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Lisa Cortes

Executive producer Lisa Cortes was born in 1965 in Milford, Connecticut. Although she was born in Connecticut, Cortes spent much of her youth on the streets of Harlem. She attended Milford Academy and then enrolled in Yale University where she majored in American Studies. After graduating she went into the music business where she worked with Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, the founders of Def Jam. Cortes then joined the staff at Mercury Records. While at Mercury Records, she worked with stars such as Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight. In 1994, Cortes was offered her own label called Loose Cannon. Loose Cannon lasted for two years until it was shut down on October 31, 1996, shortly after Cortes sued Mercury records for sexual and racial discrimination.

After leaving the music industry, Cortes turned her interests to film. She enrolled at the School of Visual Arts in New York and later the New York Film Academy. A producer and close friend, Lee Daniels, was producing Monster’s Ball and Cortes and Daniels together subsequently collaborated on movies such as Woodsman (2004), Shadowboxer (2005), Tennessee (2008), and Precious (2009).

Cortes founded her own company, Cortes Films in 2010. Cortes Films has produced two films Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman: a Portrait of My Mother, a film about Mickalene Thomas’ mother and her struggle with aging and kidney disease, and Kwaku Ananse a film about West African fables of Kwaku Ananse and a young woman named, Nyan Koronhwea, attending her estranged father’s funeral while trying to come to terms with her father’s double life.

Heralded as a “disturbing masterwork of human survival” by The Hollywood Reporter,
Precious
won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Precious was also nominated for six Academy Awards, winning two; and was praised by publications such as Variety and The New York Times, and garnered multiple Golden Globe nominations.

Accession Number

A2013.188

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/14/2013

Last Name

Cortes

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Maria Christina

Occupation
Schools

New York Film Academy

Yale University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lisa

Birth City, State, Country

Milford

HM ID

COR04

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Connecticut

Favorite Vacation Destination

Lamu Island, Kenya

Favorite Quote

Count it all joy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/24/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sancocho

Short Description

Filmmaker Lisa Cortes (1960 - ) began her career at Def Jam records, and then turned to filmmaking where she produced Precious (2009).

Employment

Cortes Films

K2 Pictures

Lee Daniels Entertainment

Magic Lantern Productions

Loose Cannon

Mercury Records

Def Jam/Rush Recordings

Favorite Color

Green

Littleton Mitchell

Association branch executive, civil rights activist, and Tuskegee Airman Littleton Purnell Mitchell was born in the 1920s in Milford, Delaware, to Helen Ann Purnell and George Darnell Mitchell. His advocacy began at age thirteen, when he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During the late 1930s, he attended Howard High School, the state’s only high school for African Americans. Upon graduation, he spent two years at West Chester University of Pennsylvania on a track scholarship before joining the Tuskegee Airmen during War World II. While he was there, he witnessed the building of the airfield at Tuskegee in 1941. He taught future pilots the art of instrument flying. His duties sent him to the Link Trainer Facilities and Schools in New York, and Chanute Field in Chanute, Illinois, as well as the Base Instrument Command Flying School in Texas. In February 1946, he was discharged from the U.S. Army. Encouraged by his fellow Tuskegee Airmen, Mitchell returned to college, and earned his degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania and began a career in the psychiatric treatment of children and civil rights advocacy.

Mitchell led the Delaware State Branches of the NAACP as president for over thirty years until 1991. During his years there, he led their efforts to secure fair housing, equal access to public accommodations, and equal education and employment opportunities for Delaware’s African American community. He became the first African American teacher of white children at Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware City. He retired from teaching in 1984. His wife, Jane Mitchell, now deceased, became one of Delaware’s first African American nurses. For many years, she served as the director of nursing at the Delaware State Hospital and along with her husband led efforts to desegregate the state’s hospitals.

Mitchell served on the Delaware Humanities Council from 1991 to 1997. In 1993, the University of Delaware awarded Mitchell its Medal of Merit for sustained community service. He was also awarded the Delaware Bar Association’s 2004 Liberty Bell Award for community service. For the Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission, he served as a presidential appointee representing Delaware.

Mitchell resided in Delaware City, Delaware, with his family until his death on July 6, 2009.

Littleton Purnell Mitchell was interview by the HistoryMakers on December 19, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.267

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/19/2005

Last Name

Mitchell

Maker Category
Middle Name

Purnell

Schools

Howard High School

Delaware State University

West Chester University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Littleton

Birth City, State, Country

Milford

HM ID

MIT08

Favorite Season

Christmas

Sponsor

Discover Financial Services

State

Delaware

Favorite Vacation Destination

Vermont

Favorite Quote

A Man's Most Precious Possession Is His Integrity.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Delaware

Birth Date

11/27/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Delaware City

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Three-Layer Yellow Cake

Death Date

7/6/2009

Short Description

Association branch executive, tuskegee airman, and civil rights activist Littleton Mitchell (1918 - 2009 ) led the Delaware State Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as president for over thirty years until 1991 and was the first African American teacher of white children at Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware City.

Employment

United States Army Air Forces. Fighter Group, 332nd.

