February 28

Chris Rock was making fun his profession by his late teens. He grew up in New York and started performing on the stand-up comedy circuit there. One night while on stage at the New York Comedy Strip, Rock was introduced to veteran comedian Eddie Murphy. Murphy was impressed and cast Rock in 'Beverly Hills Cop II' (1987).

The part was not a moment of immediate fame for Rock, but his connection with Eddie Murphy landed him some supporting roles. Eventually he worked his way on to the cast of NBC’s 'Saturday Night Live', where he stayed for three years from 1990 to 1993.

Rock's performance was well received and showed a more thoughtful, politically concerned character behind the funny man. Although he was comfortable in front of the camera, Rock had ambitions to do some behind the scene work and achieved this when he wrote the story, screenplay and co-produced 1993's 'CB4'.

Rock's scripts confronted the tensions and politics of modern American society, especially among the African-American communities. In 1996, he cemented his reputation as one of the best comedians in the industry with his second stand-up special for HBO entitled 'Bring the Pain', which was well received. He was rewarded with two Emmy Awards for that special, which saw him tackle race tensions in America, while stirring some controversy along the way.

Rock married Malaak Compton on 23 November 1996 and they have two daughters together. Lola Simone was born on 28 June 2002 and Zahra Savannah was born 22 May 2004.

In 1998, Rock got his own show on HBO, 'The Chris Rock Show', which was followed by 'Bigger & Blacker' (1999), 'Never Scared' (2004) and a fifth HBO special, 'Kill the Messenger' (2008), all of which brightened his star power further.

Ever the energetic artist, Rock was not just concentrating on stand-up comedy. He continued to act, as well as write and produce films including 2000's 'Down to Earth' and 2001's 'Pootie Tang'. 2002 saw him appear alongside Anthony Hopkins in the Joel Schumacher/Jerry Bruckheimer action-comedy film 'Bad Company', which did not perform well at the box office.

Rock has also appeared in 'Dogma' (1998), 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' (2000), 'The Longest Yard' (2005), and 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan' (2008) and has voiced the zebra Marty in three films in the 'Madagascar' franchise. The latest instalment is due out this year (2012).

He also enjoyed success creating, producing and narrating 'Everybody Hates Chris' between 2005 and 2009. It was based on Rock's own childhood experiences.

This did not deter Rock who continued to star and produce more film and television programmes, including documentaries in which he appeared as himself.

His latest lead roles include Aaron in 'Death at a Funeral' (2010), a remake of a 2007 British film of the same title, and Kurt McKenzie in 'Grown Ups', which also starred Adam Sandler. Rock will next appear in 'What to Expect When You're Expecting' and 'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted' in 2012. He is also working on a documentary entitled 'Credit is the Devil' about debt.

Rock was also chosen to host the 77th Academy Awards in early 2005 in an attempt to make them more relevant to a younger audience.

His success as an actor, scriptwriter and comedian has placed him in exalted company, including on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, where he was voted the ninth greatest in 2007 and moved a step up in the updated 2010 list.

Source: The Biography Channel

February 27

T.J. Holmes is an award-winning journalist and national television personality.

Prior to joining BET Networks, Holmes was a familiar face to television viewers as a news anchor and correspondent at CNN for more than 5 years. Holmes also anchored from Ground Zero on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Holmes covered the historic first papal visit to the United States of Pope Benedict XIV in 2008, including anchoring live from the mass at Yankee Stadium. Holmes secured some of the first stories from the survivors of the US Airways Flight 1549 that crash landed in the Hudson River in January of 2009. Holmes also reported from the campus of the University of Mississippi during the first presidential debate between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama.

Holmes contributed to CNN’s 2010 coverage of Gulf Oil Spill and 2008 coverage of the 2008 Presidential primary campaigns, both of which garnered Peabody Awards.

Holmes previously worked as a news anchor at NBC11 in the San Francisco Bay Area. While at NBC, he traveled to Athens, Greece to cover the 2004 Olympics, the first Summer Games held after the September 11th attacks. He also covered numerous other stories that garnered national attention, including the historic recall election of the California Governor in 2003 and the double murder trial of Scott Peterson.

Prior to NBC11, Holmes served as a weekend anchor and reporter at KTHV in Little Rock, Arkansas. He started his career at KSNF in Joplin, Missouri.

Holmes is a graduate of the University of Arkansas. He now serves as member of the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors at the University and is also on the Board of Visitors at Emory University in Atlanta. Holmes is also a member of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta and the National Association of Black Journalists.

Holmes has been named to the Grio 100 List of History Makers and the Root 100 List of Influential African Americans.

Source: TJHolmes.net

February 26

Born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908, Thurgood Marshall was the grandson of a slave. His father, William Marshall, instilled in him from youth an appreciation for the United States Constitution and the rule of law. After completing high school in 1925, Thurgood followed his brother, William Aubrey Marshall, at the historically black Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania. His classmates at Lincoln included a distinguished group of future Black leaders such as the poet and author Langston Hughes, the future President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and musician Cab Calloway.

Thurgood sought admission and was accepted at the Howard University Law School that same year and came under the immediate influence of the dynamic new dean, Charles Hamilton Houston, who instilled in all of his students the desire to apply the tenets of the Constitution to all Americans. Paramount in Houston's outlook was the need to overturn the 1898 Supreme Court ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson which established the legal doctrine called, "separate but equal." Marshall's first major court case came in 1933 when he successfully sued the University of Maryland to admit a young African American Amherst University graduate named Donald Gaines Murray.

