Theatre/the Arts

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

Syl Jones, writer born

Syl Jones

Syl Jones was born on this date in 1951. He is an African American author, playwright, and media consultant.

He was born Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Sylvester and Juanita Jones. His family migrated north from Arkansas through Chicago in the early 1930s. After high school, Jones attended and graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis in 1973 with a double major in English and Theatre Arts.

Mixed Blood Theater, a house of diversity

On this date in 1976, the Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis held its first stage performance.

Mixed Blood Theatre Company is a multi-racial theater promoting cultural pluralism and individual equality through artistic excellence. Through productions for artistry, entertainment, education, and social change, Mixed Blood addresses artificial obstacles that keep people from succeeding in American society. Since its founding, Mixed Blood has performed plays ranging from intimate chamber theater to irreverent political satires to technical extravaganzas.

Simon Estes, an international Voice

Simon Estes

*The birth of Simon Estes in 1938 is marked on this date. He is an African American classical concert vocalist.

Jules Bledsoe, a singer with a range from opera to folk songs

Jules Bledsoe

Jules Bledsoe was born on this date in 1897. He was an African American classical baritone and composer.

Born in Waco, Texas, he was the son of Henry L. and Jessie (Cobb) Bledsoe. He attended Central Texas Academy in Waco from about 1905 until his graduation as class valedictorian in 1914. He then attended Bishop College in Marshall, where he earned a B.A. in 1918. He was a member of the ROTC at Virginia Union University in Richmond in 1918-19, and studied medicine at Columbia University in New York City between 1920 and 1924.

Savion Glover, tap dancer, choreographer, and actor

Savion Glover

Savion Glover was born on this date in 1973. He is an African American actor, tap dancer, and choreographer.

Glover was born in Newark, N.J., where as a young child he displayed an enthusiasm for rhythms and at age four he began taking drumming lessons. At age seven he began taking tap lessons and quickly developed a passion for rhythm tap, a form that uses all parts of the foot to create sound. Glover is a graduate of the Newark Arts High School.

Penumbra Theater illuminates through art

Penumbra Theatre Company opened with its first productions on this date in 1976. It was founded by artistic director Lou Bellamy to create a forum for African American voices in the St. Paul-Minneapolis theater community. From the beginning, it has been committed to providing realistic, inspirational works that inform and redefine the consciousness of its audience.

Henry LeTang, a pioneer hoofer

Henry LeTang

*Henry LeTang was born on this date in 1915. He was an African American choreographer.

Truth in Art by Kara Walker

Kara Walker

Kara Walker was born on this date in 1969. She is an African American contemporary artist known for her exploration of race, gender, sexuality, and identity in her works.

She was born in Stockton, CA. Her father was a painter and a teacher. Walker's education includes an Master of Fine Arts (MFA) at Rhode Island School of Design in painting/printmaking, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in painting/printmaking at Atlanta College of Art.

Wilfredo Lam, Afro-Cuban art extraordinaire

Wilfredo Lam

*Wilfredo Lam was born on this date in 1902. He was an Afro Cuban artist.

Born (Wifredo Yscar de la Concepayn Lam y Castilla) Lam was from Sagua La Grande, a small town in Cuba. His father was Chinese and his mother was African, Spanish and Native-Cuban. Young Lam had artistic talent as a young man; he went to Havana to study law, and also learned painting at the Academy of San Alejandro. In 1923, he traveled to Madrid to further his artist studies. During that time (1929) he married Eva Piriz but both she and their young son died in 1931 of Tuberculosis.

Fred Benjamin, a true stage presence

Fred Benjamin

Fred Benjamin was born on this date in 1944. He was an African American dancer, choreographer, and instructor.

He was born in Boston, and began dancing at age four at Elma Lewis' School of Fine Arts in Roxbury. He danced with the Talley Beatty Company from 1963 until 1966, when the company folded. Two years later, he started his own New York-based Fred Benjamin Dance Company, which existed, largely without funding, for 20 years. Like most African-American choreographers of the time, his work was compared to that of Alvin Ailey, but Benjamin modeled himself after his idol, Beatty.