Elizabeth Bebe Moore Campbell was born on February 19, 1950, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Doris Edwina Carter Moore and George Linwood Peter Moore. When her parents separated in 1953, she went on to live with her mother and maternal grandmother in Philadelphia during the school year and her father in North Carolina during the summer. Her experiences growing up in both the North and South gave her a unique perspective on racial segregation in the United States.
Campbell attended Philadelphia’s Girls High School and upon graduation was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh where she was the only African American student in her dorm. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education in 1972, and began teaching in the Atlanta public schools. In 1975, Campbell moved to Washington, D.C., where she continued to teach. After enrolling in a class led by Toni Cade Bambara, a renowned African American author, Campbell transitioned out of teaching to become a writer.
In the mid-1970s, Campbell was published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Essence, Ebony and Seventeen, among other publications. She also appeared as a regular commentator on National Public Radio. Campbell’s first book, a fictional work entitled Successful Women, Angry Men: Backlash in the Two Career Marriage, was an analysis of the relationship between a woman’s career and her marriage. Sweet Summer: Growing up With and Without My Dad, her second book, was a memoir of her childhood in a divorced family. Her most critically acclaimed novel, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, inspired by the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, describes the impact of this senseless crime as experienced by the victim's family, and explored southern racism. It was described as one of the most influential books of 1992 by The New York Times Magazine, won an NAACP Image Award and was named a “New York Times Notable Book” for 1992. Campbell was also the author of three New York Times bestsellers: Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Comeback Choir, and What You Owe Me, which was also a Los Angeles Times "Best Book of 2001.”
Campbell was a mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities. While navigating the mental health system in an effort to secure care for her own daughter, actress Maia Campbell, Campbell realized that there was a dearth of mental health resources in communities of color. In response, Campbell founded the Inglewood chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to help support her daughter and others like her, who suffered from mental illness. “Stigma is one of the main reasons why people with mental health problems don't seek treatment or take their medication,” Campbell once said. “People of color, particularly African Americans, feel the stigma more keenly. In a race-conscious society, some don’t want to be perceived as having yet another deficit.”
Campbell's interest in mental health was the catalyst for her first children's book, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, which was published in September 2003. This book won the “NAMI Outstanding Literature Award” for 2003. The book tells the story of how a little girl copes with being reared by her mentally ill mother.
Campbell succumbed to complications from brain cancer and passed away on November 27, 2006, at age 56. Campbell’s personal archives are housed in the Bebe Moore Campbell collection at the University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center. In May 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in recognition of her efforts to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness. In 2017, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors named a branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library in her honor.
This text is excerpted from:https://www.mhanational.org/black-pioneers-mental-health, https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/bebe-moore-campbell-41,
https://namica.org/bebe-moore-campbell-minority-mental-health-month/#:~:text=illness%20among%20minorities.-,About%20Bebe%20Moore%20Campbell,she%20passed%20away%20in%202006, and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bebe_Moore_Campbell.
Melba Liston was born in Kansas City, Missouri on January 13, 1926. Although she and her mother were poor, they had a piano and a radio, and Melba was exposed to music through her grandfather. One day she saw a trombone in a store window. She later recounted, “I just had to have it. [It was] beautiful, standing in the shop window like a mannequin, and I was mesmerized by it. My mom didn’t question it, she just ... got it for me.”
At seven years old, Melba elected to play the trombone in her elementary school’s new music program. As a young person learning to play the slide, she quickly learned how difficult playing the instrument was, but she stuck with it. By the age of eight, she was so good that she was invited to perform as a soloist on a local radio station.
In 1937, at the age of 10, she moved to Los Angeles, California. After playing in youth bands and studying, she decided to become a professional musician at the age of 16. She joined the musicians union and became a member of the Los Angeles Lincoln Theater band. During her period with the Lincoln Theater band, she also began working as a composer and arranger (roles rarely given or attributed to women in jazz during that era).
After her stint at the Lincoln Theater, she joined a band newly-formed by trumpeter Gerald Wilson and also recorded with Dexter Gordon. She then joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band which, at the time, included musicians such as John Coltrane and John Lewis. She next joined a band backing Billie Holiday on tour. The experience of touring throughout the south with Holiday’s band, coping with the strains of limited income and even more limited audiences, was strenuous, disheartening and exhausting for Liston. In later years, Liston spoke candidly about the extreme difficulties of being a African-American female jazz musician during this era. Besides being shunned, underpaid and overlooked, she was consistently abused by male musicians. All of this notwithstanding, Melba found strength and motivation in her music.
