collaborations, the first of which was a poetic concert in 1981, I Have Been Hungry All of My Years. This was followed by Four Women and God's Trombones, and they also performed in Amazing Grace in 1993. Both are featured in the KET Production, Words Like Freedom/Sturdy Black Bridges, a poetic concert featuring African-American writing and music. Since 1998, Cooper has been the teacher of the Anti-violence Creative Writing Program, "Writing Our Stories," sponsored by the Alabama Department of Youth Services and the Alabama Writers Forum. In 2005, Cooper was awarded the Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature by the Alabama State Council. In 2006, she received the Coming Up Taller Award by the U.S. President's Committee in the Arts and Humanities. Cooper is the vice president of Institutional Programs at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. For more see B. Brady, "Architecturally Sound," CityBeat, vol. 6, issue no. 33, 2000; and Meet Priscilla Hancock, a Red Mountain Theatre Company website.

See photo image of Priscilla Hancock Cooper at Red Mountain Theatre Company website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Authors, Education and Educators, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Poets, Migration South, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Birmingham, Alabama

Craine, W. C. [William C.]
Birth Year : 1867
Death Year : 1919
William C. Craine, born in Harrodsburg, KY, is listed in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census as an actor. At the time, Craine was living in Chicago on Evanston Avenue in a boarding house along with other actors and entertainers. Craine, who was also a singer, a tenor, had sung with and managed the Shattuck and Mendelsohn Quartettes [source: "Principal comedians and vocalists engineering fun and song with the Big Minstrel Festival," The Freeman, 12/30/1899, p.9]. Craine was the principal tenor soloist with the Big Minstrel Festival in 1899. The prior year, he was with Harry Martell's Company "South Before the War" [source: "Stage. The Freedman post office," The Freeman, 10/15/1898, p.5, column 3, item 5]. While with the company, Craine was a special representative (writer) with The Freeman newspaper, and one of his articles appeared in the paper on 04/08/1899, p.5, column 3, item 1]. In September of 1899, Craine performed in Rusco and Holland's Big Minstrel Festival that opened in St. Louis, MO [source: "The Stage, edited by J. Harry Jackson. The Freedman post office," The Freeman, 09/16/1899, p.5, column 4, item 3]. Craine was with the Big Minstrel Festival until the winter of 1900 when he stayed in Boston, MA, but did not mention to the media that he was getting married [source: The Freeman, 11/03/1900, p.5]. William C. Craine was the husband of Bertha Simmons, who was an actress, she was born in Virginia; the couple married in Boston, MA on December 26, 1900 [source: Massachusetts, Marriage Register, 1900, p.327]. It was the first marriage for William (33) and the 2nd marriage for Bertha (35). They were married by Henry H. Jones, Minister of the Gospel, 80 Oakland Place, Brockton, MA. In 1901, William C. Craine was performing in Buffalo, NY [source: The Freeman, 07/13/1901, p.5]. He also performed at the Pan American, Toronto Minstrel Exposition and the London Canada Exhibition [source: The Freeman, 09/21/1901, p.5]. In 1904, Craine was director of the show titled "A Trip to Africa," starring John Larkin as the king and Dora Patterson as the queen [source: "The State by Woodbine," The Freeman, 10/29/1904, p.5]. The show did not receive a favorable review in The Freeman. [John Larkin would become the producer of the musical "A Trip to Africa" and in 1910, he and Sissieretta Jones were the stars of this successful show billed under the heading of "Black Patti Musical Comedy Company." John Larkin played the role of King Rastus and Raz Jinkins, and Sissieretta Jones (aka Black Patti) played the role of Princess Lulu. -- source: Blacks in Blackface by H. T. Sampson] And though the show was a success, by 1910, William Craine was no longer singing or performing professionally; he was a waiter and his wife Bertha was the housekeeper at a lodging home they managed on Acton Street in Boston [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census]. William C. Craine is listed as a waiter in the Boston Directory, 1909, p.469, up to the 1920 directory, p.462; living first on Acton Street, then at 28 Holyoke. William C. Craine died in Winthrop, MA, March 11, 1919 [sources: Massachusetts, Death Index and "Gave home for aged people," Savannah Tribune, 10/30/1920, p.1]. He left the home at 90 West Cottage Street in Boston, MA, for the aged, to be run by the board of William C. Craine, Inc.: Rev. H. Jones, President; Mr. O'Bryant, Vice President; Mrs. Bertha Craine, Treasurer; Mr. A. H. Scales, Superintendent; and Rev. Mrs. S. E. Deveaux, Matron and Secretary. William C. Craine was the son of Phillip (born around 1827) and Susanna Jones Craine (c.1830-1879), according to information William C. Craine provided prior to his marriage. Looking at the 1870 U.S. Census, Susan Craine is listed without a husband, but with the children. At this time, no record has been found in the census of Phillip Craine who was a Civil War veteran and had been the slave of John Bush in Mercer County, KY, when Phillip enlisted in the U.S. Army on August 29, 1864, at Camp Nelson, KY [source: "Records of Musters made by Capt. U. C. Kenney,"  p.371, no. 1751, No. on roll - 18, in the U.S. Descriptive Lists of Colored Volunteer Army Soldiers, 1864]. Phillip Craine served with the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry; he stood 5 feet 9 inches tall, was 37 years old, and was born on a farm in Mercer County, KY. He is listed on various records as the father of William Craine; Belle Craine (1855-1916), a grocer in Louisville, KY [source: Kentucky Certificate of Death Registered #1054]; Joseph Craine (1867-1925), a grocer and later a janitor in Louisville [sources: 1910 U.S. Federal Census and Kentucky Certificate of Death Registered #4634]; and George E. Craine (1858-1929), a musician and a storekeeper in Louisville, KY [source: Kentucky Certificate of Death Registered #4489]. The two other children, Pilandrer Craine and Anna Craine are included in the household in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census [last name spelled Crane]. After the death of their mother Susanna Craine in 1879 [source: Kentucky Death Records], William C. Craine and his brother Joseph were raised by their sister, Belle Craine [source: 1880 U.S. Federal Census - last name spelled Crane]. Both Belle and her mother Susan were laundry women; the family had moved to 4 Green Street in Louisville, KY by 1878 [source: Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville for 1878, pp.176 & 177 - their last name is spelled Crane]. In 1891, Belle Craine served as secretary of Zion Temple No.1 [source: "Society Directory" on p.4, column 4, in the Ohio Falls Express newspaper, 07/11/1891]. Both Joseph and William were grown and on their own. William C. Craine had started working as early as 1882, he was a laborer according to Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville for 1882, p.207. By 1884 he was a waiter at the Sandiford Hotel, then was a waiter at the St. Cloud Hotel, before leaving Louisville around 1889 [sources: Caron's Dirctory of the City of Louisville, 1884, p.209 through 1889, p.260 - the last name is many times spelled Crane or Crain]. 
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Care of the Elderly
Geographic Region: Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Boston, Massachusetts

