1. William “Count” Basie, American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader and composer, was born on this date, August 21, 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey. His father was Harvey Basie, a mellophonist. His mother, Lillian, was a pianist who taught Basie the basics of the piano. Before he had his own band, he played piano for vaudeville. He stormed the world of music with talent and composition skill. Basie was the first African American male to receive a Grammy Award in 1958. Basie won several more Grammys later in his life and is known as one of the most influential Jazz musicians in history. 

    William “Count” Basie, American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader and composer, was born on this date, August 21, 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey. His father was Harvey Basie, a mellophonist. His mother, Lillian, was a pianist who taught Basie the basics of the piano. Before he had his own band, he played piano for vaudeville. He stormed the world of music with talent and composition skill. Basie was the first African American male to receive a Grammy Award in 1958. Basie won several more Grammys later in his life and is known as one of the most influential Jazz musicians in history. 

  2. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives from Ohio, was born September 10, 1949 in Cleveland. She received her law degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1971. She was an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor for three years. In 1981, she was elected a Cleveland Municipal Court Judge and then became a chief prosecutor. She was an active supporter of broader health care coverage for low and middle income individuals and assistance for re-entry of convicts into their communities. She also fought against predatory lending practices. In 1998, Jones was involved in the controversy of reopening the investigation of the murder of Dr. Sam Sheppard’s wife in 1954. In her later years, Jones was against additional financing for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Jones passed away in August 20, 2008, due to a ruptured brain aneurysm. 

    Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives from Ohio, was born September 10, 1949 in Cleveland. She received her law degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1971. She was an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor for three years. In 1981, she was elected a Cleveland Municipal Court Judge and then became a chief prosecutor. She was an active supporter of broader health care coverage for low and middle income individuals and assistance for re-entry of convicts into their communities. She also fought against predatory lending practices. In 1998, Jones was involved in the controversy of reopening the investigation of the murder of Dr. Sam Sheppard’s wife in 1954. In her later years, Jones was against additional financing for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Jones passed away in August 20, 2008, due to a ruptured brain aneurysm. 

  3. On August 19, 1989, Desmond Tutu, a South African social rights activist and now retired Anglican bishop, defied apartheid laws by walking on a Cape Town whites-only beach. In protest, he and other demonstrators entered the beach at Cape Town’s False Bay. The police used dogs, whips, tear gas and had set up roadblocks to deter demonstrators from getting to the beach. The policeman in charge threatened the protesters by saying he would have the other officers fire into the crowd. Tutu walked on the beach for a moment and then after, the police sent their dogs on whoever stayed on the beach and fired rubber bullets at unarmed protesters. This was one event of many to come in defying apartheid laws. 

    On August 19, 1989, Desmond Tutu, a South African social rights activist and now retired Anglican bishop, defied apartheid laws by walking on a Cape Town whites-only beach. In protest, he and other demonstrators entered the beach at Cape Town’s False Bay. The police used dogs, whips, tear gas and had set up roadblocks to deter demonstrators from getting to the beach. The policeman in charge threatened the protesters by saying he would have the other officers fire into the crowd. Tutu walked on the beach for a moment and then after, the police sent their dogs on whoever stayed on the beach and fired rubber bullets at unarmed protesters. This was one event of many to come in defying apartheid laws. 

  4. Gail Fisher, who broke many racial barriers for black women on American television, was born August 18, 1935. Her mother raised her and her siblings with her own hair styling business in Edison, New Jersey. During her teenage years, Fisher had showed an interest in entertainment through her participation in various beauty contests, acting in her High School’s plays and as a cheerleader. Fisher studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, after winning a contest sponsored by Coca-Cola, and later became a member of the Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center. She did many television commercials and declared herself “the first black female— no, make that black, period— to make a national TV commercial, on camera, with lines.” Her most well known and one of the first major roles for black women was as the secretary “Peggy Fair” on the show Mannix from 1968 until 1975. Fisher, pictured with Mark Stewart, as her son in Mannix (1970), won two Golden Globes and an Emmy Award  for the role. She was the first black woman to win an Emmy Award. 