In 1956, she joined Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra and was commissioned by the U.S. State Department as a musical ambassador of the U.S. in South America. She later transitioned into working with Quincy Jones and his orchestra as both a player and writer. In 1958, she recorded her only album as a leader, Melba Liston and Her ‘Bones – a true gem in jazz history.
After she stopped playing the slide, Liston became known and respected in music as a savvy and remarkable bebop jazz arranger. She worked as an arranger for numerous recording companies, including Motown, and arranged scores for dozens of high profile musicians, including Clark Terry, Marvin Gaye, Mary Lou Williams, and Gloria Lynne. However, perhaps her most important work was written for Randy Weston, with whom she collaborated on and off for four decades from the late 1950s into the 1990s. Her work with Weston has been compared to the collaborations of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. Liston worked as a "ghost writer" during her career. According to one writer, "Many of the arrangements found in the Gillespie, Jones, and Weston repertoires were accomplished by Liston.”
Liston was a trailblazer as a trombonist and a composer, as well as a woman with stellar ability that transcended various genres and categories of music.
This text is excerpted from: https://thegirlsintheband.com/2013/11/melba-liston/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melba_Liston, and https://archives.susanfleet.com/documents/melba_liston.html.
To listen to an audio recording of her work, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4rJtLR1ZoQ.
Dr. Alexa Irene Canady was born in Lansing, Michigan to Dr. Clinton Canady, Jr. and Elizabeth Canady. Her father was a dentist and her mother was an educator and a civic leader. Dr. Canady's parents taught her about the importance of education and hard work as a child.
Dr. Canady and her younger brother were the only two African-American students in their elementary school, and unfortunately, Dr. Canady consistently faced prejudice while in school. Dr. Canady’s parents knew she was bright and had her sit for an intelligence test while she was in elementary school. Her IQ test scores were extremely high, which contradicted the average grades she was earning at school. Her parents later discovered that Dr. Canady’s teacher had been switching her test scores with a white student’s to conceal her intelligence. Ultimately, Dr. Canady graduated with honors from Lansing Sexton High School in 1967 and was nominated as a National Achievement Scholar.
Dr. Canady went on to attend the University of Michigan where she received her bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1971. Her time at the University of Michigan was not without its struggles; she almost dropped out of college at one point due to, in her words, a “crisis of confidence.” But she persisted and found her passion: medicine. She would then go on to receive her medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1975, where she graduated cum laude.
Although she initially had an interest in internal medicine, Dr. Canady decided on neurosurgery after falling in love with neurology during her first two years of medical school. She settled on this specialty against the recommendations of some of her professors. She went on to become a surgical intern at the Yale-New Haven Hospital from 1975–1976. Although an exceptional student, she still faced prejudice and discriminatory comments as she was both the first African American and the first female intern in the program. On her first day as an intern, she was told that she "must be our new equal-opportunity package.” This discrimination notwithstanding, she was later voted one of the top residents by her fellow physicians.
After completing her internship, Dr. Canady went to the University of Minnesota for her residency, becoming the first female African-American neurosurgery resident in the United States. In 1982, after finishing residency, Dr. Canady decided to specialize as a pediatric neurosurgeon, becoming the first African American and the first woman to do so. She chose pediatrics because of her love for the children in the pediatric ward during her residency. She stated, “it never ceased to amaze me how happy the children were.” As a patient-focused surgeon, she was known to play videogames with her pediatric patients and form relationships with each of them. She became Chief of Neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital of Michigan in 1987 and held the position until her partial retirement in 2001. During her time as Chief, she specialized in congenital spinal abnormalities, hydrocephalus, trauma and brain tumors.
Although she has stated that she was not focused on the history she was making, once in retirement she realized the significance of her accomplishments and what they meant for other African Americans and women in medicine. She is famously quoted as saying, “The greatest challenge I faced in becoming a neurosurgeon was believing it was possible.”
This text is excerpted from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexa_Canady, https://medicine.iu.edu/blogs/women-in-medicine/black-history-month-honors-alexa-canady-md-first-african-american-woman-neurosurgeon, https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/dr-alexa-canady-davis-41, and Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls (https://www.rebelgirls.com/?gclid=CjwKCAiAjPyfBhBMEiwAB2CCIs8fvrz3L50eWgbFgiOuJpBCsGiIPUFbhjwyLE14pel3_HXZzVBD8xoCjkQQAvD_BwE).