Crowders, Reuben [Ernest Hogan]
Birth Year : 1860
Death Year : 1909
Born in Bowling Green, KY, in the Shake Rag District, Crowders became known as Ernest Hogan, comedian, actor, dancer, songwriter,and playwright. Crowders composed many songs, including the controversial song All Coons Look Alike to Me. He introduced the pasmala dance in the 1890s and was regarded as an exceptional dancer and the best dancing comedian. He produced Rufus Rastus in 1905, and The Oyster Man in 1907. Crowders was an actor in both productions; he was a leading actor of his time. He became ill during the run of The Oyster Man and later died of tuberculosis; he is buried in Bowling Green, KY. His last name is also spelled Crowder or Crowdus in various sources. A documented chronology of Crowders' career is included in The Ghost Walks, by H. T. Sampson. For more see African Americans in California Sheet Music; The First Rock and Roll Record; Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians, by E. Southern; and Dictionary of American Negro Biography, by R. W. Logan & M. R. Winston. View Ernest Hogan - The Father of Ragtime hosted by Andy Stahl, a Kentucky Blues History Corner video by the Kentucky Blues Society on YouTube.


 
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Artists, Fine Arts, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Tuberculosis: Care and Deaths, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky

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, George
Duncan's birth place has been given as Lynchburg, VA, and Louisville, KY. He was an entertainer who partnered with Billy Brooks from Washington, D.C. Known as Brooks & Duncan, they spent much of their careers abroad. Writer Rainer Lotz refers to them as "an African American team of eccentric knockouts." Brooks and Duncan left the United States in 1878 with a minstrel company, and living and performing in various countries for almost 50 years. In 1922, they were in Egypt leading the Devil's Jazz Band with four Greek musicians. For more see R. E. Lotz, "A Musical Clown in Europe," The Black Perspective in Music, vol. 18, issue 1/2 (1990), pp. 116-126 [quotation from p. 116]; and "Lord have a duck" in Some Hustling This!: taking jazz to the world, 1914-1929, by M. Miller.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Europe / Egypt, Africa

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 is still standing, though in disrepair. 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

Early African American Theaters in Louisville, KY
The first African American moving picture theater in Louisville was opened by Edward Lee in 1908, located at 13th and Walnut Streets. Lee also owned the Taft Theatre at 1314 Cedar Street and The New Odd Fellows Theatre that opened in 1908. The New Tick Houston Theatre on Walnut Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets was opened to African Americans in 1910. This information comes from The Ghost Walks; a chronological history of blacks in show business, 1865-1910, by H. T. Sampson.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Ellison, Fanny McConnell
Birth Year : 1911
Death Year : 2005
Fanny M. Ellison was born in Louisville, KY, to Ulysses and Willie Mae Brock McConnell; her parents divorced before Fanny was a year old and she and her mother moved to Colorado, then to Chicago. Fanny Ellison was the wife of Ralph Ellison (1913-1994), author of the 1953 National Book Award title, Invisible Man. Both were divorced when they met in 1944; they married in 1946. Fanny Ellison had attended Fisk University and graduated from the University of Iowa; she was involved in the theater, politics, and civil rights. In 1938, she founded the Negro People's Theater in Chicago, and in 1943 she moved to New York, where she was an assistant to George Granger, Director of the National Urban League. She supported her husband, Ralph, while he was writing what would become his only published novel. Fanny Ellison edited and typed the book manuscript that her husband had written in longhand, and she did the same for the second manuscript that he was unable to finish before his death. The second novel, Juneteenth, was published in 1999 with the permission of Fanny Ellison. For more see "Fanny McConnell Ellison dies at 93," an MSNBC website; and D. Martin, "Fanny Ellison, 93; helped husband edit 'Invisible Man'," The New York Times, 12/01/2005, Metropolitan Desk section, p. 9.

See photo image of Fanny M. Ellison and Ralph Ellison at the Library of Congress website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Authors, Migration North, Migration West, Urban Leagues
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Colorado / Chicago, Illinois / New York

Galbreath, Haywood
Birth Year : 1956
Haywood Galbreath was born in Mayfield, KY, oldest of six children. When he was 13 years old, he was adopted by a white family. In 1977 he hosted a weekly affairs radio program in Mayfield. Galbreath would become a photojournalist, an actor, and a stuntman. In 1986 he established the H. G. Star-1 Production Co. and H. G. Star-1 News Photos. In 1997 the H. G. Star Company was the first African American-owned news photo service to record the Emmy awards from inside the auditorium. Galbreath is the author of The O. J. Simpson Murder Trial: the complete photo journal of the trial of the century. For more see O. J. Simpson Facts and Fictions, by D. M. Hunt; Minority Photo - Journalism Institute (MPJI); and Anatomy of a Trial, by J. Hayslett.