Thurgood Marshall followed his Howard University mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston to New York and later became Chief Counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During this period, Mr. Marshall was asked by the United Nations and the United Kingdom to help draft the constitutions of the emerging African nations of Ghana and what is now Tanzania. It was felt that the person who so successfully fought for the rights of America's oppressed minority would be the perfect person to ensure the rights of the White citizens in these two former European colonies. After amassing an impressive record of Supreme Court challenges to state-sponsored discrimination, including the landmark Brown v. Board decision in 1954, President John F. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Biographers Michael Davis and Hunter Clark note that, "none of his (Marshall's) 98 majority decisions was ever reversed by the Supreme Court." In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson appointed Judge Marshall to the office of U.S. Solicitor General. Before his subsequent nomination to the United States Supreme Court in 1967, Thurgood Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases he argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the government. Indeed, Thurgood Marshall represented and won more cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other American.

Until his retirement from the highest court in the land, Justice Marshall established a record for supporting the voiceless American. As an Associate Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall leaves a legacy that expands that early sensitivity to include all of America's voiceless.

Source: Thurgood Marshall College

February 25

Emmett Louis Till was born in Chicago on July 25, 1941. Emmett was the only child of Louis and Mamie Till.

Despite his childhood illness, he grew up a happy boy. Emmett pitched in with the chores. His mother recalled he once told her, "if you can go out and make the money, I can take care of the house." This was welcome news for a woman raising a child alone. "It was just like I was carrying a load and I laid it down," she said.

Emmett, nicknamed Bobo, was surrounded by relatives and grandparents. He attended the all-black McCosh Elementary School not far from his home. The solidly middle class neighborhood on Chicago's South Side where he grew up was a Mecca in which black-owned establishments thrived. There were black-owned and operated insurance companies, tailors, pharmacists, barbers, beauty salons and nightclubs that regularly hosted performers like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn.

Young Emmett's personality was infectious. "He loved to tell jokes," said his cousin, Wheeler Parker. "He would pay people to tell him jokes."

In the summer of 1955, Emmett had just turned 14. He and his friends were enjoying the summer and dancing to a new music called rock and roll.

"That was a good time because where we grew up, a lot of guys listened to the Moonglows, the Coasters, the Flamingos and the Spaniels," said Richard Heard, one of Emmett's classmates. "We'd try to imitate them in our little singing groups. It was a lot of fun."

One afternoon, Heard was invited to Emmett's house for bologna sandwiches and Kool-Aid. They were all looking forward to returning to school together in the fall where they would complete eighth grade and move on to high school.

"Emmett was a funny guy all the time. He had a suitcase of jokes that he liked to tell," said Heard. "He loved to make people laugh. He was a chubby kid; most of the guys were skinny, but he didn't let that stand in his way. He made a lot of friends at McCosh Grammar School where we went to school."

In August 1955, Emmett's great uncle Moses Wright came up from Mississippi and paid the family a visit. On his way back, he was taking Emmett's cousin Wheeler Parker with him to spend time with relatives down South. When Emmett heard that, he wanted to go.

But Emmett's mother had other plans. She wanted to take a vacation and drive to Omaha, Nebraska. Mamie hoped that by coaxing Emmett with an opportunity to learn to drive on the open road, he would opt to go with her instead. But for Emmett, news that his cousins would be spending the summer together in Mississippi was an opportunity he didn't want to pass up.

The day before Emmett left, Mamie gave her son Louis Till's signet ring, one of the few possessions she had from her former husband. The next day, Mamie raced her son to the train station. Their kiss goodbye would be the last time she would see her son alive.

Coming only one year after the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education mandated the end of racial segregation in public schools, Till's death provided an important catalyst for the American Civil Rights Movement. One hundred days after Emmett Till's murder, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama city bus, sparking the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott. Nine years later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing many forms of racial discrimination and segregation, one year later it passed the Voting Rights Act outlawing discriminatory voting practices.

Although she never stopped feeling the pain from her son's death, Mamie Till also recognized that what happened to Emmett Till helped open Americans' eyes to the racial hatred plaguing their country, and in doing so helped spark a massive protest movement for racial equality and justice.

Sources: PBS, Biography.com

February 22

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a highly regarded African-American educator and scholar. He directs of the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard. He received a MacArthur Foundation grant in 1981 to support his research for the Black Periodical Literary Project.

Born on September 16, 1950, in Keyser, West Virginia. Gates excelled as a student, graduating from Yale University in 1973 with a degree in history. He continued his education at Clare College, which is part of Cambridge University in England. He finished his doctorate degree in 1979, making him the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from the university.

In the 1980s Gates became known as a leading scholar of African-American literature, history, and culture. He built his reputation in part on his talents as a researcher. At the start of the decade, he began working on the Black Periodical Literature Project, which uncovered lost literary works published in 1800s. Gates received a grant from the prestigious MacArthur Foundation in 1981, which helped support his scholarship in African-American literature. He had rediscovered what is believed to be the first novel published by an African-American in the United States. Gates republished the 1859 work by Harriet E. Wilson entitled Our Nig in 1983.

Gates served an editor on several anthologies and collections of African-American literature and contributed to the field of literary theory with such works as Black Literature and Literary Theory(1984) and The Signifying Monkey: Towards a Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (1988). In 1991, Gates became the head of the African-American studies department at Harvard University. He is credited with transforming the school's African American studies program. Gates is now the director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at the university.

Recently, Gates has been involved in a number of interesting educational projects for television. He wrote and produced several documentaries: Wonders of the African World (2000), America Beyond the Color Line (2004), and African American Lives (2006). Gates has plans for more documentaries, including a documentary special on the heritage of talk show host Oprah Winfrey and a sequel to African American Lives.

Gates has also earned numerous honors. In addition to his MacArthur Fellowship, he was chosen by the National Endowment for the Humanities to give the Jefferson Lecture, was inducted into the Sons of the American Revolution in 2006, and named as one of Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans in 2007. He also has more than 50 honorary degrees.

