DCS: etta moton barnett

George and Ira Gershwin wrote the character “Bess” in their opera “Porgy and Bess” with popular contralto Etta Moton Barnett in mind. When she was approached to play the role, the singer was firm about refusing to sing the “N” word that was prominent throughout the libretto. The Gershwins honored her conviction and deleted the …

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DCS: elizabeth cotten

At 11 years old, Elizabeth Cotten scraped together three dollars and seventy-five cents and purchased a guitar from Sears & Roebuck. It was a right-handed model, so the young, aspiring musician turned it upside-down to play, as she was left handed. She developed her own unorthodox playing style, using her fingers to play bass lines …

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DCS: katherine helmond

How could you not love Katherine Helmond? Every character she portrayed was a delight, even if they were quirky and odd. But that’s what Katherine brought to her characters. And that’s what made them endearing. And that is the mark of an accomplished actor. She was a staple on television, with roles on the sitcoms …

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DCS: bradley bolke

You may not recognize Bradley Bolke, but you certainly know his voice. Through the 1960s and the 70s, Bradley provided the voice for some of the most popular and beloved characters of a generation…. my generation. He voiced the antagonistic “Ghostly Trio” (all three of ’em!) on the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons. He voiced …

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DCS: irene morgan

On July 16, 1944 — eleven years before Rosa Parks was asked to relinquish her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama — 27 year-old Irene Morgan boarded a Greyhound bus in southeastern Virginia to head home to Baltimore, Maryland. Irene was returning home from a visit with her mother. Irene had suffered a miscarriage and her mother was …

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DCS: matthew henson

Born to sharecroppers in 1866, Matthew Henson fled persecution by the Ku Klux Klan and headed to Georgetown with his family. While attending an event honoring President Abraham Lincoln, young Matthew was inspired by a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass. Douglass called upon blacks to vigorously pursue educational opportunities and battle racial prejudice. Matthew began …

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DCS: wilma rudolph

Wilma Rudolph was born prematurely with a birth weight of 4-and-a-half pounds. She suffered from several early childhood illnesses, including pneumonia and scarlet fever. At the age of five, she contracted infantile paralysis, caused by the polio virus. Although she recovered from polio, Wilma lost strength in her left leg and foot. Physically disabled for much of …

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DCS: adelaide hall

20 year-old Adelaide Hall performed with numerous all-African-American cast productions in the early 20th Century, including shows by Eubie Blake and W.C. Handy. In 1927, Adelaide was appearing in Dance Mania with Duke Ellington. At a stop at the Standard Theater in Philadelphia, Ellington introduced a new composition, an instrumental he called “Creole Love Call.” Adelaide …

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