See photo image of Haywood Galbreath at the MPJI website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Authors, Journalists, Newspapers, Magazines, Book Publishers, Music Publishers, Photographers, Photographs, Radio
Geographic Region: Mayfield, Graves County, Kentucky

Griffin, Mabel and Emma [The Griffin Sisters]
Mabel (born around 1870) and Emma (1873-1918) Griffin were born in Louisville, KY. They were the highly popular vaudeville performers known as the Griffin Sisters who toured throughout the United States, including Alaska, the western tour to California and back, and the southern tour that included Kentucky. They began performing as members of John Isham's Octoroons Company and toured with several other companies before organizing their own theater booking agency in 1913 in Chicago. They had been considered premiere performers and broke theater attendance records while with the Sherman H. Dudley agency, created in 1912 as the first African American operated vaudeville circuit. The Griffin Agency was one of the earliest to be managed by African American women, and they also had a school of vaudeville art. Emma Griffin encourage African American performers to use either the Dudley Agency or the Griffin Agency. The sisters also opened the Alamon Theater in Indianapolis, IN, in April of 1914. They managed the Majestic Theater in Washington, D.C. in June of 1914. The sisters were listed as mulattoes, along with their brother Henry, who was a musician, and their grandmother Mary Montgomery, all in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census when the family lived in Chicago. For more see "The Griffin Sisters" in Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians, by E. Southern; A. Knight, "He paved the way for T.O.B.A.," The Black Perspective in Music, vol. 15, issue 2, pp. 153-181; the ad "S. H. Dudley: The Griffin Sisters," Freeman, 03/08/1913, p.5; see the ad "Griffin Sisters Theatrical Agency," Freeman, 12/20/1913, p.6; see ad "Griffin Sisters Theatrical Agency and School of Vaudeville Art," Broad Axe, 02/07/1914, p.3; "Griffin Sisters open the Alamo," Freeman, 04/25/1914, p.1; "Majestic Theater," Washington Bee, 05/30/1914, p.5; and "Emma Griffin dead," Washington Bee, 09/14/1918, p.4.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Businesses, Migration North, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois / Washington, D. C.

Hampton, Pete George
Birth Year : 1871
Death Year : 1916
Born in Bowling Green, KY, Pete G. Hampton was the first African American to be recorded playing a harmonica. According to his 1905 passport application, Hampton was also a variety actor, and he had an artificial right eye. He recorded as a banjo soloist and singer, the recordings were made in Britain and Germany between 1903-1911. He recorded, toured and lived in Europe with his wife, Laura Bradford Bowman. It is said that he recorded more than any other contemporary African American. In 1913 Hampton, his wife, and her father returned to the United States, where Hampton died three years later. For more see Who was the first blues harp player to record? by Pat Missin; the Laura Bowman entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; and a more detailed biography and photo image see K. Mason, "Pete G. Hampton," The Amplifier Online, 04/02/2010. Listen to Pete Hampton performing "Dat Mouth Organ Coon", link from Vintage Harmonica 78s website.
Access Interview
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky / Europe

Harris, Emma E. "The Mammy of Moscow"
Birth Year : 1875
Death Year : 1937
Harris, an actress and singer, told others that she was from Kentucky, but she gave Augusta, GA as her birth place on her 1901 U.S. Passport Application. She was to return to the U.S. in two years, but Harris lived much of her life in Moscow, Russia. She left the U.S. from Brooklyn, NY, where she had been a church choir director. She left with the "Louisiana Amazon Guards [or Gods]", a six-woman theater troupe, with a seventh woman as a reserve. The group toured Germany. Harris later became a member of the "Six Creole Belles" [which may have been the same group under a different name and management]; they toured Poland and Russia before disbanding, and all but two members returned to the U.S. in 1905 because of the revolutions taking place in Russia. Harris then formed the "Emma Harris Trio," a singing group that continued performing in various European cities. Years later, the trio broke up and Harris was stuck in Siberia, where she taught English for a living before returning to performing as a concert soloist in Russia. Harris had studied voice at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. She also served as a nurse in the Ukraine during the Civil War, worked with the American Relief Association, and later was a speaker for the International Red Aid. Harris remained in Moscow with her husband and manager, Ivanovitch Mizikin. She knew Stalin and was a friend of Maxim Gorky's. She spoke fluent Russian and gave speeches against the Scottsboro Boys case when she was over 60 years old. Harris was also an excellent cook of culturally diverse meals and liked to entertain; she had many connections for getting food during the period when food was rationed in Moscow. Harris returned to the U.S. in 1933 and died in Brooklyn in 1937. For more see "The Mammy of Moscow" in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, vol. 9: Essays on Art, Race, Politics, and World Affairs, by L. Hughes, et al.; and R. E. Lotz, "The Louisiana Troupes in Europe," The Black Perspective in Music, vol. 11, issue 2 (Autumn 1938), pp. 133-142.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Actors, Actresses, Bakers, Cooks and Chefs, Education and Educators, Migration North, Politicians, Politics, Appointments & Elections, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Nurses, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Augusta, Georgia / Moscow, Russia, Europe / Brooklyn, New York City, New York