Gates has been married to Sharon Lynn Adams since 1979. Gates and his wife have two daughters, Maude and Elizabeth.

Source: Biography.com

February 21

Joe Johns is CNN's senior correspondent covering the Supreme Court and criminal justice. Known nationally for his crime and law enforcement reporting, Johns previously served as senior correspondent covering current and political events across the network's programming. He has also contributed to the network's America's Choice 2012 election coverage. Johns joined CNN as a congressional correspondent in January 2004. He is based in the network's Washington, D.C. bureau.

Prior to CNN, Johns covered events on Capitol Hill for more than 10 years with NBC News.

Johns' reporting has also included the White House and the Pentagon. In 1996, he covered Bill Clinton's historic tour of Africa and followed first lady Hillary Clinton on a seven-nation visit to central Europe. In 1994, he traveled to Haiti with Marines ordered by Clinton to assist in that country's transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.

Johns first came to Washington, D.C., in 1983 when he joined WRC-TV, an NBC affiliate. There, he won an Emmy for a spot news piece on the violent tactics of the Nation of Islam to rid a district neighborhood of drugs.

Before joining WRC-TV, Johns was a reporter at WSOC-TV, Charlotte, N.C. He began his TV career as a reporter and anchor in 1980 at WSAZ-TV in Huntington, W.Va.

Most recently, Johns' reporting contributed to two 2011 Emmy Awards for Anderson Cooper 360°'s Haiti earthquake coverage. Johns is the recipient of two National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence awards. He was honored first in 2005 for a profile on lynching survivor James Cameron and then again in 2007 for a series of pieces on environmental injustice. He contributed to CNN's Emmy award-winning Election Night coverage in 2006 and he was a member of the Peabody Award-winning Best Political Team on Television throughout the network's 2008 America Votes' election coverage.

Johns is a former chairman of the executive committee of Correspondents of the Congressional Radio and Television Galleries and president of the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association. He is also a member of the board of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Marshall University in Huntington and a law degree from American University.

Source: CNN

February 20

Lynn Nottage is the author of Intimate Apparel, which was produced in New York at Roundabout Theatre Company after its world-premiere production at Center Stage and South Coast Repertory. The play received numerous awards, including the 2004 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Best Play award, the John Gassner Award, the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg 2004 New Play Award and the 2004 Francesca Primus Award, and it has gone on to receive dozens of productions around the country.

Her next play, Fabulation, or the Education of Undine (Obie Award) directed by Kate Whoriskey, was first produced by Playwrights Horizons and recently received a highly acclaimed production at the Tricycle Theatre in London. Both plays are published in an anthology by Theatre Communications Group (TCG). Another anthology of her plays, Crumbs From the Table of Joy and Other Plays was published by TCG, and includes Crumbs From the Table of Joy; Las Meninas; Mud, River, Stone; Por’Knockers and Poof! Her plays have been produced and developed at theaters throughout the country, including Alliance Theatre, Second Stage Theatre, the Vineyard Theatre, Freedom Theatre, Crossroads Theatre Company, Intiman Theatre, the Oregon Skahespeare Festival, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Yale Reportory Theatre and the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, among many others.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious 2004 PEN/Laura Pels Award for literary excellence and the MacArthur “Genius” Award, as well as fellowships from Manhattan Theatre Club, New Dramatists and the New York Foundation for the Arts, where she is a member of the Artists Advisory Board.

Ms. Nottage is an alumna of New Dramatists and a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama, where she is currently a visiting lecturer. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, filmmaker Tony Gerber, and daughter Ruby.

Source: The Pulitzer Prizes

February 19

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, has served as President of UMBC (The University of Maryland, Baltimore County) since 1992. His research and publications focus on science and math education, with special emphasis on minority participation and performance. He chaired the National Academies’ committee that produced the recent report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads. He also was recently named by President Obama to chair the newly created President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

In 2008, he was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report, which ranked UMBC the nation’s #1 “Up and Coming” university the past four years (2009-12). During this period, U.S. News also consistently ranked UMBC among the nation’s leading institutions for “Best Undergraduate Teaching” – tied in 2012 with Duke, Cal-Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Notre Dame. TIME magazine named him one of America’s 10 Best College Presidents in 2009, and one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012. In 2011, he received both the TIAA-CREF Theodore M. Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence and the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Academic Leadership Award, recognized by many as the nation’s highest awards among higher education leaders. Also in 2011, he was named one of seven Top American Leaders by The Washington Post and the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership. In 2012, he received the Heinz Award for his contributions to improving the “Human Condition” and was among the inaugural inductees into the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions Leadership Hall of Fame.

He serves as a consultant to the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Academies, and universities and school systems nationally. He also serves on the boards of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation (Chair), T. Rowe Price Group, The Urban Institute, McCormick & Company, and the Baltimore Equitable Society. He served previously on the boards of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Maryland Humanities Council (member and Chair).

Examples of other honors include election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Philosophical Society; receiving the prestigious McGraw Prize in Education, the U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, the Columbia University Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service, and the GE African American Forum ICON Lifetime Achievement Award; being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Marylander of the Year by the editors of the Baltimore Sun; and being listed among Fast Company magazine’s first Fast 50 Champions of Innovation in business and technology, and receiving the Technology Council of Maryland’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He also holds honorary degrees from more than 20 institutions – from Harvard, Princeton, and Duke to the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, Haverford College, and Harvey Mudd College.

With philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff, he co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program in 1988. The program is open to all high-achieving students committed to pursuing advanced degrees and research careers in science and engineering, and advancing underrepresented minorities in these fields. The program is recognized as a national model, and based on program outcomes, Hrabowski has authored numerous articles and co-authored two books, Beating the Odds and Overcoming the Odds (Oxford University Press), focusing on parenting and high-achieving African American males and females in science. He and UMBC were recently featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, attracting national attention for the campus’s achievements involving innovation and inclusive excellence.

