The Arts

Georgia Blanche Douglas

Georgia Blanche Douglas Camp Johnson

Georgia Blanche Douglas was born September 10, 1880 in Marietta, Georgia. Her father was a wealthy Englishman of whom she knew very little. She attended Atlanta University, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Cleveland College of Music, and Howard University. After returning from Ohio, she worked as an assistant principal in Atlanta. In the late 1890’s she studied music at Oberlin in Ohio. She was married in 1903 to Henry Lincoln Johnson, an Atlanta attorney and politician.In 1910 the couple moved to Washington, DC where they had two sons.

There, her home, which she called the Half-Way House, was the site of a weekly gathering known as the “S Street Salon” where many prominent writers of the Harlem Renaissance introduced new works. These writers included Mary P. Burrill, Countee Cullen, Jean Toomer, and Langston Hughes, as well as Angelina Weld Grimke. Continue reading

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Though during her life Zora Neale Hurston claimed her birth date as January 7, 1901 and her birth place as Eatonville, Florida, she was actually born on that date in the year 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama. Within the first year or two of her life her family moved to all-black Eatonville, however, and this community shaped her life and her writing to a significant degree.

ohn Hurston, the author’s father, was a carpenter and a preacher and was several times elected mayor of their town. Her mother, Lucy, died in 1904. The young Zora didn’t take very well to her new stepmother and left home to work for a traveling theatre company, then in 1917 attended Morgan Academy in Baltimore to finish high school.  Continue reading

John Coltrane

John Coltrane

John Coltrane

Born in 1926, John William Coltrane moved to Philadelphia after graduating from high school. He mastered the alto, tenor and sprano sax and began playing in local venues. In 1945 he joined the US Navy band. A few years later, he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band where he stayed until 1951.

He underwent a “spiritual awakening” of sorts in 1957 and as a result he kicked his drug and alcohol habits. Coltrane was a jazz explorer, he was perhaps one of the greatest innovators of modern music. Interested in free jazz and Indian scales, he was always forging new paths into unknown territory.

William Wells Brown

William Wells Brown

William Wells Brown was born near Lexington, Kentucky, in 1814. His father was George Higgins, a white plantation owner, but his mother was a black slave. “My mother’s name was Elizabeth. She had seven children, Solomon, Leander, Benjamin, Joseph, Millford, Elizabeth, and myself. No two of us were children of the same father.”

As a house slave he was better treated than the field workers: “I was a house servant – a situation preferable to that of a field hand, as I was better fed, better clothed, and not obliged to rise at the ringing of the bell, but about half an hour after.”

When he was a child his master moved to Saint Charles, Missouri. “My master owned about forty slaves, twenty-five of whom were field hands… in addition to his practice as a physician, he carried on milling, merchandising and farming. He had a large farm, the principal productions of which were tobacco and hemp. The slave cabins were situated on the back part of the farm, with the house of the overseer, whose name was Grove Cook, in their midst.”  Continue reading

Thelma ‘Butterfly’ McQueen

Thelma ‘Butterfly’ McQueen

1811-1995 - Stage and film actress best remembered for her part in film history with Gone With the Wind (1939). McQueen received her nickname of ?Butterfly? when she appeared in the Harlem Theater group’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Butterfly ballet sequence. Despite the notice she received from her role in Gone With the Wind, roles became harder to get and she was out of films by the 1950s.

She worked at various jobs, including waitress at a soul food restaurant, a receptionist, and dance instructor between occasional acting jobs in small parts on Broadway. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1975 from New York’s City College at the age of 64 and had a radio show in Augusta, Georgia before she died in a fire that consumed her one-bedroom cottage.

Upcoming Black History Posts
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