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

Hatcher, Emma
Hatcher came to Kentucky from Sonora, Mexico, as a young child. She had been known as Ogarita Honrodez, but her name was changed sometime after she was orphaned and raised by an African American woman in Louisville, KY. In 1887, as a teenager, she made her stage debut as a reader. Hatcher went on to appear in a number of plays, including her own play, Lizette. An article in the New York Age newspaper predicted that she would go far in her acting career, but her name soon disappeared from the records. For more see A History of African American Theatre, by E. Hill.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Orphans and Orphanages in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Hattie Winston African American Scripts and Screenplays Collection
Start Year : 1998
The Hattie Winston Collection contains scripts and screenplays written mostly by African American writers. Many are unpublished, collected over the course of Hattie Winston's career and donated to the University of Louisville (U of L). Winston is an actress and producer who established the collection in 1998 to support the work of Lundeanna Thomas and the African American Theatre Program at the University of Louisville. One of Winston's many television roles was that of nurse Margaret on Becker (1998-2004). The Hattie Winston collection is available at the U of L Libraries' Special Collections. See Hattie Winston Biography at the HistoryMakers website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Hopkins, Telma
Birth Year : 1948
Telma Hopkins was born in Louisville, KY. She was a session singer in Detroit, mostly with the Motown label, before she became a member of the group Tony Orlando and Dawn (Michael Anthony Orlando Cassivitis, Joyce Vincent and Telma Hopkins). Their 1970 single "Knock Three Times" sold a million copies the first month after it was released, but their biggest hit was "Tie a Yellow Ribbon," in 1973. The group had a television program from 1974-1976 before their break-up in 1977. Telma Hopkins went on to have a successful career as a sitcom actress in television shows such as "Gimme a Break" and "Family Matters" plus guest appearances on other shows. She was the character Daisy in the television mini-series "Roots: the Next Generation." For more see Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, vol. 25, Sept. 1999 - Aug. 2000; TV Guide, vol. 51, issue 46 (November 15-21, 2003), p. 15; and Who's Who Among African Americans, 1989-2006. View Telma Hopkins in Half & Half - No More Tears.wmv on YouTube.


Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration North, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Television
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

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

In Old Kentucky
This Litt and Dingwall dramatic production, from the early 1890s, included an almost entirely white cast; it told a story that revolved around Kentucky hillbillies. The African Americans of the cast were the children who played in the Pickaninny Band; their acting, playing, dancing, and comic antics were meant to exemplify the fun life of African Americans in Kentucky. Initially, there was to be a colored band of men in the production who were to go by the name of Woodlawn Whangdoodles. Instead, a street band of boys from Indianapolis, IN, made up the African American members of the production. When the boys got to be too old or too tall, younger and smaller boys from Indianapolis replaced them. The show became a hit; the band and pickaninny brass bands in general were in demand throughout the United States. For more see Out of Sight: the Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895, by L. Abbott and D. Seroff. See photos of scenes from In Old Kentucky at the University of Washington Libraries' Digital Collection.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Kentucky

"Jim Crow" The Character
The origin of the minstrel character, Jim Crow, has been placed in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky version suggests that in 1830, Thomas D. Rice, a white man who was a blackface performer, was in Louisville acting and working as a stagehand doing carpentry and lamp lighting. A livery stable owned by a man named Crowe was located near the City Theatre where Rice performed; Crowe owned a slave named Jim Crowe who sang and danced while he worked at the stable. Rice studied Crowe's movements, his song, and his clothes, all of which were incorporated into Rice's stage performance of Jim Crow in Pittsburgh. Rice's performance was originally meant to be a brief diversion between acts; instead it was an instant hit with white audiences in the United States and England. "Jim Crow" became a permanent term in the English vocabulary and would have multiple applications. A Jim Crow song was published in 1830 by William C. Peters. Jim Crow acts and songs were the rave, and Rice was dubbed "Daddy Rice," "Father of American Minstrels," and "Mr. T. D. Rice of Kentucky." Thomas Rice was actually from New York but had spent a brief time in Kentucky at the beginning of his stage career. For more about the character Jim Crow, see the entry by J. D. Julian in The Encyclopedia of Louisville, ed. by J. E. Kleber; and Men in Blackface, by S. Stark. For more about Thomas D. Rice, see M. N. Ramshaw, "Jump Jim Crow! A Biographical Sketch of Thomas D. Rice," Theatre Annual, vol. 17 (1960).

See image of Jim Crow character at the KET [Kentucky Educational Television] website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Jim Crow, Carpenters
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Jones, Carridder "Rita"
Carridder Jones was born in South Carolina and lived in Indiana before moving to Kentucky. A playwright and historian, Jones's research has included African American communities in Kentucky, especially the black hamlets in Lexington and Louisville. Her play, "Black Hamlets in the Kentucky Bluegrass," was a finalist in the New York Drama League's New Works Project in 2002. Another of her plays, "The Mark of Cain," was chosen by the University of Louisville's African-American theater program for the Second Annual Juneteenth Festival of New Works. She has presented her research at conferences, programs, workshops, and as productions. She is the co-founder and Director of Women Who Write. In 2006, Jones received the Sallie Bingham Award. She is author of the 2009 book A Backward Glance. For more see "Free Black Hamlets," Courier Journal (Louisville) News, 04/19/04; and "Filmmakers hope to save Bluegrass freetowns," Lexington Herald Leader, 08/10/03.

See photo image and additional information about Carridder Jones at the Oldham County History Center website, 2009.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Artists, Fine Arts, Authors, Historians, Migration West, Emancipation Day / Juneteenth Celebrations, Women's Groups and Organizations, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: South Carolina / Indiana / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Juneteenth Legacy Theatre
Birth Year : 1999
Death Year : 2010
Beginning in 199, the Juneteenth Legacy Theatre Company performed in Louisville, KY, and New York City. One of the company's major events was the Juneteenth Jamboree, an annual festival that ran for three weeks during the summer (hosted by Actors Theatre in Louisville). The company was "Kentucky's Only Professional African American Theatre Company!" The production history is available on the "About JLT" web page along with the troupe's "Mission: To entertain, to educate, to enrich and to empower communities through the telling of stories about the African-American experience in historical and contemporary contexts." It was announced in 2010 that the Juneteenth Legacy Theatre in Louisville would be ending. For more information contact the Juneteenth Legacy Theatre; K. Neuhauser, "Juneteenth Legacy is closing its curtains," Courier-Journal, 05/31/2010, p. D1.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Emancipation Day / Juneteenth Celebrations, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / New York City, New York

