Playwright and novelist Ntzoake Shange, best known for her play For Colored Girls, joins Fresh Air to talk about the diversity of the black experience, her childhood and early education, and the criticism she sometimes gets from black male authors and playwrights. Her new play is called Betsey Brown.
Growing up, actor Octavia Spencer remembers being inspired by the story of Madam C.J. Walker, one of America's first black, female, self-made millionaires. Born on a plantation in 1867, Walker eked out a living washing clothes for white families before building an empire selling hair care and makeup products to women of color.
We begin with a rare interview with the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. She's won fifteen Grammy awards and is the first woman to be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. She was born and grew up in Detroit. The state of Michigan has proclaimed her voice a natural resource. Her hits include "Respect," "I Say a Little Prayer," and "You Make me Feel Like a Natural Woman."
The new film, Get Out, defies easy classification. Though it has funny moments, it's primarily a horror film, with racial anxiety at its center. Writer-director Jordan Peele tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he thinks of Get Out as a "social thriller."
Writer and actress Issa Rae is upfront about the fact that she doesn't always fit in.In 2011, Rae brought that sensibility to her Web comedy series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which ran for two seasons. Now, Rae continues to explore themes of race, identity and belonging as the creator and star of the new HBO series Insecure.
Principal dancer for the Houston Ballet, and the first African-American to be a principal dancer, Lauren Anderson. She began studying at the ballet’s academy at the age of 7, and working with Stevenson at the age of 11 when he was hired by the ballet. Stevenson choreographed “Cleopatra,” for her.
Basketball player LeBron James has been a star since he was a teenager. Now 24, James looks back on his youth in the memoir Shooting Stars, which he co-wrote with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger.
Gordy and his record label made stars out of musicians including Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. He has written his autobiography, "To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic, the Memories of Motown: An Autobiography."
The soul icon still sings with the 1960s vocal group. Williams remembers the producers who wrote and recorded the Temptations' hit songs, and how they were able to capture soul and emotion on tape. He has a new memoir, simply called Temptations.
Michael Cecchi-Azzolina talks about what it's like to be a Maitre D' at the fanciest restaurants in New York City. He has worked in the business for three decades telling wealthy diners, celebrities and even the mafia whether or not they can have the table by the window. His memoir is called Your Table is Ready.