Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bessie Smith the Empress of the Blues

Bessie Smith, (1898-1937), recorded over 80 records for Columbia.  Her legendary recordings sold over ten million copies.  “Down Hearted Blues,” her first recording, sold over one million copies in 1923.

She achieved her biggest hit in 1929 with “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out."

The influence of blues song stylist Smith can be heard in the music of Janis Joplin, Dinah Washington, Mahalia Jackson, and Billie Holiday.

Smith, known as “The Empress of the Blues” was discovered by blues singer Ma Rainey in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1910.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 12/12 at 09:17 PM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Harry Belafonte My Song: A Memoir

What can you expect to discover when you dive through the pages of the just released Harry Belafonte My Song: A Memoir?

You’ll encounter the inspiring life of a great singer, actor, artist, activist, and black history pioneer.

Belafonte is a World War II U.S. Navy veteran, who conquered racism while navigating life’s road through Jamaica, W.I., Harlem, New York, and Hollywood.

He became enthusiastic about theater while working odd jobs after the war.

The Belafonte 20th century timeline covers friendships with Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, President John F. Kennedy, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Nelson Mandela, Robert Kennedy, Marlon Brando, President Bill Clinton, Robert Kennedy, and Fidel Castro are discussed with respect, reverence, and honesty.

Harry Belafonte’s passion for activism cuts right to the core of his community awareness.  This part of his persona transcends what he may be most famous for: his calypso singer image.

As an African American history original, Harry Belafonte will leave a lasting legacy.

Watch his one minute video as he reflects on the metaphor of song, used in the title of Belafonte’s new October, 2011 book.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 10/26 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Black History People Android App

Black History People Android AppDiscover the profiles of nearly 100 black history people in the free Black History People App for Android smart phones.

Authors, poets, civil rights, politics, education, sports, entertainment, art, business, inventors, law, medicine, science, aviation, and music are categories you can explore in the app.

You can Download the Black History People App directly to your Android smart phone using the web browser in your phone.  Install it after downloading.

If you use a Blackberry, iPhone, or a full featured cell phone with a web browser…no problem.  The app exists as it’s own website at BHP365.mobi.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 05/11 at 09:45 PM
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Soul Train Video Classics are back after 40 Years

August 2010 Highlight: Soul Train Video Classics are back on Track.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 08/11 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Cosby Show Anniversary - 25 Years Later

September 20, 2009, is the 25th anniversary the Cosby Show on television.

Bill Cosby was the first African American actor to receive an Emmy Award (1966) for his role in the television series I Spy.  The Philadelphia native has been extremely successful as a comedian, actor, writer, producer, and social activist.

Listen to 1 minute of Bill Cosby being very funny.  Enjoy the 4 vintage Cosby album covers in the video.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 09/16 at 01:00 AM
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Friday, July 03, 2009

The Michael Jackson Story

The story of Michael Jackson, (1958 - 2009), is not complete without the story of the Jackson 5.

Michael was born in Gary, Indiana on August 29, 1958.  He is one of nine children.  When Michael performed with four of his brothers in 1963, at age 5, he was included in the act primarily for the novelty effect.

By 1964, The Jackson 5 were conquering the Gary Indiana talent show circuit.  In 1967, the brothers appeared at the Apollo Theater in New York City.  The same year, they auditioned for Motown Records.

"I Want You Back,” their first single with Motown in 1969, became a number one hit.  On the strength of this song, and the album “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson Five,” the group received national television exposure on the Ed Sullivan Show.

1970 saw four number one singles for the Jackson 5.  The producers at Motown realized that Michael’s individual talent was worth putting in the spotlight.

Between late 1971 through 1972, singles “Got to Be There,” “Rockin’ Robin,” “I Wanna be Where You Are,” and “Ben” firmly established Jackson as a solo star.

The string of hits on Motown ended for the Jackson 5 in 1975.  Michael, Jackie, Tito, Marlon, and Randy signed with the Epic label in 1976.

Jermaine Jackson remained with Motown.  Berry Gordy retained the rights to the name The Jackson 5, so the brothers assumed their new professional name, The Jacksons.