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 Darkies Amateur Minstrel Society
The Kentucky Darkies, a white minstrel company in Liverpool, England, performed benefit Negro minstrels in blackface in the late 1800s. There was no connection to the state of Kentucky in the U.S. other than the entertainment marketing value of the perception of happy, singing and dancing African Americans in Kentucky. In 1897, the Kentucky Darkies performed in the Philharmonic Hall "in aid of the funds of the Liverpool Food Association." The Food Association, formed in 1893, went through several name changes before it became known as the League of Welldoers in 1909. The organization did charitable work to help alleviate social problems. See additional information in "Food Association's Benefit Entertainment," The Liverpool Courier, 05/29/1897, p. 7 (from which the above quotation was taken); "Food Association's Recent Benefit Entertainment," The Liverpool Courier, 06/01/1897, p. 3; and "Kentucky Darkies and Newspaper Criticism," Liverpool Mercury, 08/01/1893, issue 14220.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Liverpool, England, Europe

The Kentucky Four
Start Year : 1890
This dance group performed with Orpheus McAdoo's Minstrel and Vaudeville Company in the late 1890s when the company was located in Australia. Their performances were written about in the Freeman newspaper in the U.S. The dance group members were Katie Carter, a vernacular dance specialist; Muriel Ringold; Amon Davis; and Aaron Taylor (Master Livers). Katie Carter also danced in the South Before the War production. According to J. Malone, author of Steppin on the Blues, p. 60, Carter's buck and wing dancing helped establish the dance form as a major attraction in black shows. For more see Out of Sight: the Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895, by L. Abbott and D. Seroff.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Australia

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

Majozo, Estelle Conwill
Birth Year : 1949
Majozo was born in Louisville, KY. Early in her career, she produced the play Purgatory. She is a performer and author of several books, including works of poetry (The Middle Passage and Jiva Telling Rites), and she has written several plays. She was a collaborator in the creation of the terrazzo and brass project, Rivers, for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. She is also an English professor and presently teaches creative writing at the University of Louisville. She is a graduate of the University of Louisville (B.A. & M.A.) and the University of Iowa (Ph.D.). Majozo is a sister of Houston Conwill. For more see Come Out the Wilderness, by E. C. Majozo.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Authors, Education and Educators, Poets
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

McIntosh, Tom
Birth Year : 1840
Death Year : 1904
McIntosh, born in Lexington, KY, was a comedian who had his greatest success with Callender's Georgia Minstrels. In addition to his great comedic talent, McIntosh was also an exhibition drummer and singer. During his career, he teamed with female impersonator Willis Ganze, performing on some of the leading circuits in the U.S. He then teamed with his wife, Hattie McIntosh, for a short period. McIntosh later took the starring role of Mr. Bullion in "Southern Enchantment" with the Smart Set Company; he replaced Kentucky native Ernest Hogan [Reuben Crowders]. McIntosh died of a stroke while the Smart Set Company was en route to Indianapolis. For more see his career review by Sylvester Russell, "Tribute to Tom M'Intosh," Indianapolis Freeman, 04/09/1904, p. 5; and Profiles of African American Stage Performers and Theatre People, 1816-1960, by B. L. Peterson, Jr.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Cross Dressing, Dress in Drag
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

Moxley, George L.
Birth Year : 1865
Born in Kentucky around 1865, Moxley was a tenor singer, stage manager, interlocutor, and minstrel performer. On occasion he passed for white while working with companies such as the Elk's Minstrels. He began singing in public at the Philadelphia Centennial in 1876; by age 70, in 1935, he was telling fortunes in Texas. Moxley was known for getting into precarious situations such as his fine dining without a cent to his name, from which he was able to talk his way out. For more see Out of Sight: the Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895, by L. Abbott and D. Seroff; and Father of the Blues, an autobiography, by W. C. Handy.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Kentucky

My Friend from Kentucky (Darktown Follies)
Start Year : 1913
The Darktown Follies in "My Friend from Kentucky" was a three act comedy that was produced and initially staged in Harlem by J. Leubrie Hill. The production had been previously named "My Friend from Dixie" and it would go through a series of title and content changes before finally becoming known as Darktown Follies. The show is remembered for the dancing, unlike anything that had been witnessed on Broadway, and it had great drawing power that brought whites into Harlem at night. The production would eventually be moved downtown and performed for white audiences. One of the main characters is Bill Simmons, a businessman from Kentucky, who convinces character Jim Jackson Lee that for a fee he can leave his wife and her father's Virginia plantation (an African American-owned plantation) for a better life and a newer wife in Washington, D.C. For more see "The Darktown Follies" in A Century of Musicals in Black and White, by B. L. Peterson; and Steppin' On the Blues, by J. Malone.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers
Geographic Region: Kentucky

Oliver Scott's Refined Negro Minstrels
Start Year : 1890
End Year : 1904
The company had previously been the A. G. Field's Colored Minstrels; Oliver Scott purchased the company in the 1890s. The company did not originate in Kentucky but disbanded in Middlesboro, KY, in 1904. "While the show was in progress, the manager caught the 9:30 train and left town, owing 22 people two weeks' salary." For more see The Ghost Walks: a chronological history of blacks in show business, 1865-1910, by H. T. Sampson. View a theatrical poster of Oliver Scott's Refined Negro Minstrels at the Library of Congress (image may be enlarged).


Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Businesses, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Railroad, Railway, Trains, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Theater: Companies, Education, Exhibitions, Performers, and Performances in Kentucky
Geographic Region: Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky

O'Rourke, James Ralph , Sr.
Birth Year : 1913
Death Year : 1999
In 2008, it was discovered that James R. O'Rourke, Sr. was the first African American graduate of the University of Kentucky School of Library and Information Science. He graduated in 1957. Prior to his enrollment, O'Rourke had been named head librarian at Kentucky State University (KSU), a position he held from 1949-1970. Before coming to Kentucky, O'Rourke was a history instructor and served as head librarian of Stillman Junior College [now Stillman College]. O'Rourke was a 1935 graduate of Stillman Junior College, a 1947 sociology and economics graduate of Talladega College, and a 1947 graduate of Atlanta University [now Clark Atlanta University], where he earned a B.S. in Library Science. He had owned a drug store and a shoe repair shop. He had been a singer, an actor, a barber, a Pullman Porter, and shoe shiner. In Kentucky, he was a library leader. O'Rourke was the author of several articles and co-authored the Student Library Assistants of Kentucky (SLAK) Handbook, which was distributed throughout the United States and to some foreign countries. O'Rourke and C. Elizabeth Johnson, Central High School Librarian, had co-organized SLAK in 1952; it was the only state-wide organization of its kind in the United States. The organization was created to spark students' interest in library science and provided scholarship opportunities to seniors who planned to go to college. O'Rourke also led an annual workshop to assist public library employees in getting certification, and he provided library training. He was one of the first African American members of the Kentucky Library Association (KLA). He also held several positions in community organizations. He was a civil rights advocate and served as presiding chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in Lexington, KY, 1966-67. He was a member of the Governor's Planning Committee on Libraries, 1967-68, and co-chairman of the Lexington (KY) Librarians Association. O'Rourke was the last chairman of the Librarian's Conference of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association, 1952-1956. He was a member of the American Library Association, the Southeastern Library Association, and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He was a member of the Kentucky Black History Committee of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, and was a co-contributor to the Commission's publication, Kentucky's Black Heritage. He left Kentucky a few years after his retirement from KSU in 1970 and settled in North Carolina. James R. O'Rourke, Sr. was born in Tuscaloosa, AL, the oldest child of Sally Reese and Timothy R. O'Rourke. He was the husband of George M. Wright O'Rourke [also a UK Library School graduate, 1966], and the great-grandson of Evalina Love and Shandy Wesley Jones. Shandy Jones was a slave who was freed in 1820 and later became an Alabama Legislator, 1868-1870 [see Descendants of Shandy Wesley Jones and Evalina Love Jones by Pinkard and Clark]. This information comes from the vita and the memorial tribute to James R. O'Rourke, Sr., provided by Dr. James R. O'Rourke, Jr. In 2009, the University of Kentucky Libraries and the School of Library and Information Science nominated James R. O'Rourke for the Lyman T. Johnson Torch Bearer Award (posthumously) for his work and dedication to librarianship in Kentucky. The award was received by his son, Dr. James R. O'Rourke, Jr.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Actors, Actresses, Authors, Barbers, Education and Educators, Librarians, Library Collections, Libraries, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Pullman Porters, Fraternal Organizations, Pharmacists, Pharmacies, Shoes: Finishers, Makers, Repairers, Shiners, Stores
Geographic Region: Tuscaloosa, Alabama / Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky / Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / North Carolina

"Our Old Kentucky Home" (Performance)
Start Year : 1898
The Civil War drama production, written by John E. Bruce and Henrietta Vinton Davis, opened in 1898 and played in northern cities. Davis (1860-1941, born in Maryland) was an elocutionist and considered a premier African American actor. She later became a political activist. Davis directed the staging of Our Old Kentucky Home and had the principle role of the Creole slave, Clothilde. For more see A History of African American Theatre, by E. Hill.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Actors, Actresses
Geographic Region: Kentucky

Pegram, Amelia Blossom
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, Amelia Blossom Pegram is a teacher, writer, performer, and poet. She began teaching in South Africa, then left the country in 1963. She studied acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has acted on stage, radio, and television in England and the United States. Pegram came to the U.S. in 1972. She has won many awards, including the Louisville Board of Alderman Literary Award. She is author of several books, including Our Sun Will Rise: poems from South Africa, and she is included in Conversations with Kentucky Writers II. For more see Biography Index A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, vol. 20 (Sept. 1991-Aug. 1995); and the Amelia Blossom Pegram at the South African Women for Women Annual Awards website.

See photo image of Amelia Blossom Pegram and additional information at the KET Website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Artists, Fine Arts, Authors, Education and Educators, Poets
Geographic Region: Cape Town, South Africa / England, Europe / Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

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 BlackPast.org.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Radio, Television, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Movies and Films
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky

Ray, William Benjamin, Sr.
Birth Year : 1925
William Benjamin Ray, Sr. was born in Lexington, KY, to Beatrice Clifton Smith and Mason Ray. He is an Army veteran and a graduate of Oberlin College and Boston University. In the United States, he was an opera singer with De Paur's Infantry, Karamu Theater, and Cleveland Playhouse. His career began in 1957 in Europe, where he performed in operas and orchestras and on stage and television. In 1974, he founded Black Theater Productions in Stuttgart, Germany, and served as its president until 1985. Ray is included in Blacks in Opera. He was a faculty member at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts Graz - Austria and a professor of voice at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University and at the Howard University Department of Music. Ray is retired and lives in Odenton, Maryland. For more see Who's Who Among African Americans, 1985-2006; and N. Sears, "Another high note for singer - Legacy Award crowns opera career filled with mentoring, teaching," Special to The Sun, 02/04/2007, Local section, p. 1G.

