Black Facts for July 23rd

2015 - Gleaton, Tony (1948-2015)

Leo Antony "Tony" Gleaton is an African American photographer, scholar, and artist who is best known for his photographic images capturing and documenting the African influence in the American West and Central and South America. Gleaton, the youngest son of an elementary school teacher and police officer, was born into a black middle-class family on August 4, 1948 in Detroit, Michigan. In 1959 his mother left his father and moved the family to California. Gleaton played football in high school and briefly at East Los Angeles Junior College before joining the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967. While on his first tour of duty in Vietnam, he became fascinated with the camera.

After serving in the Marine Corps until 1970, Gleaton returned to California and enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). While there, he took a photography class that revealed his talent of shooting photos. He left UCLA and studied for a semester at the Arts Center School of Design in Los Angeles before venturing to New York to pursue his aspirations of becoming a fashion photographer. Gleaton worked as a photographic assistant and performed other various jobs through the 1970s.  

Dissatisfied with the fashion world, Gleaton left New York in 1980 and hitchhiked throughout the American West, photographing cowboys first in northeastern Nevada and then in Texas. He captured the lives of Native American ranch hands and black rodeo riders. His photographic ventures in Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, and Kansas formed the essence of his project titled Cowboys: Reconstructing an American Myth. This collection featured a series of portraits of African, Native, Mexican, and Euro-American cowboys.

Gleaton’s interest in the multicultural Southwest influenced his travels to Mexico. By 1981 he had begun traveling to and from Mexico, shooting photographs. In 1982 he moved to Mexico City, and from 1986 to 1992, he resided with the Tarahumara Indians in northern Mexico and then moved to Guerrero and Oaxaca. Here, Gleaton began what is now his

2009 - Harris, Everette “E” Lynn (1955-2009)

New York Times bestselling author Everette “E” Lynn Harris was born June 20, 1955, in Flint, Michigan. Openly homosexual, Harris was best known for his depictions of gay African American men who were concealing or “closeting” their sexuality. Although he did not participate in gay rights activism, Harris introduced millions of readers to the “invisible life” of gay black men.

Harris grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, with his father, Ben Odis Harris, a sanitation truck driver; his mother, Etta Mae Williams, and three sisters. Harris endured a difficult childhood as his father taunted him for wanting to become a teacher while his mother suffered physical abuse. After his parents divorced in 1970, Harris discovered and was reunited with his biological father, James Jeter. The reunion, however, was short-lived, as Jeter died in an automobile accident a year later.

Harris found refuge and success in his educational pursuits. He attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and was the school’s first black yearbook editor, the first black male cheerleader and president of his fraternity. He graduated with honors in 1977 with a BA in journalism.

Harris spent the next 13 years as a salesman for IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and AT&T.  In 1990, suffering from depression and alcoholism, he attempted suicide and the following year quit his highly successful sales career to pursue writing. His first novel, Invisible Life (1991), was self-published and was sold out of the trunk of his car. In 1994, the novel was discovered by Anchor Books and was published as a trade paperback.

After his first novel, Harris wrote ten consecutive books that made the New York Times bestseller list, making him among the most successful African American or gay authors of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  His works include If This World Were Mine (1998), winner of the James Baldwin Award for Literary Excellence, and his autobiographical What Becomes of the Brokenhearted: A Memoir (2004). Harris was also a member of the board of directors

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1791 - Polgreen, Rachel Pringle (1753-1791)

Rachel Pringle Polgreen, a free mulatto woman, became infamous during the 1770s to 1780s, as the first woman of color to own a Hotel-Tavern in Bridgetown, Barbados, based on the (sexual) entertainment of transient British Naval Officers.  Visitors to this hotel included numerous prominent officers and on one occasion, Prince William of England.

Polgreen was born in Barbados in 1753 as Rachel Lauder, the daughter of an enslaved African mother and her owner, William Lauder. Lauder was a Scottish schoolmaster who fled England in disgrace after he had written and published attacks on the English poet John Milton. When Rachel"s father began to make sexual advances on her and she refused him, he became abusive and whipped her. Around the age of 16, however, she was offered a house and her freedom by Captain Thomas Pringle, a Lauder relative, in exchange for sexual favors. Rachel then dropped her Lauder surname and adopted Pringle"s.

After a scandal in which Rachel allegedly faked a pregnancy to establish more influence over Thomas Pringle, he ended his relationship with her and moved to Jamaica. Rachel adopted the name of another prominent white Barbadian, James Polgreen, but there is no evidence of their relationship. In 1780 Rachel Pringle Polgreen opened a tavern on Canary Street in Bridgetown.

White males in Barbados, Creoles, migrants from Great Britain, and British Naval and Military officers were regularly involved in interracial sexual relations on the island. Polgreen’s hotel, essentially a brothel, offered sexual pleasures to sailors in the British Royal Navy.  It acquired its officially sounding name from an alleged encounter with British Royalty. Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence, who in 1830 at the age of 64 became King William IV, of England, enjoyed spending time at the hotel in the 1790s. During his second visit to the island, it is reported that the Prince, along with his 49th Regiment, came to Polgreen"s hotel and destroyed it in a drunken rage. The next morning, Rachel sent the Prince a bill

1962 - Eriq La Salle

Born on July 23, 1962 in Hartford, Connecticut, Eriq La Salle developed interest in the performing arts from a young age and the attention which his cousin received from his classmates at dancing school specially attracted La Salle. La Salle’s decision to pursue an acting career became firm after he joined a local youth theatre group at the age of 14.

La Salle also attended the Julliard School in New York for two years and graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 1984. Upon graduation, La Salle was cast in his first play; a Shakespeare in the Park’s production of Henry V. Following the debut, La Salle continued to be a part of Broadway and non-Broadway shows and appeared in various TV shows including One Life to Live.

Moving to Los Angeles in the 1980s, the actor starred along Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Later, he also signed a contract with the series, The Human Factor, and played the role of Dr. Peter Benton for eight seasons of the medical drama ER and was nominated for his role in the same series in 1995. Assuming the role of the doctor, La Salle drew inspiration from his own black background where his surroundings taught him that he could not be as good as his white counterparts.

Eriq La Salle got together with two of his co-actors from ER, Michael Michele and Michael Beach, to work in Hallmark Channel’s original movie, Relative Stranger, which premiered in March 2009. The following year, La Salle starred in the series finale of 24 as the Unite Nations Secretary General and made a guest appearance on one of Covert Affairs’ episodes in the same year.

Wishing to break down some of the barriers that the minorities face in the movie industry, La Salle soon became involved in writing and directing as well and served all three purposes in his short film, Psalms, a story based on a female black militant. La Salle invested into the movie with his own money as well and later sold the rights to Mel Gibson.

He soon directed a movie for HBO as well, titled Angel of

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