By 1978, Michael was truly coming into his own as a songwriter, actor, and singer.

He starred with Diana Ross in the motion picture musical, “The Wiz.” “The Wiz” was scored by Quincy Jones, who would later produce Michael’s most successful commercial work.

1979’s “Off the Wall” album launched Michael Jackson toward super stardom.  The album sold over 8 million copies.  “Don‘t Stop til You Get Enough” from Off the Wall won Michael his first Best R&B Vocal Performance Grammy.

Michael’s electrifying 1983 performance of “Billie Jean” on the television special “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever” solidified his place as a pop icon and superstar.

By 1984, the “Thriller” album, (released in 1982), won 8 Grammy Awards.  Jackson has worked with the biggest names in rock, included 1982 & 1983 duet collaborations with Paul McCartney, ("The Girl is Mine,” “Say, Say, Say"), and “State of Shock,” recorded with Mick Jagger in 1984.

Michael teamed up with Lionel Richie in 1985 to co-author, “We Are The World,” a song written to help world hunger.

By 1986, Jackson was working with film giants Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas on his short film project, “Captain EO” for Disneyland and Disneyworld.

1987 saw the release of “Bad,” an album that produced four number one singles.  Doubleday published Michael’s autobiography, “Moonwalk,” in 1988.

The “Dangerous” album was released in 1991.  In 1993, Jackson entertained during the Super Bowl, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and received a Living Legend Grammy Award.

Here’s a complete Michael Jackson timeline courtesy of PowerhouseRadio.com.

Like many celebrities, his private life has not been without controversy.  Despite being the focus of tabloid journalism, Jackson has attained a place in musical history that few entertainers have achieved.

* Biography courtesy of Empower Encyclopedia *

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 07/03 at 01:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How Eartha Kitt Created a Black History Legend

Eartha Kitt, (1927 - 2008), lived an amazing true-life story.  She became the diva of Europe during the 1950’s as an electrifying cabaret singer.

Her dating exploits with contemporary playboys filled the gossip pages with celebrity news.

Outspoken and independent, Kitt received a backlash from the African American community throughout her career for not being “black enough."

Despite this challenge, Eartha Kitt eventually flourished in the USA on stage, on screen, and on records with Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award nominations.

At just 16 as a member of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, Eartha toured Mexico, South America, and Europe.

Follow this Eartha Kitt Timeline:

  • Films - Accused (1957), Anna Lucasta (1959), and Syanon (1965)
  • From 1968 to 1974 Kitt performed primarily in Europe.
  • In the late 1970’s, she focused on her recording career
  • In the 1980’s, she spent a lot of time on her Connecticut estate
  • More films in the 1990’s, including Boomerang, Ernest: Scared Stupid, and Fatal Instinct
  • Kitt won the Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding performer in an animated program for Disney’s The Emperor’s New School (June 13, 2008)
  • She’s best remembered for her role as Catwoman on the TV series Batman

Kitt proved to be a huge hit with the Paris nightclub crowd, and is known for her sultry, sexy cabaret act.

Here’s a great example...listen to 60 seconds of Eartha Kitt singing “My Heart Belongs To Daddy” from the CD Eartha Kitt - The Masters.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 05/27 at 07:45 PM
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oprah Winfrey to Create her OWN Television Channel with Discovery Networks

Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications have announced plans to create OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

OWN will debut in 2009 in more than 70 million homes on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel.

Oprah is pictured with David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, who stated at a January,15, 2008 press conference: “At Discovery, our goals are to improve the quality of the networks while expanding the reach and success of our web presence. This venture does both, and having Oprah as Chairman and creative leader makes OWN a very unique property in a crowded media landscape."

OWN’s mission is to create multiple platforms for women, men and their families with a purpose and a passion: to celebrate life, to inspire and entertain, empowering viewers around the world to live their best lives, and by doing so, lift the lives of those around them in ever-widening circles.

In addition to providing her talent, and personal commitment, Winfrey will have full editorial control over the joint venture and will be responsible for OWN’s programming, branding and creative vision.

Winfrey will serve as Chairman of The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC and the venture will be 50/50 owned by Discovery and her production company, Harpo. The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC will be an independent company.

