Exclusive Podcast: LITTLE KNOWN FACTS with Ilana Levine and Marc Kudisch

BroadwayWorld has teamed up with Broadway alum Ilana Levine, who makes her entrance onto the podcast stage with her new show Little Known Facts. Ilana’s unique brand of celebrity interview, ‘Podcast Verite,’ is unfiltered, raw, honest and uniquely funny.
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Little Known Black History Fact: Charlotte E. Ray

While Charlotte E. Ray’s legal career was brief, the trail she blazed as America’s first Black woman lawyer is still inspirational. On February 27, 1872, she left Howard University with a law degree and embarked on her journey before entering into other ventures.

Ray was born January 13, 1850 in New York City. Her father was a notable religious figure and abolitionist. After attending the Institution of the Education of Colored Youth, she became a teacher at a preparatory school connected to Howard University. While working there, she enrolled in the university’s law program under the name C.E. Ray – which some historians believe was a bid to hide her gender although the school reportedly had no such restrictions at the time.

After successfully finishing the three-year program, Ray made history again by becoming one of the first women admitted to the D.C. Bar, and the first woman admitted to practice in front of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Ray opened a practice, using Frederick Douglass’ newspaper to advertise her services, but being a Black woman in a world that didn’t respect her accomplishments made business tough.

The racism and sexism forced her to move north to New York where she returned to teaching. She then joined the woman’s suffrage movement and the National Association of Colored Women.

Ray passed in 1911 at the age of 60.




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Little Known Black History Fact: Joe Sample

Joe Sample made his mark in music early on as part of the Jazz and Funk ensemble, The Crusaders. Today is the late Houston native and legendary keyboardist’s birthday.

Sample was born in 1939, and began studying the piano at five years old. He joined bands in high school and while at Texas Southern University. He moved west with a few of his college band members, forming the Jazz Crusaders in Los Angeles.

As the Crusaders began a prolific recording schedule, Sample became an in-demand session player for the likes of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five, and many other notable names. Sample also began releasing solo work in 1969, going on a creative tear in the ‘70s with the Crusaders and via his own albums.

Sample’s last album in 2015, “Christmas With Friends,” was recorded alongside India.Arie. In all, Sample released 24 albums to go with the dozens he recorded as a member of the Crusaders.

Last summer, Sample’s gravesite in Houston was marked with a massive headstone fashioned in the shape of a piano.

Joe Sample passed in 2014 at the age of 75.

PHOTO: Tom Beetz Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.



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Little Known Black History Fact: Arturo Schomburg

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, also known as Arthur Schomburg, was a meticulous historian and important Harlem Renaissance figure. During his career, he was referred to as the “Sherlock Holmes of Black History” due to his exhaustive research on Africa and the diaspora.

Schomburg was born Jan. 24. 1874 to a Black mother from the Virgin Islands and a German father who lived in Puerto Rico. As a boy, Schomburg was told by a teacher that Black history was a farce, which set him on a path early on to prove that doubter wrong.

In 1871, Schomburg moved to Harlem, New York and was an active member of the fight for Cuba and Puerto Rico’s independence. When his home country became part of the United States, Schomburg embraced the African-American community that he was now a part of. This set him on a path of serious study of the connection Black Americans had with Africa.

In 1911, Schomburg founded the Negro Society for Historical Research, and in 1922, he was named president of The American Negro Academy. As a collector and researcher of African art, Schomburg amassed a massive collection which was put on display by the New York Public Library’s Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints in 1926. He became the department’s curator and remained so until his death in 1932.

Today, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library boasts more than 10 million items connected to Africa and beyond.



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Little Known Black History Fact: Grace Bumbry

In the opera world, Grace Bumbry is considered a master of her craft as one of the leading mezzo-soprano vocalists in the world. Today is the St. Louis, Mo. native’s birthday.

Bumbry was born in 1937. Her parents exposed her to the likes of Marian Anderson, who would be an early inspiration. At 16, Bumbry won a contest to enter a local music conservatory, but was denied entry due to her race. The contest promoters, looking to avert controversy, made arrangements for Bumbry to attend Boston University but it was after transferring to Northwestern University, she blossomed. While in Illinois, she studied with opera star and soloist Lotte Lehmann.

In 1961 at the age of 24, Bumbry became in an international sensation after appearing as the first Black opera singer to perform in Bayreuth, Germany with the grandson of composer, Richard Wagner. Although the conservative opera audience and press balked at her inclusion in the production, her performance was so mind-blowing that she was dubbed “The Black Venus.”

The following year, Bumbry was invited to sing at the White House, becoming the first Black opera singer to perform there. This lead to more performances throughout the ’60’s and ’70’s. Bumbry’s controversial switch to soprano in the latter decade divided some critics and observers who questioned if she truly commanded the range to sing at that level.

However, Bumbry brushed aside the talk and continued to perform into the ’90’s, with her last performance taking place in 1997.

From there, Bumbry taught voice and served as a judge in various competitions, and amassed a number of honors, including inclusion into the Kennedy Center Honors in 2009.

PHOTO: Public Domain



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Little Known Black History Month: Dr. Olivia J. Hooker

Dr. Olivia J. Hooker turned 103 years of age this past February and in that same month in 1945, she made military history. Dr. Hooker, who passed away last week, became the first African-American woman to join the United States Coast Guard after being rejected by the United States Navy.

Hooker was born February 12, 1915 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. At the age of six, Hooker witnessed the Ku Klux Klan ransack her home during the violent Tulsa Massacre of Black Wall Street and was one of the few, if not the only, survivors of that moment in history.

