Wednesday, April 25, 2007

African American Lives 2

The television producers of African American Lives 2 are seeking an African American to join Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and an all-new group of distinguished African Americans tentatively scheduled to air on PBS in February, 2008.

Under the supervision of Professor Gates, the series’ research will be conducted by genealogists Tony Burroughs, Johni Cerny, Jane Ailes and Megan Smolenyak together with, one of the world’s leading online resources for family history information.

The selected individual’s family history will be researched and featured on African American Lives 2, while a DNA testing service will provide a genetic analysis.

If you are interested, apply online at Online applications must be received by 6:00 p.m Eastern, Friday, May 4, 2007.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/25 at 08:00 PM
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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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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Classic Soul Tribute to Jackie Robinson

April 15, 2007, is the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first baseball game in the major leagues.

Catch my perspective in Jackie Robinson Honored with 13 Song Tribute.  I wrote this piece exclusively for the classic soul/R&B section of the new website,

Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/14 at 05:23 PM
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

100 Screen Icons of Black History

100 Black Screen Icons is a new website that spotlights 100 of the most significant black personalities in film and television.

You can vote on your favorites in four different categories through June 29, 2007.

The new site is sponsored by the United Kingdom Film Council and the BBC.

Personalities in the poll are not just the usual suspects...

  • Denzel Washington
  • Halle Berry
  • Ousmane Sembene
  • Oscar Michieux
  • (British actors) Ashley Walters, Sophie Okenodo, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Adrian Lester

Amanda Nevill, Director of BFI, a co-sponsor of the site, says: “We believe the 100 Black Screen Icons website will not only promote the cultural and creative importance of black professionals in film and television, but will also inspire young people globally in the future to pursue a career in film and television."

"It is our hope that the website will become a definitive guide to black film, as well as an educational learning resource and entertaining medium which can reach a huge range of audiences all over the world."

The nominations have been compiled with the help of experts including directors, actors, writers and technical innovators.

Nominees come from the U.K., Europe, North America, Africa and the Caribbean.

Put 100 Black Screen Icons to the history test and vote for your favorites.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/11 at 08:00 PM
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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Black History Tuskegee Airmen Honored with Congressional Gold

The Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush on March 29, 2007.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor given by the U.S. Congress.

Tuskegee airman Dr. Roscoe Brown, a former commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, thanked President Bush, the House, and the Senate for “voting unanimously to award this medal collectively to the pilots, bombardiers, the navigators, the mechanics, the ground officers, the enlisted men and women who served with the Tuskegee Airmen."

Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, a pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group also addressed the crowd gathered at the U.S. Capitol.

The Tuskegee Airmen were an elite group of African American pilots in the 1940s. They were black history pioneers in equality and integration of the U.S. Armed Forces.

According to U.S. Army Airman Brian Butkus, 375th Airlift Wing, “Tuskegee Airmen” refers to anyone involved in the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft.

Butkus confirms that The Tuskegee Airmen included:

  • Pilots
  • Navigators
  • Bombardiers
  • Maintenance and support staff
  • Instructors
  • All personnel who kept the planes in the air.

Most service-member flight training took place at the Division of Aeronautics of Tuskegee Institute.

Air Corps officials built a separate facility at Tuskegee Army Air Field to train the pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen not only battled enemies during wartime but also fought against racism and segregation.

Racism was common during World War II.  Many people did not want blacks to become pilots.

By the end of World War II, 992 men had graduated from pilot training at Tuskegee; 450 were sent overseas for combat assignment, and about 150 lost their lives while in training or on combat flights.

On November 6, 1998, President Bill Clinton approved Public Law 105-355, which established the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, to commemorate and interpret the heroic actions of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

* special thanks to the U.S. Army for providing some of the official background information.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/04 at 09:30 AM
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