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Hugh Bell, an artist with a camera

When artist Otto Neals took a seat next to me at a street renaming ceremony in honor of the late Elombe Brath Saturday in Harlem, he had a copy of Breuckelen with himself on the cover and it caught my ...
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Bernie Casey, gifted athlete, artist and actor

Within a few days of learning of Bernie Casey’s death, I had read an article about polymaths, those individuals who are proficient in several endeavors.
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Dr. Ruth Elizabeth Burks, literary scholar and film authority

When Ishmael Reed announced this week that Dr. Ruth Elizabeth Burks had died, he reminded us that she was among the contributors to “Black Hollywood Unchained—Commentary on the State of Black Hollywood,” a collection of essays he edited in response ...
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A. J. Smitherman, a fearless publisher and advocate for the damned

It was during a recent speaking engagement in Tulsa on the riot that occurred there in 1921 that I discovered in my research a most interesting man.
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Evelyn La Rue Pittman, teacher and composer of folk operas and spirituals

In preparation for lectures in Tulsa, Okla., I stumbled upon the name of Evelyn La Rue, or LaRue, Pittman, and recalled seeing a photo of her taken by Carl Van Vechten, who documented so many outstanding African-Americans, particularly during the ...
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James Edwards, consummate actor and war veteran

The recent death of Dick Gregory and citations from his book “Nigger” brought to mind the actor James Edwards.
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The Rev. Charleszetta ‘Mother’ Waddles, fed the body and the soul

Nearly every African-American community has its “Mother” or “Queen Mother,” who has dedicated her life to preserving both her people’s present welfare and her enduring legacy.
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Dick Gregory—He attacked racism and bigotry with ironic humor

Dick Gregory possessed a comedic gift that when combined with his political insight cut like a laser to the heart of the Black experience in America.
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Dick Gregory's devastating, and funny, attack on racism

"You know the definition of a Southern moderate? That's a cat that'll lynch you from a low tree." That joke, delivered in the 1960s by trailblazing comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who passed away Saturday, seems unsettlingly relevant ...
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The legacy of Lena Horne

Lena! Just Lena--and the Horne automatically followed. There was only one Lena Horne and her angelic voice and stunning beauty are now part of the ages.
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Curtis Mayfield, a socially conscious singer and composer

“A few would-be biographers have tried to tell my father’s story; none have done it well,” wrote Todd Mayfield with Travis Aria in “Traveling Soul—The Life of Curtis Mayfield” (Chicago Review Press, 2017).
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Shirley Horn, an unforgettable voice and superb pianist

Most fans of vocalist/pianist Shirley Horn were probably seduced by her recordings and concert engagements toward the end of her career, with her rendition of “Here’s to Life,” her signature song. But there’s plenty more to Horn’s remarkable journey and ...
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Violet T. Lewis, educational trailblazer and founder of Lewis College of Business

Whenever there’s discussion of historically Black colleges and universities, the mind drifts to the southern states.
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Daniel A.P. Murray, an eminent librarian and bibliophile

Not until Elizabeth Dowling Taylor published her book, “The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era” (Amistad Press, 2017) was I aware of Murray and his role in the Black elite of Washington, D.C. as ...
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Sylvia Moy, a breakthrough songwriter and producer at Motown Records

Think Detroit and invariably the next thought is automobiles and the Motown Recording Company. Say Motown, and Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson come to mind.
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