    Gail Fisher, who broke many racial barriers for black women on American television, was born August 18, 1935. Her mother raised her and her siblings with her own hair styling business in Edison, New Jersey. During her teenage years, Fisher had showed an interest in entertainment through her participation in various beauty contests, acting in her High School’s plays and as a cheerleader. Fisher studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, after winning a contest sponsored by Coca-Cola, and later became a member of the Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center. She did many television commercials and declared herself “the first black female— no, make that black, period— to make a national TV commercial, on camera, with lines.” Her most well known and one of the first major roles for black women was as the secretary “Peggy Fair” on the show Mannix from 1968 until 1975. Fisher, pictured with Mark Stewart, as her son in Mannix (1970), won two Golden Globes and an Emmy Award  for the role. She was the first black woman to win an Emmy Award. 

  5. Robert Leroy Johnson, Hall of Fame American blues singer and musician, died on this date, August 16, 1938 at the age of 27. Some of his greatest hits included, “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and “Sweet Home Chicago.” Johnson was born on May 8, 1911, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Growing up he showed musical inclinations on the harmonica and the jaw harp. A rumor surrounds Johnson about a pact with the devil in exchange for mastery of the guitar. He was said to be able to reproduce a tune after only having heard it once. Son House, who had seen Johnson’s poor guitar skills after Johnson lost both his wife and child, was convinced of the pact when Johnson displayed his musical prowess later. Johnson only truly rose to fame after his death with the release of King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961. He won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 that was accepted by Claud Johnson, his son. 

    Robert Leroy Johnson, Hall of Fame American blues singer and musician, died on this date, August 16, 1938 at the age of 27. Some of his greatest hits included, “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom” and “Sweet Home Chicago.” Johnson was born on May 8, 1911, in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Growing up he showed musical inclinations on the harmonica and the jaw harp. A rumor surrounds Johnson about a pact with the devil in exchange for mastery of the guitar. He was said to be able to reproduce a tune after only having heard it once. Son House, who had seen Johnson’s poor guitar skills after Johnson lost both his wife and child, was convinced of the pact when Johnson displayed his musical prowess later. Johnson only truly rose to fame after his death with the release of King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961. He won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 that was accepted by Claud Johnson, his son. 

  6. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London on this day, August 15, 1875. He was raised by his mother, an english woman and never knew his father, a doctor and native of Sierra Leone. He studied violin at the Royal College of Music and in 1898, he wrote his most famous piece, “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.” Coleridge-Taylor became a worldwide success. He toured the United States in 1904, having a 200-voice chorus in Washington, D.C. named after him. He had managed to mix traditional african music with concert music and produced compositions such as African Suite and Twenty Four Negro Melodies. Having fought against racism throughout his career and proving himself to be a talented composer, Coleridge-Taylor died at the young age of 37 in 1912 due to pneumonia. 

Image: NYPL Digital Gallery

    Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London on this day, August 15, 1875. He was raised by his mother, an english woman and never knew his father, a doctor and native of Sierra Leone. He studied violin at the Royal College of Music and in 1898, he wrote his most famous piece, “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.” Coleridge-Taylor became a worldwide success. He toured the United States in 1904, having a 200-voice chorus in Washington, D.C. named after him. He had managed to mix traditional african music with concert music and produced compositions such as African Suite and Twenty Four Negro Melodies. Having fought against racism throughout his career and proving himself to be a talented composer, Coleridge-Taylor died at the young age of 37 in 1912 due to pneumonia. 

    Image: NYPL Digital Gallery

  7. Ernest Everett Just was born August 14, 1883 in Charleston, South Carolina.  He graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1907 and was the only black man in his class. Just taught at Howard University and was head of the Department of Zoology and Physiology. He received the first Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1915 for his work as a scientist. In 1916, Just received his doctorate in experimental embryology. Just published his book “Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Animals” after conducting research on the fertilization of marine animal cells. Just faced a lot of racism and prejudice as an African American in the U.S. and therefore moved to study in Europe in 1930. There he published “The Biology of the Cell Surface” and gave several lectures on cell cytoplasm.
Just challenged many theories of leading biologists of the day and worked diligently to understand the world around him. Due to his research, we now have a better understanding of experimental parthenogenesis and the physiology of cell development. 
Image: NYPL Digital Library

    Ernest Everett Just was born August 14, 1883 in Charleston, South Carolina.  He graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1907 and was the only black man in his class. Just taught at Howard University and was head of the Department of Zoology and Physiology. He received the first Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1915 for his work as a scientist. In 1916, Just received his doctorate in experimental embryology. Just published his book “Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Animals” after conducting research on the fertilization of marine animal cells. Just faced a lot of racism and prejudice as an African American in the U.S. and therefore moved to study in Europe in 1930. There he published “The Biology of the Cell Surface” and gave several lectures on cell cytoplasm.