A child-leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Hrabowski was prominently featured in Spike Lee’s 1997 documentary, Four Little Girls, on the racially motivated bombing in 1963 of Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

Born in 1950 in Birmingham, Alabama, Hrabowski graduated at 19 from Hampton Institute with highest honors in mathematics. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he received his M.A. (mathematics) and four years later his Ph.D. (higher education administration/statistics) at age 24.

Source: University of Maryland, Baltimore County

February 18

Ralph Waldo Ellison was born March 1, 1914 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Lewis Alfred and Ida Millsap Ellison. The couple moved out west to Oklahoma hoping the lives of their children would be fueled with a sense of possibility in this state that was reputed for its freedom.

During his teenage years, Ellison and his friends imagined being the eclectic combination of frontiersmen and Renaissance Men. Ellison took part in playing at many concerts, marches, bands, and celebrations for the town. During the midst of this study, he did not lose sight of his desire to be a Renaissance Man, however, and spent time playing football, working at small jobs, and experimenting in electronics.

In 1933, Ellison left Oklahoma and headed to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to study music, with the help of a scholarship he had won from the state of Oklahoma. One of his music teachers at the school was Hazel Harrison who would later introduce Ellison to Alain Locke, a New Negro thinker, who would lead Ellison to his writing career years later through connections to Langston Hughes and Richard Wright. He would later use the experiences from Tuskegee and the injustices he encountered in the South to structure his writing of Invisible Man.

Ellison lived in New York for most of the rest of his life. One of New York's lures was its energy and reputation of energy and freedom. Ellison enjoyed living in Harlem as it was a tremendously vibrant cultural center in the 1930s and 1940s. The return to New York though was promising because of a meeting with Richard Wright, who would have a large literary influence on Ellison. His first book review is published in New Challenge entitled "Creative and Cultural Lag." Soon after, as his literary style began to take form, he wrote his first short story, "Heine's Bull." It was not published.

Finally in 1938, Wright aided him in getting a job with the Federal Writers' Project. Much of his time was employed by the Project, but Ellison still found ways to submit materials to radical periodicals of the day, as influenced by the leftist Wright, such as Negro Quarterly, New Challenge, and New Masses. Between 1937 and 1944, he published over twenty book reviews. This belief of Ellison's later led to his break with his beloved mentor, Richard Wright, as Ellison criticized the character of Bigger Thomas in Wright's masterpiece, Native Son. He published his first short stories, such as "Slick Gonna Learn", "The Birthmark", "King of the Bingo Game", and Flying Home". In 1946, he marries Fanny McConnell. The quality of his writing reached masterful proportions by the end of World War II, as he had learned to incorporate the likes of Twain, Faulkner, Dostoevsky, and Hemingway into his work. His own voice arose in full power and in 1952 he published Invisible Man.

He published two acclaimed books of essays, Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory. Ellison also received many awards for his masterpiece, Invisible Man, and for his overall career during the second half of his life. These honors include the National Book Award, Russwarm Award, and the election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Lastly, Ellison spent a great deal of time teaching in various colleges. In 1970, he became the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at New York University. Ellison continued until the day he died spreading and cultivating his vision of America and art: the conscious protagonist and the use of blackness to break categories instead of sustaining them.

Source: GradeSaver.com

February 15

Gregory Hines (14 February 1946-9 August 2003), jazz tap dancer, singer, actor, musicians, and creator of improvised tap choreography, was born in New York City, the son of Maurice Hines Sr. and Alma Hines. He began dancing at the age of not-quite-three, turned professional at age five, and for fifteen years performed with his older brother Maurice as The Hines Kids, making nightclub appearances across the country. When Gregory was eighteen, he and Maurice were joined by their father, Maurice Sr., on drums, becoming Hines, Hines and Dad.

When Hines moved back to New York City in the late 1970s, he immediately landed a role in The Last Minstrel Show. The show closed in Philadelphia, but launched him back into the performing arts, and just a month later came Eubie (1978) a certified Broadway hit, which earned him the first of four Tony nominations. Comin' Uptown(1980), though not a success, led to another nomination and Sophisticated Ladies(1981) to a third. In 1992, Hines received the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his riveting portrayal of the jazz man Jelly Roll Morton in George C. Wolfe's production of Jelly's Last Jam, sharing a Tony nomination for choreography for that show with Hope Clark and Ted Levy.

Hines made his initial transition from dancer/singer to film actor in Mel Brooks' hilarious The History of the World, Part I (1981), playing the role of a Roman Slave, that in one scene sees him sand-dancing in the desert. With full-scale production numbers filmed on location in New York City and Hollywood, and with an original soundtrack created especially for the look and style of the film, Tap became the first dance musical to merge tap dancing with contemporary rock and funk musical styles.

Hines' extensive and varied film resume includes teaming with Billy Crystal in director Peter Hyam's hit comedy, Running Scared, and the next year with Willem Dafoe, in Southeast Asia, in the military thriller Off Limits. He also appeared in the offbeat ensemble comedy, Mad Dog Time, with Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, Gabriel Byrne, and Richard Dreyfuss. In 1994, Hines expanded his talents to include the role of film director. His directorial debut was the independent feature, Bleedings Hearts, shot on location in New York.

Hines work in television is equally diverse. In 1989, he created and hosted Gregory Hines Tap Dance in America, a PBS television special that featured veteran tap dancers, established tap dance companies, and next generation of tap dancers. The film was nominated for an Emmy award, as was his performance on Motown Returns to the Apollo. For three years, Hines was the voice of "Big Bill" on Bill Cosby's animated series for Nickelodeon, Little Bill.

