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Graham, Shirley (11 November 1896–27 March 1977), musical composer and director, author, and political activist, also known as Shirley Graham Du Bois, was born Lola Bell Graham in Indianapolis, Indiana, the daughter of the Reverend David A. Graham, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Etta Bell. She accompanied them when her father held pastorates in New Orleans, Colorado Springs, and Spokane. He delighted her with stories about important blacks in American history. In his churches, she learned to play the piano and the pipe organ and to conduct choirs. In 1914 she graduated from high school in Spokane, took business school courses, and worked in government offices in Spokane and Seattle. After she married Shadrach T. McCanns in 1921, she gave private music lessons and played the organ in white movie theaters, hidden backstage. She had two sons, Robert and David, and was either widowed in 1924 or obtained a divorce in 1929. (In many respects, biographical data concerning Graham are in dispute.)...

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Isherwood, Christopher (26 August 1904–04 January 1986), writer, was born in High Lane, Cheshire, England, the son of Francis Edward Isherwood, a military officer, and Kathleen Machell-Smith. After a year (1924–1925) at Cambridge University, Isherwood went to London, where he was secretary to the violinist André Mangeot and his Music Society String Quartet, and he also worked as a private tutor. He enrolled as a medical student at Kings College, University of London, in 1928, the same year his first novel, ...

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Mann, Klaus Heinrich Thomas (18 November 1906–21 May 1949), writer, was born in Munich, Germany, the son of Thomas Mann, Nobel Prize-winning author, and Katia Pringsheim. The second child and eldest son, Mann felt oppressed by his father’s celebrity, yet he exploited Thomas Mann’s connections and finances throughout his life. His only lasting emotional bond was with his sister ...

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Skinner, Cornelia Otis (30 May 1901–09 July 1979), author and actress, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Otis Skinner, a matinee idol, and Maud Durbin, an actress. After Skinner’s mother retired from acting in 1906, the family moved to Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where Otis Skinner resided when he was not performing. In 1920 Skinner left Bryn Mawr College during her sophomore year to study in Paris. She attended the Sorbonne and studied acting at the Comédie Francaise and the Jacques Copeau School. Returning to the United States, Skinner landed her first dramatic role in the stage adaptation of Blasco-Ibanez’s ...