1. Janet Collins, was a ballet dancer and choreographer, was one of the few classically trained Black dancers of her generation. In 1951 she won the Donaldson Award for best dancer on Broadway for her work in Cole Porter’s Out of This World. She also performed in Aida, Carmen, and was the first Black ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera. She could not tour in parts of the Deep South due to her race. In later life she taught dance.
Janet Collins was among the pioneers of black ballet dancing and set the way for others to follow. She began her successful career at the age of 12 when she took up ballet classes. She was 15 years old when she auditioned with success, for the prestigious Ballet Russe de Monte Carlos, but she immediately refused the role as she was required to paint her face and skin white in order to be able to perform. This was in 1932.
Janet Collins struggled time and again against racism, which did not spare the world of professional ballet dancing. Not many African-American dancers and performers achieved the successful career she was able to attain. In 1951, Janet Collins became the first African American to perform in the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Later on, she took on other important roles in prestigious plays and also won the Donaldson award for best dancer on Broadway. Janet Collins decided to go solo by performing her own work of art. She also gave dancing classes at several schools and universities. Janet Collins died in 2003 at the age of 86, in Fort Worth, Texas. In recognition of her great work and dedication, her renowned cousin Carmen De Lavallade established the Janet Collins Fellowship which would honor aspiring talented ballet dancers.
2. Hamilton Bohannon (born Hamilton Frederick Bohannon) Percussionist, band leader and record producer, who was one of the leading figures in 1970s disco music.
3. Anthony Bonair, photographer
4. Richard Lawson, actor who has starred in movies and on television. He is perhaps best-known for his roles in science fiction—he portrayed Ryan in the 1982 hit movie Poltergeist, and Dr. Ben Taylor in the hit 1983 NBC miniseries V. 64 Years ago
5. Lynn Curtis Swann, Former professional football player, sportscaster, and current politician. In 2006, he was the Republican nominee to run against the incumbent Ed Rendell for Pennsylvania Governor.
6. Joe Carter, one of the most charismatic players that The Toronto Blue Jays enjoyed having on their team when the Blue Jays won the 1992 and 1993 World Series Championships.
7. Denyce Graves, mezzo-sopranoopera singer. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1995 and has appeared at many opera houses. Though her repertoire is extensive, her signature parts are the title roles in Carmen and Samson et Dalila. On January 20, 2005, she sang the patriotic song “American Anthem” during the 43rd Presidential Inauguration, between the swearing-in ceremonies of Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush for their second terms in office.
Graves sang “America the Beautiful” and “The Lord’s Prayer” at the Washington National Cathedral during a memorial service honoring the victims of 9/11 on September 14, 2001, attended by President Bush, members of Congress, other politicians and representatives of foreign governments.
8. Wanda Sykes, Writer, stand-up comedian and actress. She earned the 1999 Emmy Award for her writing on The Chris Rock Show. In 2004 Entertainment Weekly named her as one of the 25 funniest people in America.
She is well known for her role as Barb on The New Adventures of Old Christine and for her appearances on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. In November 2009 The Wanda Sykes Show, her own late-night talkshow, premiered on Fox, airing Saturday nights. Sykes is openly lesbian, and has two children with her wife, Alex.