    Just challenged many theories of leading biologists of the day and worked diligently to understand the world around him. Due to his research, we now have a better understanding of experimental parthenogenesis and the physiology of cell development. 

    Image: NYPL Digital Library

  8. James Benton Parsons, the first African American to serve as a United States federal judge, was born on this day, August 13, 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri. Before he was a Judge, Parsons was a musician and a teacher. He taught public school and was a supervisor for two years in Greensboro, N.C. He then taught constitutional law at John Marshall Law School in Chicago and political science and music at Lincoln University. Parsons was the first African American to be a part of the U.S. District Court with life tenure appointed by President Kennedy in 1961. He was known to be an outspoken and controversial jurist and received a lot of criticism for his words and actions, as well as awards throughout his life as a judge. He served as chief judge from 1975 until 1981 and then had senior status in 1981 until his death in 1993, Chicago. 

    James Benton Parsons, the first African American to serve as a United States federal judge, was born on this day, August 13, 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri. Before he was a Judge, Parsons was a musician and a teacher. He taught public school and was a supervisor for two years in Greensboro, N.C. He then taught constitutional law at John Marshall Law School in Chicago and political science and music at Lincoln University. Parsons was the first African American to be a part of the U.S. District Court with life tenure appointed by President Kennedy in 1961. He was known to be an outspoken and controversial jurist and received a lot of criticism for his words and actions, as well as awards throughout his life as a judge. He served as chief judge from 1975 until 1981 and then had senior status in 1981 until his death in 1993, Chicago. 

  9. Alex Haley, best known as the author of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” and co-author of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was born on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York to Simon Haley, a professor of agriculture and Bertha George Haley, a teacher. Alex Haley attended Alcorn State University at 15 and then Elizabeth City State College. However, a year after, he withdrew. His father convinced him to enlist in the military and at 18 years old, Haley, as pictured, joined the Coast Guard, where he would remain for 20 years. 
Having polished his writing skills in the Coast Guard, Haley moved up to chief journalist. He then retired in 1959, becoming a freelance writer. In 1962, Haley conducted an interview with Miles Davis for Playboy. Due to the success of the interview, Haley conducted more interviews with important figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones and Malcolm X. Haley later wrote “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” After the success of Haley’s Malcolm X book, he wrote “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” which discussed the origins of his ancestors in Africa and their transition from slavery to freedom in America, with his ancestor and the protagonist of the book, Kunta Kinte. Haley won a Pulitzer Prize for the book and it sparked a nationwide interest in genealogy, as well as an ABC television mini-series.

    Alex Haley, best known as the author of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” and co-author of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” was born on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York to Simon Haley, a professor of agriculture and Bertha George Haley, a teacher. Alex Haley attended Alcorn State University at 15 and then Elizabeth City State College. However, a year after, he withdrew. His father convinced him to enlist in the military and at 18 years old, Haley, as pictured, joined the Coast Guard, where he would remain for 20 years. 

    Having polished his writing skills in the Coast Guard, Haley moved up to chief journalist. He then retired in 1959, becoming a freelance writer. In 1962, Haley conducted an interview with Miles Davis for Playboy. Due to the success of the interview, Haley conducted more interviews with important figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones and Malcolm X. Haley later wrote “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” After the success of Haley’s Malcolm X book, he wrote “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” which discussed the origins of his ancestors in Africa and their transition from slavery to freedom in America, with his ancestor and the protagonist of the book, Kunta Kinte. Haley won a Pulitzer Prize for the book and it sparked a nationwide interest in genealogy, as well as an ABC television mini-series.