Throughout an amazingly varied career, Hines continued to be a tireless advocate for tap in America. In 1988, he lobbied successfully for the creation of National Tap Dance Day, now celebrated in 40 cities in the United States and in eight other nations. He was on the Board of Directors of Manhattan Tap, the Jazz Tap Ensemble, and the American Tap Foundation (formerly the American Tap Dance Orchestra).

Like a jazz musician who ornaments a melody with improvisational riffs, Hines improvised within the frame of the dance. The New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff described Hines' performance in 1995: "Visual elegance, as always, yields to aural power. The complexity of sound grows in intensity and range."

Source: New York Public Library

February 14

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, known as W.E.B. Du Bois, was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. While growing up in a mostly European American town, he identified himself as "mulatto," but freely attended school with whites and was enthusiastically supported in his academic studies by his white teachers. In 1885, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University. It was there that he first encountered Jim Crow laws. After earning his bachelor's degree at Fisk, Du Bois entered Harvard University. He paid his way with money from summer jobs, scholarships and loans from friends. After completing his master's degree, he was selected for a study-abroad program at the University of Berlin. While a pupil in Germany, he studied with some of the most prominent social scientists of his day and was exposed to political perspectives that he touted for the remainder of his life. In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard University.

A year later, Du Bois published his landmark study, The Philadelphia Negro, marking the beginning of his expansive writing career. In the study, he coined the phrase "the talented tenth," a term that described the likelihood of one in 10 black men becoming leaders of their race. While working as a professor at Atlanta University, Du Bois rose to national prominence when he very publicly opposed Booker T. Washington's "Atlanta Compromise," an agreement that asserted that vocational education for blacks was more valuable to them than social advantages like higher education or political office. Du Bois fought what he believed was an inferior strategy and became the spokesperson for full and equal rights in every realm of a person's life.

In 1903, he published his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of 14 essays. In the years following, he adamantly opposed the idea of biological white superiority and vocally supported women's rights. In 1909, he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served as the editor of the association's monthly magazine, The Crisis.

Source: Biography.com

February 13

James Cleveland Owens was born in Oakville, Alabama, on September 12, 1913, the son of a sharecropper, a farmer who rents land. The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1921, for better work opportunities. There was little improvement in their life, but the move did enable young Owens to enter public school, where a teacher accidentally wrote down his name as "Jesse" instead of J. C. He carried the name with him for the rest of his life.

When Owens was in the fifth grade, the athletic supervisor asked him to join the track team. From a skinny boy he developed into a strong runner, and in junior high school he set a record for the 100-yard dash. In high school in 1933 he won the 100-yard dash, the 200-yard dash, and the broad jump in the National Interscholastic Championships. Owens was such a complete athlete, a coach said he seemed to float over the ground when he ran.

A number of universities actively recruited Owens, but he felt that college was only a dream. Owens finally agreed to enter Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, after officials found employment for his father. At the Big Ten Conference track and field championships at the University of Michigan in 1935, he broke three world records and tied another. His 26 foot 8 1/4-inch broad jump set a record that was not broken for twenty-five years.

Owens was a member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic team competing in Berlin, Germany.

Owens won a total of four gold medals at the Olympic games. He returned to a hero's welcome in America, and was honored with a ticker tape parade in New York City. Within months, however, he was unable to find work to finance his senior year of college.

He found employment with the Office of Civilian Defense in Philadelphia (1940–1942) as national director of physical education for African Americans. From 1942 to 1946 he was director of minority employment at Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Michigan. He later became a sales executive for a Chicago sporting goods company.

In 1951 Owens accompanied the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team to Berlin at the invitation of the U.S. High Commission and the army. He was appointed secretary of the Illinois Athletic Commission (1952–1955), and was sent on a global goodwill tour as ambassador of sport for the United States. Also in 1955, he was appointed to the Illinois Youth Commission. In 1956 he organized the Junior Olympic Games for youngsters in Chicago between the ages of twelve and seventeen.

Owens headed his own public relations firm in Chicago, Illinois, and for several years had a jazz program on Chicago radio. He traveled throughout the United States and overseas, lecturing youth groups. Owens and his childhood sweetheart, whom he had married in 1931, had three daughters.

Forty years after Owens won his gold medals, he was invited to the White House to accept a Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford (1913–). The following year, the Jesse Owens International Trophy for amateur athletes was established. In 1979 President Jimmy Carter (1924–) honored Owens with a Living Legend Award.

Congressman Louis Stokes from Cleveland pushed tirelessly to earn Owens a Congressional Gold Medal. President George Bush (1924–) finally gave the award to Owens's widow in 1990. During the ceremony, President Bush called Owens "an Olympic hero and an American hero every day of his life."

Source: NotableBiographies.com

February 12

Born Oct. 20, 1964, to a black Stanford University professor and a Tamil Indian physician mother, Kamala Harris became the first California Attorney General with African American or South Asian ancestry after defeating Republican rival Steve Cooley in the 2010 election for the position. Harris--formerly San Francisco's District Attorney--is also the first woman to serve in the role.

Kamala Devi Harris was born and raised in San Francisco's East Bay where she attended public schools, worshipped at black churches and lived in predominantly African American communities. Her immersion in African American culture didn't prevent her from being exposed to Indian culture, though. Her breast cancer specialist mother took Harris to Hindu temples to worship. Moreover, Harris is no stranger to India, having visited the subcontinent on several occasions to see relatives. Her bicultural heritage and travels around the globe have inspired political insiders to compare her with President Barack Obama.