Announced on Martin Luther King Jr.’s (real) birthday, January 15th, 2008, this is another historic move for Ms. Winfrey.

I’m glad to see Oprah has taken the lead to provide more programming alternatives to established cable TV channels.  We know who they are: BET, TV One, and others.

However, OWN will probably be broad in scope, appealing to that mass audience Oprah knows how to attract just like a magnet.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 01/15 at 07:00 PM
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stevie Wonder & Aretha Franklin to Headline the Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Concert

With another $20 million needed to finish the Martin Luther King Jr. Washington, DC National Memorial, the race is on to capture more support for the project.

Radio City Music Hall in New York City will host the Dream Concert on Tuesday, September 18, 2007, to benefit the DC King memorial.

Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, Jessye Norman, Bebe & Cece Winans, and Robin Thicke will perform.

Garth Brooks, Queen Latifah, Joss Stone, and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds will also share the stage.

Whoopi Goldberg will be a guest presenter for the evening.

Tickets go on sale Monday, July 30th, at 9am.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 07/24 at 08:00 AM
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Lena Horne Celebrates 90

Celebrating her 90th birthday, Lena Horne, entertainer extraordinaire, was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1917.

She was a 16-year-old chorus girl at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club in 1933.  Horne’s legacy includes success with radio, movies, television, records, and Broadway.

Her first big Broadway role was in the 1957 production of “Jamaica” with Ricardo Montalban.  As a singer, she’s won 3 Grammy Awards.

Horne has appeared in 16 Hollywood feature films.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 07/04 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Diana Ross Challenges 2007 BET Award Recipients to Raise the Bar

On a night in which she was honored with a lifetime achievement award, Diana Ross had some positive words of wisdom for her inexperienced peers.

Ms. Ross encouraged young artists gathered for the June 26, 2007 BET Awards that long careers are possible without using sleaze and vulgarities.

Her 5 decades of success speaks well for Diana’s magic staying power.

As one of the most popular female vocalists of all time, Ms. Ross is now a black history role model for a new generation of performers.

This photo is from her early 2007 I Love You CD.  Diana is still cranking out the hits.

From humble beginnings to international stardom, the career of Diana Ross has stood the test of time.  She has reached out and touched the world as a recording legend, film actor, and night club performer.

"The Boss” began her climb to fame at age 14 as part of a singing group with Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard.

The Primettes sang at parties around Detroit, Michigan.  They auditioned for Motown in 1960.  Owner Berry Gordy renamed the group, the Supremes.  The vocal trio belted out hit after hit during the 1960’s.

In 1970, Diana Ross went solo.  She signed a huge recording contract with RCA in 1981 (after 20 years with Motown).  In 1982, Diana’s star was placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 06/27 at 01:15 AM
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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

NYC Dream Concert to Benefit MLK JR DC Memorial

Quincy Jones, Russell Simmons, David Stern, Joel Horowitz, Edgar Bronfman Jr., and Tommy Hilfiger have come together to create The Dream Concert, a one-night benefit for The Martin Luther King Jr. Washington DC National Memorial.

Stern is the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Bronfman the Chairman of the Warner Music Group, and Horowitz is the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger.

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis will be the artistic directors of The Dream Concert.  Jam and Lewis have produced Grammy Award winning albums for many artists, including Janet Jackson.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Washington DC National Memorial project is running out of time to secure the rest of the money needed to finish construction.

Groundbreaking took place on November 13, 2006.  $21 million is still needed to complete the $100 million project.

Muhammad Ali, Angela Bassett, Jamie Foxx, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kerry Washington, and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins are on the host committee for the Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Dream Concert at Radio City Music Hall in the Big Apple.

You can go to mlkmemorial.org and click on “Programs and Events,” and “The Dream Concert” for further information about when tickets will go on sale this Summer.

The King Memorial is scheduled to be completed in 2008.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 05/23 at 09:30 AM
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist

In an age of specialization, Paul Robeson was known as a true “Renaissance Man."

He spoke or read over 20 languages, including Russian and Chinese.

Robeson may have been the most internationally famous African American in the 1930’s.  He carved out a lasting legacy as a world class artist, activist, singer, actor, lawyer, and athlete.