  10. image

    This quote lies within the pages of the new U.S. passport but few know about Anna Julia Cooper, the woman behind the words. Today we celebrate Cooper, who was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on August 10, 1858 to Hannah Stanley Haywood, enslaved to the family of George Washington Haywood, her father. At 10 years old, she received a scholarship to attend St. Augustine’s College, a school for former slaves and families and studied liberal arts, sciences and even subjects that were reserved for men, such as Greek. Cooper earned her bachelors degree in mathematics in 1884 from Oberlin College. In 1887, she received her master’s degree and after went on to teaching math, science, Latin and Greek. Cooper was one of two women to speak at the 1890 Pan-African Conference in London and one of the few African American women to speak at the World Congress of Representative Women at the World’s Fair in 1893. Her most popular written work is a collection of speeches and essays about women’s rights and racial progression from 1892, “A Voice from the South.”

    At 64 years old, motivated to go back to school and while raising five children she adopted after her brother passed away, Cooper became the fourth black woman in America to receive a Doctorate of Philosophy degree.

  11. Gregory Hines was born February 14, 1946 in New York City to Maurice Hines Sr. and Alma Hines. Hines started dancing at almost three years old, turned an expert at five and then performed with his older brother Maurice as The Hines Kids for fifteen years. The Hines Kids watched other great black tap dancers wherever they could, especially backstage at the Apollo Theatre. At the age of 18, Gregory Hines was put with his brother to perform with his father on the drums as Hines, Hines and Dad. The three toured worldwide. Hines later left the group in his early twenties to Venice, California. A master of performing arts, he released an album in 1973. He then moved back to New York City and took part in the theatre.  Hines was nominated for four Tonys and six Emmys. In 1992, he won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical in Jelly’s Last Jam. In 2003, he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in An Animated Program in Little Bill. Hines appeared in many films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s “Cotton Club,” and “White Nights,” with Mikhail Baryshnikov. He even had his own sitcom. But no matter where he went, he took his rhythmic movements with him.

Everything Hines did in his life was influenced by dancing, as joyfully pictured. “Everything I do,” he told Stephen Holden in a 1988 interview with The New York Times. “—my singing, my acting, my lovemaking, my being a parent.”
Hines died from cancer at 57, on August 9, 2003.
Image: NYPL Digital Gallery

    Gregory Hines was born February 14, 1946 in New York City to Maurice Hines Sr. and Alma Hines. Hines started dancing at almost three years old, turned an expert at five and then performed with his older brother Maurice as The Hines Kids for fifteen years. The Hines Kids watched other great black tap dancers wherever they could, especially backstage at the Apollo Theatre. At the age of 18, Gregory Hines was put with his brother to perform with his father on the drums as Hines, Hines and Dad. The three toured worldwide. Hines later left the group in his early twenties to Venice, California. A master of performing arts, he released an album in 1973. He then moved back to New York City and took part in the theatre.  Hines was nominated for four Tonys and six Emmys. In 1992, he won a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical in Jelly’s Last Jam. In 2003, he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in An Animated Program in Little Bill. Hines appeared in many films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s “Cotton Club,” and “White Nights,” with Mikhail Baryshnikov. He even had his own sitcom. But no matter where he went, he took his rhythmic movements with him.

    Everything Hines did in his life was influenced by dancing, as joyfully pictured. “Everything I do,” he told Stephen Holden in a 1988 interview with The New York Times. “—my singing, my acting, my lovemaking, my being a parent.”


    Hines died from cancer at 57, on August 9, 2003.

    Image: NYPL Digital Gallery

  12. Ralph Johnson Bunche, diplomat and political scientist, was the first African American and person of color to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for mediation in Palestine in 1950. He was born August 7, 1903 in Detroit, Michigan to a barber, Fred Bunche, and a musician, Olive Agnes. Bunche was valedictorian in 1927 at UCLA and earned his doctorate in political science at Harvard. Bunche was an active supporter of the civil rights movement. He participated in the March on Washington, as pictured in 1963, and fought for racial equality.
He was particularly important to the creation of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights as the United Nations document “Ralph Bunche, Visionary for Peace” says, “He championed the principle of equal rights for everyone, regardless of race and creed. He believed in the essential goodness of all people, and that no problem in human relations is insoluble.” 
In 1947, he was asked to help a UN special committee to negotiate a settlement between Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Bunche was able to negotiate armistices in 1949. He was honored by the NAACP, and received more than 30 honorary degrees along with a Nobel Peace Prize. 

