With all this talk about Frankie, I don't want to overlook one of his surviving peers from the old days, Norma Miller. Fortunately, I randomly found the recently uploaded clips of her doing an interview with the Visionary Project. Here Norma gives some interesting background on Hellzapoppin’. It's a very sobering reminder that those days weren't just about dancing.
The purpose of the Visionary Project is to record the wisdom of influential elder African Americans while they're still with us to educate us about the extraordinary times that they lived in. It includes interviews with Civil Rights leaders and activists, educators, businessmen, as well as musicians and other artists. It's an important project especially in light of the news of the passing of Lena Horne yesterday and Dorothy Height a few weeks ago.
It's been like Christmas for the history nerd in me to go through these interviews. I've barely scratched the surface of the over 1500 clips on YouTube with more on the way.
Of particular interest to me and maybe you:
- Fayard Nicholas, Tap god
- Ray Charles, Music god
- Billy Taylor, Jazz pianist
- Bill Russell, Basketball god
- Corretta Scott King, Civil Rights activist and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s widow
- B.B. King, Blues god
- Robert Gullaume, Actor and star of two of my favorite shows.
- Dorothy Height, Civil Rights activist
- John Hop Franklin, Historian
- Katherine Dunham, Dancer
- Ethel Ennis, Singer from Baltimore
- Walter Washington, The first mayor of Washington, DC
- Chuck Brown, The Godfather of Go Go
This reminds me of Kelly Porter's project Voices of the Jazz Era which is trying to do the same thing on a smaller scale for our community. If you know an elder with a story to tell please remember that the deadline for contributing to that archive is July 21, 2010.