After graduating from high school, Harris left the East Bay to attend Howard University, a historically black academic institution. She earned a bachelor's degree from Howard in 1986 and then returned to the Bay Area in Northern California. Upon her return, she enrolled at Hastings College of the Law, where she earned a law degree. Following that accomplishment, Harris proceeded to leave her mark on the legal arena of San Francisco.

Then, as managing attorney of the Career Criminal Unit of the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, a position she filled from 1998 to 2000, Harris prosecuted cases involving serial felons. Later, she headed the San Francisco City Attorney's Division on Families and Children for three years. But it was in 2003 that Harris would make history. At that year's end, she was elected as the San Francisco District Attorney, becoming the first woman, black and South Asian to achieve this feat. In November 2007, voters reelected her to the office.

Harris won endorsements from California's political elite while campaigning for attorney general, including Sen. Diane Feinstein, Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Diane Watson, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. On the national stage, Harris had the backing of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Leaders in law enforcement endorsed Harris also, including San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne and San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón.

Harris has also won numerous honors, including being named one of California's top 75 women litigators by legal paper the Daily Journal and a "Woman of Power" by the National Urban League. Additionally, the National Black Prosecutors Association gave Harris the Thurgood Marshall Award and the Aspen Institute chose her to serve as a Rodel Fellow. Lastly, the California District Attorneys Association elected her to its board.

Source: About.com

February 11

Alice Malsenior Walker was born in Eatonton on February 9, 1944, the eighth and youngest child of Minnie Tallulah Grant and Willie Lee Walker, who were sharecroppers. Teased by her classmates and misunderstood by her family, Walker became a shy, reclusive youth. Although Walker eventually became high school prom queen and class valedictorian, she continued to feel like an outsider, nurturing a passion for reading and writing poetry in solitude.

In 1961 Walker left Eatonton for Spelman College, a prominent school for black women in Atlanta, on a state scholarship. During the two years she attended Spelman she became active in the civil rights movement. After transferring to Sarah Lawrence College in New York, Walker continued her studies as well as her involvement in civil rights. In 1962 she was invited to the home of Martin Luther King Jr. in recognition of her attendance at the Youth World Peace Festival in Finland. Walker also registered black voters in Liberty County, Georgia, and later worked for the New York City Department of Welfare.

Two years after receiving her B.A. degree from Sarah Lawrence in 1965, Walker married Melvyn Rosenman Leventhal, a white civil rights attorney. They lived in Jackson, Mississippi, where Walker worked as the black history consultant for a Head Start program. She also served as the writer-in-residence for Jackson State College (later Jackson State University) and Tougaloo College. She completed her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, in 1969, the same year that her daughter, Rebecca Grant, was born.

Walker has taught African American women's studies to college students at Wellesley, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, Yale, Brandeis, and the University of California at Berkeley. She supports antinuclear and environmental causes, and her protests against the oppressive rituals of female circumcision in Africa and the Middle East make her a vocal advocate for international women's rights. Walker has served as a contributing editor of Ms. magazine, and she is a cofounder of Wild Tree Press.

Her most famous novel, The Color Purple, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1983. Walker's creative vision is rooted in the economic hardship, racial terror, and folk wisdom of African American life and culture, particularly in the rural South. Her writing explores multidimensional kinships among women and embraces the redemptive power of social and political revolution.

Walker's appreciation for her matrilineal literary history is evidenced by the numerous reviews and articles she has published to acquaint new generations of readers with writers like Zora Neale Hurston. The anthology she edited, I Love Myself When I Am Laughing ... and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader (1979), was particularly instrumental in bringing Hurston's work back into print. In addition to her deep admiration for Hurston, Walker's literary influences include Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer, black Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks, South African novelist Bessie Head, and white Georgia writer Flannery O'Connor.

Source: GeorgiaEncyclopedia.org

February 8

Initially known to the world as an MC for gangsta godfathers N.W.A., Dr. Dre went on to become the single most influential producer in hip-hop history. With 1993's The Chronic, he married breezy funk samples to hardcore imagery, creating the G-Funk style and inspiring a host of imitators. He would later discover and nurture some of the best rappers ever, including Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and 50 Cent.

Born to a 16-year-old mother, Andre Young was frequently moved from school to school to avoid the gang violence endemic to his native South Central L.A. Young showed little interest in school, but rather than turning to gangs—as many of his peers did—the tall, lanky teen turned to music, frequently local hip-hop clubs, performing as a DJ, and eventually forming the electro-hop World Class Wrecking Cru in 1984 at the age of 19.

In 1986, Young met O'Shea "Ice Cube" Jackson, a passionate devotee of early L.A. rap and aspiring rhyme-writer. The pair began writing lyrics for Eric "Eazy-E" Wright, a former drug dealer who started Ruthless Records with his profits. The trio eventually formed the nucleus of N.W.A., which brought harrowing, often exaggerated, tales of street violence to mainstream America, selling millions of records and transforming the hip-hop genre forever.

Dre left N.W.A and Ruthless Records in 1992 to co-found Death Row Records with Marion "Suge" Knight. In 1992, Death Row released it's first single, "Deep Cover," the theme of a movie of the same name, starring Laurence Fishburne. Also called "187," the single featuring the debut of the rapper then called Snoop Doggy Dogg.

Snoop would play a big part in the first album from Dr. Dre and Death Row, 1993's The Chronic. Snoop, who appeared on nine of the album's 16 cuts, had a lackadaisical style that meshed perfectly with Dre's funk samples, drawn largely from Parliament-Funkadelic. Snoop figured prominently in the breakout single, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," which hit Number Two and was a fixture on MTV. The Chronic went triple platinum, appeared on many critics' year-end Top-10 lists, and earned Dre a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance on "Let Me Ride."