    Ralph Johnson Bunche, diplomat and political scientist, was the first African American and person of color to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for mediation in Palestine in 1950. He was born August 7, 1903 in Detroit, Michigan to a barber, Fred Bunche, and a musician, Olive Agnes. Bunche was valedictorian in 1927 at UCLA and earned his doctorate in political science at Harvard. Bunche was an active supporter of the civil rights movement. He participated in the March on Washington, as pictured in 1963, and fought for racial equality.

    He was particularly important to the creation of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights as the United Nations document “Ralph Bunche, Visionary for Peace” says, “He championed the principle of equal rights for everyone, regardless of race and creed. He believed in the essential goodness of all people, and that no problem in human relations is insoluble.” 

    In 1947, he was asked to help a UN special committee to negotiate a settlement between Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Bunche was able to negotiate armistices in 1949. He was honored by the NAACP, and received more than 30 honorary degrees along with a Nobel Peace Prize. 

  13. Writing Blackness Harlem | Paris Presents: Writing Blackness Live! | Facebook →

    Join the Facebook event page for Saturday’s Writing Blackness Live! event.

  14. writingblackness:

Writing Blackness Harlem | Paris presents: Writing Blackness Live! 
Join us this Saturday for readings of materials from the collection accompanied by live music!
Saturday, August 9, 3-5pm 155th Street & St. Nicholas Avenue Apt. 3L 

    writingblackness:

    Writing Blackness Harlem | Paris presents: Writing Blackness Live!

    Join us this Saturday for readings of materials from the collection accompanied by live music!

    Saturday, August 9, 3-5pm 
    155th Street & St. Nicholas Avenue Apt. 3L 

  15. Tony award winner Zakes Mokae was born August 5, 1934 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mokae, pictured with Ruby Dee in a production still, collaborated with playwright Athol Fugard in many plays such as “The Blood Knot,” “Boesman and Lena” and “Master Harold…and the Boys,” bringing attention to the psychologically damaging nature of apartheid. In 1960, Mokae and Fugard performed in “The Blood Knot” as brothers with different skin tones, making it the first time that black and white actors had been on stage side by side in South Africa. Mokae was banned from going back to South Africa after “The Blood Knot” premiere. He continued to immerse himself in plays pertaining to race and interracial relationships and won the Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Play for “Master Harold…and the Boys.” Mokae, however, returned to South Africa after discovering that his brother had been sentenced to death for murder allegations . Strong willed and aware of the injustices, and also having been arrested several times as a south african youth, he was later nominated for a Tony for his role of a man who spent the majority of his life in prison in “The Song of Jacob Zulu” (1993). 
Mokae was also known for his roles in cult horror films such as “The Serpent and the Rainbow” and “Vampire in Brooklyn” directed by Wes Craven. He has also appeared as a guest actor in several television series. In the later years in his life, he began to fall ill and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Mokae passed away in 2009 due to complications from a stroke.
Image: NYPL Digital Gallery

    Tony award winner Zakes Mokae was born August 5, 1934 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mokae, pictured with Ruby Dee in a production still, collaborated with playwright Athol Fugard in many plays such as “The Blood Knot,” “Boesman and Lena” and “Master Harold…and the Boys,” bringing attention to the psychologically damaging nature of apartheid. In 1960, Mokae and Fugard performed in “The Blood Knot” as brothers with different skin tones, making it the first time that black and white actors had been on stage side by side in South Africa. Mokae was banned from going back to South Africa after “The Blood Knot” premiere. He continued to immerse himself in plays pertaining to race and interracial relationships and won the Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Play for “Master Harold…and the Boys.” Mokae, however, returned to South Africa after discovering that his brother had been sentenced to death for murder allegations . Strong willed and aware of the injustices, and also having been arrested several times as a south african youth, he was later nominated for a Tony for his role of a man who spent the majority of his life in prison in “The Song of Jacob Zulu” (1993). 

    Mokae was also known for his roles in cult horror films such as “The Serpent and the Rainbow” and “Vampire in Brooklyn” directed by Wes Craven. He has also appeared as a guest actor in several television series. In the later years in his life, he began to fall ill and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Mokae passed away in 2009 due to complications from a stroke.

    Image: NYPL Digital Gallery