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Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. He eventually settled in Harlem but travelled throughout his life. He wrote sixteen books of poetry, two novels, seven collections of short stories, two autobiographies, four nonfiction works, ten books for children, and more than twenty-five plays.
Born on November 9, 1922, Dorothy Jean Dandridge was a film and theatre actress, singer, and dancer. She was the first African-American actress nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, for her role in the 1954 film Carmen Jones. She performed on stage in Swingin' the Dream (1939), Meet the People (1941), Jump for Joy (1941), Sweet 'n' Hot (1944), Crazy Girls (1952), West Side Story (1962), and Show Boat (1964).
Gregory Oliver Hines, born February 14, 1946, in New York City, was tap dancer, actor, and choreographer who was a major figure in the revitalization of tap dancing in the late 20th century. In 1978 Hines starred with his brother in Eubie!, a tribute to American ragtime pianist and composer Eubie Blake that was choreographed by Henry Le Tang. Hines received a Tony Award nomination, and other nominations followed for performances in Comin’ Uptown (1979) and Sophisticated Ladies (1981).
Lorraine Hansberry was born on May 19, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. She was one of the most incisive and visionary playwrights and thinkers of the twentieth century. With her iconic play A Raisin in the Sun, she became the first African-American woman to produce a drama on Broadway.
Assotto Saint was a poet, a dancer, performer, LGBT activist and publisher. Born Yves François Lubin on October 2, 1957, in Les Cayes, Haiti, he moved to the United States in 1970. Not only did his writing appear in multiple anthologies, he edited three anthologies of Black gay poetry, co-founded a theater company, and founded a small press called “Galiens.”
Born Ruby Ann Wallace on October 27, 1924, in Cleveland, Ohio, Ruby Dee was an actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and civil rights activist. She is perhaps best known for originating the role of "Ruth Younger" in the stage and film versions of A Raisin in the Sun in 1961. In 1965 Ruby Dee became the first African American actress to appear in major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut.
James Baldwin was born August 2, 1924 in Harlem, NY. In 1964, Baldwin saw the first of the three plays he had written reach the Broadway stage. He said to the New York Times: “I'm not concerned with the success or failure of the play. I want to shock the people; I want to wake them up; I want to make them think; I want to trick them into an experience which I think is important.”
Ntozake Shange passed away in her sleep and joined the ancestors on the morning of October 27, 2018. Born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey, on October 18, 1948, Shange was a black feminist, a playwright, a poet, and a novelist. Her Obie Award-winning choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf,” written in 1974, combined 20 poems about the resilience of Black women using dance, acting, and music.
June Jordan was a poet, activist, journalist, essayist and teacher. Born in Harlem in 1936, she was the child of Jamaican immigrant parents and throughout her life was active in the civil rights, feminist, antiwar and gay and lesbian rights movements, even as she became known as a writer. In the 1980s, her play The Issue, directed by Ntozake Shange, and the musical Bang Bang über Alles, for which she wrote the libretto, were performed.
#BlackTheatreToday: “I want to tell stories in which little Black girls who are not granted access to womanhood because of the narrow constructs of white cisgender femininity can see themselves in a lane of their own rather than carving their way into a lane never built for them. I want to tell stories in which a queer Black nonbinary woman like myself can expect celebration rather than acceptance."