A Phi Beta Kappa Rutgers University graduate and a Columbia Law School graduate, Robeson was the first African American “All American."

He shifted his focus from the arts to social causes in the mid 1930’s when he became involved in the labor movement.  A 1934 visit to the Soviet Union was the first of his many international trips.

Paul Robeson was denied a passport by the U.S. Government between 1950 - 1958 because of his growing outspoken sympathetic views towards communism.

Mr. Robeson was an extraordinary talent and humanist.

Robeson’s legendary performances include roles as Shakespeare’s Othello, and Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones.

He also left a lasting impression in the stage version of Porgy and Bess.  In Hollywood, he starred in Showboat, and King Solomon’s Mines.

There’s a new 2007 DVD box set, Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist, featuring highlights of his amazing film career.

The box set also contains an incredible compilation of all things Robeson, including the audio of a 1958 radio interview he granted to Pacifica.

Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist is an outstanding DVD box set appropriate for an intimate introduction to a man who is a unique personality among black history people.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/18 at 08:15 PM
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Walker, Washington, and Winfrey Capture Women's History Success

March, Women’s History Month, is a great time to look at three African American ladies who identified specific community needs, created some valuable services, and then prospered financially from their cutting edge innovation.


Madame C.J. Walker, (1867-1919), was one of the first American women to become a millionaire.  Walker was also the first African American female millionaire.

She created an original formula for straightening hair.  Her hair ointment became an overwhelming overnight success.

With just $2, the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company was born in Indianapolis, Indiana (1910).  At its zenith, the Walker business empire directly employed 5,000 black women in schools, salons, laboratories, and factories.


Madame Sara S. Washington, (1881-1953), was also a pioneering African American entrepreneur.  She too became a millionaire by providing cosmetic and beauty products targeted toward black women.

The Buckley, Virginia native launched her first beauty shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  In 1920, Washington manufactured hair care and beauty preparations under the name of Apex Hair Products.  She also founded various Apex Beauty Colleges.


Oprah Winfrey’s gateway to success: mass media, communications, and entertainment.

Oprah was Nashville, Tennessee’s first African American television correspondent in 1973.  By 1978, she was co-hosting a local talk show in Baltimore, Maryland.

After a year in the Windy City hosting A.M Chicago on WLS-TV, the program was renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1985.

In 1988, she launched Harpo Productions, the creative center of her many entrepreneurial activities.


In the black history timeline...

  • Madame C.J. Walker
  • Madame Sara S. Washington
  • Oprah Winfrey

are three creative African American women who have personally reaped big financial benefits because of their direct and indirect involvement in doing something positive for their communities.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Black History People Visionaries and Pioneers

  • "What did Barbara Jordan do for us?”
  • "I need a report on Diana Ross”
  • “Something on Frederick Douglass”
  • “Do you have information on Malcolm X?”

These are four actual questions from among the many we received in the past week!  Yes, it is hard to find reliable information about African American visionaries and pioneers.

Here are 26 twentieth century personalities responsible for moving the American Dream forward you need to know about (in random order):

  1. Langston Hughes
  2. Marian Anderson
  3. Thomas Bradley
  4. Dr. Ralph J. Bunche
  5. Coretta Scott King
  6. Frederick Douglass
  7. Dr. Charles Drew
  8. Sammy Davis Jr.
  9. Shirley Chisholm
  10. Jesse Owens
  11. James Meredith
  12. Ella Fitzgerald
  13. William H. Hastie
  14. Richard Wright
  15. Malcolm X
  16. Diana Ross
  17. Charles H. Houston
  18. A. Philip Randolph
  19. Andrew Young
  20. Barbara Jordan
  21. Ronald Dellums
  22. Bo Diddley
  23. Rosa Parks
  24. Duke Ellington
  25. Lena Horne
  26. Joe Louis

    If you’d like to learn more about these achievers, (and you’ve signed up for our free black history biographies via email...and have confirmed your subscription), then you’ll be among the first to be able to benefit from an exciting new project profiling these African American legends coming soon.

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    Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/15 at 09:45 AM
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