Category: african american

25-year-old Cab Calloway photographed by Carl Van Vechten on January 12, 1933.

Sallie Blair

(1934 – 1992)

was an African-American jazz singer from Baltimore. She began her career singing with Johnny Otis and Duke Ellington in the early 1950s before she won the talent competition Chance of a Lifetime on ABC-TV. Soon after she joined Cab Calloway’s Cotton Club Revue and then became a popular nightclub act. Sallie was a reoccurring performer on Ed Sullivan’s shows and was rumored to have had an affair with him. She performed for the royal family at the London Palladium and broke protocall by kicking off her shoes and doing a sexy barefoot dance. Although Sallie released two albums as a solo artist, Squeeze Me (1957) and Hello, Tiger! (1958), she was more known for her beauty and sex appeal. Sallie often changed her hair color, but early in her career she was known for being a blonde. The press referred to her as the  "blonde bombshell” and Miles Davis called her the “brown Marilyn Monroe.” She married pianist and arranger Rene DeKnight in 1963 and still appeared on TV throughout the the 1960s as her popularity waned. In 1978, Sallie was linked to Warren Beatty then she disappeared from the public. She died at the age of 57 in 1992.

Vintage Jet Magazine Covers – 1960s

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Malcolm X photographed by John Launois in Cairo, August 1964.

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David Ruffin and

Tammi Terrell

After escaping an abusive relationship with James Brown, Tammi began a volatile relationship with David Ruffin, the lead singer of the Temptations, in 1965. In 1966, David surprised her with a marriage proposal.

However, when she announced their engagement on stage Davis became upset. Tammi was devastated once she discovered that he had a wife, three children and another girlfriend in Detroit. His drug use and infidelity led to them having public fights. Tammi was portrayed in the Temptations movie during the Motown picnic scene. It was claimed that

David

hit

Tammi

with a hammer or a machete, though this was denied by

Tammi’s family. Earl Van Dyke, leader of Motown’s Funk Brothers band, recalled seeing David beat up Tammi at the Motown

“Hitsville U.S.A.” headquarters. Her sister Ludie Montgomery also confirmed a story that David hit Tammi in the face with his motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967. Tammi went on to record classic duets with Marvin Gaye, but she unfortunately died from a brain tumor at the age of 24 in 1970. David died of a drug overdose in 1991.

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Opera singer Margaret Tynes photographed by Carl Van Vechten on September 29, 1959.

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Bessie Smith photographed by Carl Van Vechten on February 3, 1936.

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W.E.B. Du Bois photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1946.  

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Ella Fitzgerald photographed by Carl Van Vechten on January 19, 1940.

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Eartha Kitt photographed by Carl Van Vechten on October 19, 1952.