See photo image and additional information about William Benjamin Ray, Sr. at bottom half of Sam's Subject Index webpage.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Education and Educators, Migration North, Military & Veterans, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Migration Outside the U.S. and Canada
Geographic Region: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky / Stuttgart, Germany, Europe / Austria, Europe / Odenton, Maryland

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

Rudder, John E. [John Rudder and Doris Rudder v United States of America]
Birth Year : 1925
Rudder, born in Paducah, KY, was the first African American to receive a regular commission in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was a graduate of the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Rudder had enlisted in 1943 and served with the 51st Defense Battalion. He was discharged in 1946 and enrolled in Purdue University, where he was awarded an NROTC midshipman contract. He received his commission in 1948, was appointed a 2nd Lieutenant, then sent to Marine Corps Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. Rudder resigned his commission in 1949; the resignation was handled quietly by the press and the Marine Corps. Rudder's commission had come at a time when the Marine Corps was being challenged about its segregation policies. Rudder, his wife Doris, and their children settled in Washington, D.C., and in 1952 lived in a two bedroom apartment in the Lincoln Heights Dwellings. John became a cab driver; he would have a hard time keeping a job and eventually was expelled from Howard University Law School. In 1953, the Rudders were one of more than a million tenants of the federal housing projects required to sign the Certificate of Non-membership in Subversive Organizations. Families who refused to sign the certificate and refused to leave the premises were served with an eviction notice and a suit for possession. The Rudders filed suit against the action. The lower courts decided in favor of the National Capital Housing Authority [manager of the property owned by the United States]. The Rudders filed an appeal; in 1955 the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington affirmed a judgment for the Rudders, and the eviction notice was withdrawn. By 1967, the FBI had accumulated eight volumes of surveillance materials on the Rudders. John was labeled a Communist. The Rudders had participated in anti-discrimination and anti-war rallies and marches and picket lines in front of downtown D.C. stores and restaurants. John Rudder said that he had refused the FBI's offer to become a government informant. Rudder was a Quaker and his wife Doris was white and Jewish; they had five children. Their sons Eugene and Karl grew up to become activists. In 1977, their daughter Miriam was denied clearance by the FBI for a research aide position with the congressional committee investigating the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. The clearance was denied because of her parents' protest activities. In 1978, their daughter Beatrice became the first female firefighter in Washington, D.C. John and Doris had become teachers and actors. John had appeared in the plays "Black Like Me" and "The Great White Hope." In 1981, two weeks before John and Doris were to appear in the play "Getting Out," they appeared on the television show 60 Minutes with their daughter Miriam to discuss what they saw as government harassment, including Miriam's employment denial. For more see African Americans and ROTC, by C. Johnson; "The Postwar Marine Corps," chapter 10 of Integration of the Armed Forces 1940-1965, by M. J. MacGregor, Jr. [available online at Project Gutenberg]; John Rudder and Doris Rudder, Appellants v. United States of America, Appellee , No. 12313, 226 F.2d 51, 96 U.S.App.D.C. 329 [online at bulk.resource.org]; T. Morgan, "Family of 'Subversives' pays a high price," Washington Post, 04/06/1981, First section, p. A1; J. Lardner, "John and Doris Rudder," Washington Post, 03/15/1981, Style, Show, Limelight section, p. K3; and J. Stevens, "First woman dons uniform of District Fire Department," Washington Post, 04/06/1978, District Weekly D section, p. C5.
Subjects: Activists, Civil Rights, Actors, Actresses, Education and Educators, Fathers, Firefighters, Housing Authority, The Projects, Migration North, Military & Veterans, Court Cases
Geographic Region: Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky / Washington, D.C.

Sebree, Charles E.
Birth Year : 1914
Death Year : 1985
Sebree was born in Madisonville, KY. A painter, costume designer, professional dancer, theatrical producer, and choreographer who had many other talents, he created over 150 works of art, directed workshop productions at the American Negro Theatre, and designed sets and costumes for Broadway appearances. Sebree was company artist at the U.S. Naval Base in the Great Lakes. He produced Mrs. Patterson, which played at the National Theatre and starred Eartha Kitt, Enid Markey, and Avon Long; Mrs. Patterson was Eartha Kitt's debut in the U.S. For more see St. James Guide to Black Artists, ed. by T. Riggs; Biography Index. A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, vol. 14 (Sept. 1984-Aug. 1986); and Charles Sebree: a retrospective, by C. Sebree.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Artists, Fine Arts
Geographic Region: Madisonville, Hopkins County, Kentucky

Shipp, Ellen
Birth Year : 1830
Ellen Shipp was born around 1830 in Kentucky and is listed in the 1860 U.S. Federal Census as a free mulatto who was living in Cincinnati, OH. She was the wife of Thomas Shipp, born around 1821 in South Carolina, who is also listed as free. They were the parents of two boys, Thomas Shipp and Jesse A. Shipp Sr. (1863-1934). Jesse wrote the book for In Dahomey, one of the first successful Negro musicals on Broadway. (His name is sometimes spelled Jessie.) He was a playwright, vaudeville performer, manager, director, and lyricist. His son, Jesse A. (or Jessie) Shipp, Jr., founded Shipp Association, a booking agency in Harlem, NY. For more on Jesse Shipp, Sr., see his entry in the Internet Broadway Database.

[Dahomey was a country located in West Africa that is today southern Benin. The history of Dahomey dates between 1600 and 1900. See Dahomey in Encyclopaedia Britannica online.]
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Authors, Mothers, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio / New York

South Before the War
Start Year : 1891
This Louisville, KY, production was the first of three plays set in the South. Produced by whites, it featured a company of mostly black and some white players; the show had as many as 100 cast members at its high point. John Whallen and Herman Wallum (alias Harry or Henry Martell), who took the production to New York City, managed the show. For more see A History of African American Theatre, by E. Hill; and The South Before the War Company Papers at Yale University.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky / New York City, New York