As details of Suge Knight's corrupt dealings came to like and Dre became embroiled in a contract dispute, he left Death Row to form Interscope imprint Aftermath. The first single on the debut Aftermath LP, Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath, was "Been There, Done That," a repudiation of the highly publicized West Coast–East Coast hip-hop feud.

Aftermath drifted for a couple years until 1998, when Interscope CEO Jimmy Iovine suggested Dre sign a Detroit rapper named Eminem. Dre did, and produced three songs on the white rapper's debut, The Slim Shady LP, including advance single "My Name Is," which reached Number 36 and helped the album debut at Number Two, behind TLC's Fanmail, and went on to sell four million copies in the U.S.

A year later, Dre released his second solo album, 2001, which featured many of the MCs he produced, including MC Ren, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and Eminem, and landed at Number Two on the chart. Using fewer samples than The Chronic, the album broadened Dre's sound to include string arrangements and reggae beats. The album included single "Still D.R.E., featuring Snoop Dogg" (Number 93) and "Forgot About Dre," featuring Eminem (Number 25) and helped Dre win Producer of the Year at the 2000 Grammys.

Throughout the new decade, Dre has focused mostly on production, producing much of Eminem's subsequent albums, The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, as well as Get Rich or Die Tryin' and The Massacre, for 50 Cent, who Eminem signed to his own Shady Records. Dre also produced tracks for Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, Game, and Raekwon.

Dre has talked about another solo album, called Detox, since 2002, when he told MTV it would be a concept album. Although the project has come to be though of as hip-hop's Chinese Democracy, Eminem and 50 Cent claimed in a 2009 interview that the album would be out in 2010.

Source: RollingStone.com

February 7

Writer, poet. Born Richard Nathaniel Wright on September 4, 1908 near Natchez, Mississippi. The grandson of slaves and the son of a sharecropper, he went to school in Jackson, Mississippi only until the ninth grade, but had a story published at age 16 while working at various jobs in the South. In 1927 he went to Chicago and worked briefly in the post office, but forced on relief by the Depression, he joined the Communist Party (1932).

With two more minor works published, he found employment with the Federal Writers Project, and his Uncle Tom's Children (1938), a collection of four stories, was highly acclaimed. In 1937 he moved to New York City, where he was an editor on the Communist newspaper, Daily Worker, but the publication of Native Son (1940) brought him overnight fame and freedom to write. A stage version (by Wright and Paul Green) followed in 1941 (and Wright himself later played the title role in a film version made in Argentina).

Black Boy, published in 1945 is a moving account of his childhood and youth in the South and depicts extreme poverty and his accounts of racial violence against blacks. The autobiography advanced Wright's reputation, but after living mainly in Mexico (1940–6) he had become so disillusioned with both the Communists and white America that he went off to Paris, where he lived the rest of his life as an expatriate. He continued to write novels, including The Outsider (1953) and The Long Dream (1958), and non-fiction, such as Black Power (1954) and White Man, Listen! (1957), and was regarded by African American writers, such as James Baldwin, as an inspiration. His naturalistic fiction no longer has the standing it once enjoyed, but his life and works remain exemplary.

Richard Nathaniel Wright died on November 28, 1960 in Paris, France.

Source: Biography.com

February 6

As President and Chief Executive Officer of McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE: MCD), Don Thompson leads the world’s largest foodservice company. McDonald’s serves nearly 69 million customers everyday in 119 countries and employs more than 1.8 million people across the globe in corporate and restaurant positions.

During his 22 years at McDonald’s, Thompson has helped drive business results and global strategic innovation across the organization. Since joining as an electrical engineer in 1990, he has held a variety of key leadership positions within the company including Regional Vice President, Division President and Chief Operating Officer.

Between 2006 and 2010, Thompson served as President of McDonald’s USA, the company’s largest business segment. Most recently as President and COO of McDonald’s Corporation, Thompson and his leadership team established three global growth priorities in support of the McDonald’s Plan to Win: to optimize our menu, modernize the customer experience and broaden restaurant accessibility.

In July 2012, Thompson became President and CEO and is leading the company’s mission to become “our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink.”

A true advocate of collaboration and believer in the strength of the McDonald’s three legged stool, Thompson and his leadership team work closely with the 5,000 independent owner/operators, corporate staff and restaurant employees as well as countless McDonald’s suppliers.

A leader in the business community, Don serves on the Board of Directors for McDonald’s Corporation, the Exelon Corporation, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Purdue University. Thompson also serves as a member of Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, The Economic Club, World Business Chicago and the Brazier Foundation.

Thompson has been recognized for his leadership and passion by the Illinois Holocaust Museum (2012 Humanitarian Award), the Executive Leadership Council (2010 Corporate Award), the Trumpet foundation (2008 Corporate Executive Award), and Black Enterprise (2007 Corporate Executive of the Year).

Thompson received a bachelor of science in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and an Honorary Doctorate degree in Science from Excelsior College.

Thompson resides in the Chicagoland area with his wife and two children.

Source: AboutMcDonalds.com

February 5

Mr. Bridgeman is the Owner and President of Manna, Inc. and ERJ Inc. which currently oversees the administration and operation of 161 Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburger Restaurants in five states and 118 Chili's Restaurants in four states. The restaurants employ over 11,000 people. His company has received numerous awards from Wendy's International including the Hall of Fame Award for overall achievement, which the company received in 1999.

Currently Mr. Bridgeman serves on the Board of Directors of Fifth Third Bank, the Library, West End School, Jackson Hewitt Board, Governors Rider Cup, Governors Scholar Program, Louisville Community Initiative, National Basketball Retired Players Association, PGA Board of Directors, Crusade for Children Foundation, and Wendy's National Advertising Board. He has served as Capital Campaign Co-Chair for the African American Heritage Foundation. Mr. Bridgeman is a member of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, having served as its chairman from 2003 to 2005.