The family relocated to Columbus, Ohio, and Hooker graduated from Ohio State University in 1937. The Delta woman attempted to enter the Navy and was denied due to her race.

She was eventually was allowed to join the Navy after contesting the denial, but Hooker elected to join the Coast Guard instead in February of 1945. Hooker was part of the SPAR (Semper Paratus Always Ready) division, a section of the U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve.

This unit was eventually disbanded in 1946. The following year, Hooker obtained her master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University and worked with women in an upstate New York prison.

In 1961, Hooker earned her Ph.D from the University of Rochester and in 1963, she joined the faculty of Fordham University, teaching until 1985. She retired two years later, and at the age of 95, she joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the civilian reserve of the branch.

Hooker passed of natural causes on November 21 at her White Plains, New York home.




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Little Known Black History Fact: Kristine Guillaume

For the first time in its 145th year in existence, the student newspaper of Harvard University has named its first Black women as president. Kristine Guillaume will oversee The Harvard Crimson, which bills itself as the oldest running daily college newspaper in the country.


Instagram Photo


Guillaume, a junior at Harvard University studying African-American Studies along with History and Literature, will lead the 146th Guard of the Harvard Crimson. The Queens, New York native is one of three chairpersons that sit on the Crimson’s Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, which made it a point this year to select editors and staff of varying backgrounds.

In a recent statement after being named president of the Crimson, Guillaume noted that Harvard University’s past as an institution of learning primarily made for White men is no longer its legacy, and that her presence at the Crimson and the university itself signals the changes that will continue to come.

“I want people to think about how to navigate, and feel like they can and get through their education, and feel like they do belong here,” Guillaume said.

Past presidents of the Crimson include the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and CNN president, Jeff Zucker.


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Astronomers spot the youngest known pulsar ever, and boy is it pretty

new pulsar

Many of the objects NASA and other scientific bodies choose to study in space are incredibly old, but that’s not the case with Kes 75. Located a mere 19,000 light years from Earth, Kes 75 is a ultra-dense chunk of a star that went supernova, and now scientists are calling it the youngest known pulsar in the Milky Way galaxy.

In a new post on its website, NASA explains how the pulsar was detected and shows off a pretty stunning image of what it looks like from our vantage point.

Continue reading…

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Astronomers spot the youngest known pulsar ever, and boy is it pretty originally appeared on BGR.com on Sun, 21 Oct 2018 at 14:01:46 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.



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Little Known Black History Facts: Raye Montague

The hit film Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, highlighted three African-American women who were instrumental in propelling the U.S. space program forward. Arkansas native Raye Montague, who is the first person to design a U.S. Navy ship using a computer and a “hidden figure” herself, passed this week at the age of 83.

Montague was born January 21, 1935 in Little Rock, Ark. As a girl, her grandfather took her to an exhibit in South Carolina featuring a captured German submarine. After peering at the controls for the vessel, the seven-year-old Montague asked the tour guide how the machines worked. He responded that it was a job for engineers and that she didn’t need to worry about it.

The response fueled Montague from that moment on, event though racial and gender barriers in the ’40’s and 50’s were daunting. Determined to earn an engineering degree, Montague attended what is now known as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, graduating in 1956. Heading to D.C., the stellar student caught the attention of the Navy and began working for the military branch as a clerk typist.

Her studious nature led her to learn how computers worked, advancing her past male colleagues from larger universities. In an interview, Montague revealed that she also taught herself to drive while working for the Navy. While her colleagues thought her working late hours was a show of dedication to the job, the truth was she was learning how to drive on the go and didn’t want to do so in rush hour traffic.

For 14 years, Montague rose in the ranks and became a computer systems analyst at the Naval Ship Engineering Center. In 1970, though racist bosses in the Navy sneered at her accomplishments, they came to rely on her in a time of need. While at the department, an admiral brought a request from President Richard Nixon who wanted to get the jump on a ship design.

While the admiral said the Navy was given two months to complete the design, he charged her with getting the job done in one month. Montague finished the design in just over 18 hours and 26 minutes, as she said in a 2017 interview.

Montague, who was married three times, retaining her second husband’s surname as he was the father of their son David, won the Navy’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1972.

Six years later, she earned the Manufacturing Engineers Achievement Award. Montague retired in 1990 and entered the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2013. Earlier this year, Montague was enshrined in the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame.



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Little Known Black History Fact: C. Delores Tucker

While history might remember C. Delores Tucker as a fiery champion who shouted down the violent and sexist rap lyrics of the ’90’s, the facts reveal she was much more than that. The Philadelphia native is also the first Black woman named secretary of state in Pennsylvania and a notable civil rights activist.

Born Cynthia Delores Nottage, she attended college at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business ahead of her political career. In the ’60’s, Tucker, who married her husband William in 1951, was deeply entrenched in the civil rights movement and marched alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. She also worked closely with the NAACP.

In 1971, Gov. Milton Shapp was appointed as state secretary, and formed the first Commission on the Status of Women. Tucker was fired in 1977 for allegedly giving speeches written by state employees and winning honors for them.

In 1990, Tucker and 15 other Black men and women formed the African-American Women For Reproductive Freedom organization. Throughout the ’90’s, Tucker challenged the lyrics of The 2 Live Crew, N.WA., the late 2Pac and others for their bawdy lyrics. Her stance made her the targets of harsh criticism from the rap industry and from free speech advocates.

C. Delores Tucker passed in 2005.



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