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

Tribble, Andrew
Birth Year : 1879
Death Year : 1935
Andrew Tribble was born in Richmond, KY, where he also attended school. Andrew and Amos Tribble were the sons of Alice Tribble, and they were all boarding with a family in Union (Madison County) in 1880, according to the U.S. Federal Census. Andrew Tribble is noted as one of the greatest female impersonators in theater, with a career that spanned 40 years. As a child he was a member of the pickaninny band In Old Kentucky. He later moved to Chicago and joined the Pekin Theatre. One night he dressed in drag and did a performance that the audience loved. He was cast in Cole and Johnsons' musical Shoo-Fly Regiment. His most popular character was Lilly White, a washerwoman. For more see A History of African American Theatre, by E. Hilland; and African American Performance and Theater History: a critical reader, ed. by H. J. Elam, Jr. and D. Krasner.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Migration North, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Cross Dressing, Dress in Drag
Geographic Region: Richmond and Union, Madison County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois

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

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

The White Slave by Bartley Theo Campbell
Start Year : 1882
End Year : 1918
The White Slave was a play written by Bartley Campbell who was white, the play opened on April 3, 1882 at the Fourteenth Street Theatre in New York City. The story is of a young woman named Lisa, who believes that she is an octoroon slave. Lisa's white lover/previous owner helps her escape from her new owner, and Lisa learns that she is the illegitimate daughter of a white woman and an Italian man. Her mother was in Italy when she died after giving birth to Lisa, and Lisa's father moved on to France. Lisa was delivered to her grandfather, Judge Hardin in the United States. Judge Hardin, who owned Big Bend Plantation in Kentucky, did not want anyone to know that his dead daughter had had an illegitimate child by a foreigner. He gave the baby to his quadroon slave, Nance, to be raised as her daughter. Once Lisa knows the truth about her past, she marries her lover/former owner, who is also her grandfather's adopted son named Clay. The couple returns to Kentucky and regains ownership of the Big Bend Plantation and the slaves. The White Slave was one of several racial melodramas in the late 1800s, and it repeated the long established plight of the tragic octoroon. It was Bartley Campbell's biggest success and was performed on stage for more than 35 years. The White Slave was written during more successful times for Bartley Campbell, he had been a journalist. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1840, and wrote for the Pittsburgh Post in the late 1850s . He had also worked for newspapers in Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Louisville, KY. Campbell was also an author while employed as a journalist. He gave up journalism in 1871 to become a playwright and was very successful. Campbell died in 1888; he had been declared insane in 1886 and was placed in State Hospital in New York. For more on Bartley T. Campbell see The Cambridge History of American Theatre by D. B. Wilmeth and C. W. E. Bigsby; and Bartley Campbell by W. H. Claeren. For more on the history of the term "white slave" see Sisters in Sin by K. N. Johnson. For more about the play, see the entry "Re-Viewing The White Slave" in African American Performance and Theater History by H. J. Elam, Jr. and D. Krasner; and The White Slave and Other Plays by B. Campbell and N. Wilt.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses
Geographic Region: New York City, New York / Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania / Kentucky

Whitman, Albery A.
Birth Year : 1851
Death Year : 1901
Albery Allson Whitman was born into slavery in Hart County, KY, on the Green River Plantation. Albery was the husband of Caddie Whitman (1857-1909), who was also from Kentucky. Albery was a poet and a Bishop of the Methodist Church. He was a graduate of Wilberforce College [now Wilberforce University] and served as Dean of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. His published works include "Leelah Misled" in 1873, "Not a Man and Yet a Man" in 1877, and "The Rape of Florida" in 1884. His last work was published in 1901: "An Idyll of the South." His talent as a Negro poet has been described as between Phillis Wheatley and Paul L. Dunbar. Albery A. Whitman was also the father of musician Caswell W. Whitman (1875-1936) and the Whitman Sisters, one of the most successful vaudeville troupes in the U.S. Albery taught his older daughters to dance when they were children, and for a brief period they were manged by their mother, Caddie. The Whitman troupe first toured Kentucky in 1904. The Whitman Sisters were Mabel (1880-1962), Essie B. (1882-1963), Alberta (1887-1964), and Alice (1900-1969). Mabel directed the shows, Essie was a comic singer, Alberta was a flash dancer and did male drag, and Alice was an exceptional tap dancer. For more on Albery A. Whitman see Dictionary of American Negro Biography, by R. W. Logan and M. R. Winston; and Albery Allson Whitman (1851-1901), epic poet of African American and Native American self-determination (thesis), by J. R. Hays. For more about the Whitman Sisters see The Royalty of Negro Vaudeville by N. George-Graves; and Jazz Dance, by M. W. Stearns and J. Stearns. For more on Caswell Woodfin Whitman see the following Chicago Defender articles - "The Whitman Sister's kin passes away," 04/04/1936, pp.1 & 10; "Allen Bowers Entertains," 03/06/1932, p.7; and "The Whitmans arrive," 03/16/1918, p.6 - [article citations provided by the Curator of the Chicago Jazz Archive at the University of Chicago].
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Authors, Education and Educators, Fathers, Mothers, Musicians, Opera, Singers, Song Writers, Poets, Religion & Church Work, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers, Cross Dressing, Dress in Drag
Geographic Region: Hart County, Kentucky / Chicago, Illinois

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, Edith
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

Young, Billy
Birth Year : 1860
Death Year : 1913
Young may have been born in Kentucky, he grew up in Cincinnati. He and D. W. McCabe owned a minstrel company, one of the few owned by African Americans. The duo teamed up in the 1870s. They played to audiences around the country, including the southern states and even Cuba. Young was equally talented at singing, dancing, and comedy and tragedy, and he also wrote the script for a number of performances. In 1892, McCabe ditched the company in Mexico, took off with the money, and was not heard from again until 1894 as head of a new company. McCabe died in 1907. Young, who liked his rye and bourbon, continued to perform until 1913 when he developed lung problems and died a few months later. For more see Out of Sight: the Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895, by L. Abbott and D. Seroff; and Father of the Blues, an autobiography, by W. C. Handy.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Minstrel and Vaudeville Performers
Geographic Region: Kentucky / Cincinnati, Ohio / Cuba / Mexico

 

Return to the search page.