Theatre/the Arts

Those who serve as Black examples in dance, painting, sculptor, stage performance, and more.

"Buster" Brown, one of Tap Dancings best

"Buster" Brown

"Buster" Brown’s birth in 1913 is celebrated on this date. He was an African American Tap dancer and entertainer.

Ella Sheppard, an original Jubilee Singer

Ella Sheppard

*Ella Sheppard was born on this date in 1851. She was a Black musician, vocalist, and educator.

Robert Todd Duncan, an original

Todd Duncan

*On this date in 1903, Robert Todd Duncan was born in Danville, KY. He was an African American singer.

Georgia Taylor, an original Jubilee Singer

Georgia Taylor

Georgia Gordon Taylor’s birth in 1855 is celebrated on this date. She was an African American vocalist.

From Nashville, Tennessee, she had a mulatto mother, Mercy Duke Gordon and a slave father, George Gordon. Mercy's mother was white, and the law required that children of free mothers were free. Mercy had another child, Elwina, fathered by a white man (a "Doctor Warner") before she married Gordon. Gordon was allowed to live in his free spouse's household, hire out his own time, and pay part of his wages to his owner. Mercy and George had two children: Governor B. and Georgia.

Nell Carter, pure southern talent

Nell Carter

*Nell Carter was born on this date in 1948. She was an African American singer and actress.

From Birmingham, Alabama while growing up, Carter listened to her mother's recordings of Dinah Washington and B. B. King, and her brother's Elvis Presley records. She liked Doris Day, the Andrews Sisters, Johnny Mathis, and admired the work of Cleo Laine and Barbra Streisand. Early in her career, she performed as a singer on the gospel circuit. She moved on to coffeehouses and nightclubs in her hometown, before going on to New York.

"Porgy and Bess" opens on Broadway to mixed reviews

On this date in 1935,"Porgy and Bess" opened on Broadway. This was the first American folk opera about the lives of Black Americans.

"Porgy and Bess" was first performed in 1935, with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. It tells the story of African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row (based on the real-life Cabbage Row) in Charleston, S.C. in the early 1920s.

Gifted hands, William Artis

William. E. Artis

*On this date in 1914 William Ellisworth Artis was born. He was an African-American artist.

From Washington, N.C. young Artis moved to New York in 1927. He studied sculpture and pottery at Augusta Savage Studios in the early 1930s and was a part of the Harmon Foundation exhibition in 1933. He received the John Hope Prize, which led to a scholarship at the Art Students League in 1933-34. Artis was hired by Audrey McMahon, the director of the College Art Association, along with several other artists to teach crafts and paint murals in churches and community centers.

One of Florida's finest, Hughie Lee Smith

Hughie Lee-Smith

*Hughie Lee Smith was born on this date in 1915,. He was an African American artist.

From Eustis Florida, his parents were Luther and Alice Williams Smith. Later he changed his last name to Lee-Smith after he and his art school classmates decided Smith was too ordinary a name for a distinguished painter. Lee-Smith began drawing at a very early age. Shaped by the Great Depression and the WPA artists of the late 1930s, Lee-Smith's earliest work was fired by social concerns and longing for a better, more democratic ideal for the future of America.

Eldzier Cortor, a gifted artist

The Night Letter (1938)
Eldzier Cortor

*Eldzier Cortor was born on this date in 1916. He was an African American artist.

He was born in Richmond, VA, to John and Ophelia Cortor, who were economically secure. His family moved to Chicago when he was about a year old. After a few years they moved to the West Side where Archibald Motley’s family lived. Cortor’s earliest influence in art was in comic strips. His favorite was "Bungleton Green," created by Leslie Rogers. He would copy them and dream of creating his own.

The Black Bottom, African roots in American dance

*The Black Bottom dance is celebrated on this date. This is one of many dances brought from African culture through Blacks during and after slavery.

Originally starting in New Orleans the Black Bottom later worked its way to New York. Some say blues singer Alberta Hunter introduced the dance. Others say Perry Bradford in Nashville, Tennessee introduced it to white America in 1919 when he wrote the Song "The Black Bottom.” Bradford's sheet music had the music as well as the dance instructions printed on them.