Ulysses (Junior) Bridgeman received his bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Louisville in 1975. He was a guard for the Cardinal Basketball team and was an All-American in 1974-75. After graduation, Mr. Bridgeman played professional basketball for more than a decade in the NBA. From 1975 to 1983 and from 1986 to 1987 he played with the Milwaukee Bucks. During the interim from 1983 to 1986, he played for the Los Angeles Clippers. During his 11 years with the NBA Players Association, he served as a Player Representative acting as a liaison between players and management, was directly involved in arbitration proceedings and assisted with implementation of special programs, such as Career Alternatives, Fitness and Wellness, and Financial Planning. He served as Treasurer for the NBA Players Association for 3 years and President for 4 years.

Mr. Bridgeman has received many awards including the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, Volunteers of America's Tribute Award for Outstanding Service to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, John Thompson Foundation's Outstanding Achievement Award, Jim Near Legacy Award, and Coach Wooden Key to Life Award.

Source: MarketMentors.com

February 4

Sheila C. Johnson, an impassioned philanthropist, a visionary and an entrepreneur with a flair for business, is CEO of Salamander Hospitality, LLC; President & Managing Partner of the WNBA's Washington Mystics; and a partner in Lincoln Holdings, LLC. She also serves as a Global Ambassador for CARE.

Johnson was appointed an Ambassador for CARE, a humanitarian organization whose mission is to fight global poverty, in December 2006. In this role, she acts as an integral part of the “I AM POWERFUL” campaign, working to build solidarity and create a movement to empower women and girls as catalysts for change in communities around the world.

As CEO of Salamander Hospitality, LLC., a company she founded in 2005, she overseas a growing portfolio of luxury properties which include, Market Salamander a working chef’s market with locations in Middleburg, VA; and Palm Beach, FL.; as well as the Woodlands Resort & Inn in Summerville, NC, a long time recipient of the Mobil 5-Star and AAA Five Diamond awards for both lodging and dining.

As President & Managing Partner of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, and a partner in Lincoln Holdings, LLC., Ms. Johnson is the only woman to have a stake in three professional sports teams, including the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals. Known for her determination and her exuberant love of the game and her team, she is currently focused on raising awareness and increased parity in women’s sports.

Through Lincoln Holdings, Ms. Johnson also has a minority interest in Washington Sports and Entertainment Limited Partnership, which controls the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals, Washington/Baltimore TicketMaster, in-house promoter Musicentre Productions, and the management of the Verizon Center and the George Mason University Patriot Center.

She presently serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Parsons The New School for Design and sits on the boards of The Whitney Museum, VH1 Save the Music, The Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, the United States Equestrian Federation, Episcopal High School, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation, the Curry School of Education Foundation at the University of Virginia, the Centers for Disease Control Foundation, the SUNY Morrisville Foundation, the University of Illinois Foundation, Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts, and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

Johnson is also a major supporter of the United Negro College Fund and has donated to Bennett College to strengthen their program in the arts; and SUNY Morrisville, to promote diversity of students and staff. She recently established the Sheila C. Johnson Performing Arts Center at the Hill School in Middleburg, VA.

As an advocate for the protection of children, Johnson has spoken around the world on behalf of the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children. Through her work with ICMEC, she has also helped introduce tougher sanctions and legislation to protect children globally. As a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, her crowning achievement was the development of an award-winning weekly program Teen Summit, giving teenagers a chance to talk frankly about their critical issues. Young adults still approach her to tell her how valuable the show was for their lives.

Johnson’s entrepreneurial spirit runs through every aspect of her life and she is both a catalyst and a tireless supporter of the causes to which she gives herself. Of all her numerous accomplishments, she is most proud to be the mother of her two children.

Sheila Johnson is a graduate of the University of Illinois where she received a Bachelor of Arts in music.

Source: Gainformer.com

February 1

Sean Combs (born November 4, 1969) launched his music production company, Bad Boy Entertainment, in 1993, and worked with artists like Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, and The Notorious B.I.G.

Early Life

Singer, songwriter, producer. Born in on November 4, 1969, in Harlem, New YorkHe grew up in Mt. Vernon, New York and attended a Catholic boys school in the Bronx. Combs gained the nickname "Puffy" in high school because of his habit of puffing out his chest to make his body seem bigger. Combs is also known by the nickname "Puff Daddy."

Combs majored in business administration at Howard University, producing weekly dance parties and running an airport shuttle service while attending classes. He dropped out to pursue an internship at Uptown Records, which led to a talent director position. Combs rapidly rose to the level of vice president and had success producing several key artists for Uptown, but left the company in the early 1990s.

Entrepreneurial Success

In 1993 he started his own production company, Bad Boy Entertainment, working with such upcoming and established rap, hip-hop, and R&B recording artists as Mariah Carey, New Edition, Method Man, Babyface, TLC, Boyz II Men, Li'l Kim, SWV, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, and the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. (also known as Biggie Smalls). In 1996, Combs was named as ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year. By 1997, Bad Boy Entertainment had sold nearly $100 million worth of recordings and had made a multi-million dollar deal with Arista Records for management of the label.

Soundscan named No Way Out as the third best-selling LP of 1997, with more than 3.4 million copies sold in the U.S. Combs released his second album, Forever, in 1999. Combs has also launched his own clothing line, Sean John, which debuted in America in 1999.

Later Releases

In 2002, Combs released We Invented the Remix followed by Bad Boy’s 10th Anniversary...The Hits in 2004. Though his Bad Boy music label was seriously slumping, it found new life with Combs’ 2006 release Press Play, which featured Brandy, Mary J. Blige and Timbaland.

Combs branched into reality television with the premiere of his VH1 series I Want to Work for Diddy in August 2008.

Source: Biography.com