Governor Bacon Health Center

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Tan

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Littleton Mitchell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his father, Littleton Van Mitchell

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell describes his mother, Helen Purnell Mitchell

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell recounts his earliest memory of racism

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell remembers an altercation with his mayor while growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon his early response to racism

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Littleton Mitchell recalls his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his trip to Spain, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his trip to Spain, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell describes Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his college aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell recalls his experience at West Chester State Teacher's College

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his probation at West Chester State Teachers College

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his favorite professor at West Chester State Teachers College

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell remembers trying to enlist in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Littleton Mitchell talks about his Native American ancestry

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell remembers arriving at Tuskegee Army Airfield

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell remembers the racism of white U.S. Air Force instructors

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his training in instrument flying

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell remembers fleeing Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell describes racism in Alabama, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell describes racism in Alabama, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell recalls tense race relations in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Littleton Mitchell remembers seeing poor treatment of migrant laborers

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell remembers advocating for migrant laborers

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell recalls his hiring at Delaware City's Governor Bacon Health Center

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers teaching at Delaware City's Governor Bacon Health Center

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell remembers taking leadership classes with the NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell remembers Wilmington, Delaware after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell describes his relationship with Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell remembers exposing Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr.'s racism

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Littleton Mitchell talks about fighting segregation in Delaware

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell remembers fighting for integrated hospitals in Delaware

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell remembers helping a migrant laborer

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers rescuing a boy from a migrant labor camp

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell remembers fighting racist legislation

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon the struggle for civil rights

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell explains how he likes to be identified

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon the importance of history

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Littleton Mitchell remembers arriving at Tuskegee Army Airfield
Littleton Mitchell remembers fighting for integrated hospitals in Delaware
Transcript
So, you arrived at Tuskegee [Tuskegee Army Airfield; Sharpe Field, Tuskegee, Alabama] in what year? Do you remember?$$Oh yeah. It was in December 1941, and I stepped out nine o'clock at night into two-and-a-half inches of mud because we were disillusioned. You see, when I was in West Chester [West Chester State Teachers College; West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, Pennsylvania] and I saw the add about volunteer and serve, there were tennis courts and swimming pools, and more than that, they had some pretty women in there with 'em and they said Tuskegee Institute [Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama] was just shortly a little distance from it and, man, that was all good so I wanted to fly but it was good that I was gonna be down there with these women in the tennis courts and (unclear) swimming. And we got out there and we were twenty-five miles back in the woods from Tuskegee, and there wasn't nothing there but red, red, red clay. And I stepped down into this clay up to my ankles nine o'clock at night, no lights, no nothing, and got into a truck and rode to me. To me, it seemed like ten miles on those four-by-fours that the [U.S.] Army has, all rough, and we were all talking about I want to see what Tuskegee Airfield looks like, and so when we got out of the trucks and looked around, there wasn't any air field. They hadn't built it. They were building it. And we had to sleep in tents. They were tents that were built with a wooden floor that came up to about that high, about three feet high, boarded around, then the rest of it was a tent and in the center was a stove that you could put wooden coal in to keep you warm. That's what we had. And if you didn't have that, then you had to sleep out on the ground. I wasn't one of those lucky people who slept on the ground. I was in the first car, so I slept in the tent. There were some of the guys that had to sleep in pup tents on the ground out that night. But we were in that for about, I would say, about three weeks, three or four weeks, just in that. They were building the Tuskegee, I saw 'em build the runway. To landscape they brought grass in. This was all red mud. They didn't have water there. We had to get the water out of the water trucks that the Army would bring in, and we'd get our water. And we washed ourselves like the guys do when they're out in combat. They gave us a helmet and we'd wash--the helmet--wash our face in the helmet and do it, and we did that for about three weeks until they built it up, and we saw Tuskegee built by the first of us, I mean the most of us--were from the North in that group that I went down with, and we had never seen black craftsmen. This base was built in every way by all black craftsmen. It was McKissack & McKissack, out of Memphis, Tennessee. And it was amazing to see this, and they built it and they had it done in about three months. Then we were there.$The hospitals in this state [Delaware] were segregated. Our NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] got a letter from the [U.S.] Department of Health, Education and Welfare [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] saying, "Tell us about the hospitals in your state and let us know how their treatment for patients are." They were getting federal funds. Well, I had an expert (unclear) with me. My wife [Jane Watson Mitchell], she was director of nurses at State Hospital [Delaware State Hospital, Wilmington, Delaware], so I didn't have to ask anybody. If I go in there, I'm not an expert. I don't know. I can see where patients are, but somebody else--so I have to say, "Is it all right if my wife goes." They said, "Take anybody you wish. Just give us the information. Well, we started at the main places, Wilmington Hospital [Wilmington, Delaware]. The patients in all hospitals in the state were seated black patients in the cellar where the coal is, where they have all the equipment that's going on. The patients were in the cellar. If you had the mumps, you were in the cellar. If you had given birth to a child, you were in the cellar. There was no segregation according to what your ailment was. You were there if you were black. You were just in there. If there wasn't any room for you, you were in the hallway. For instance, down at the Milford Hospital [Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital, Milford, Delaware], my home, when we went there, the patients down in the cellar, one per room was right next to where the coal bin was. They used the coal for the furnace and when that patient would sit up in bed, if he sat up suddenly he'd hit his head on the pipes going above him. This is what they were like. Or a patient would be out in the hallway right there with plenty of room upstairs, so when we went down there, the place that really, really changed, we went to Beebe hospital [Beebe Medical Center] down in Lewes, Delaware. I had this letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. I always liked to have an ace in the hole. I liked you to run yourself up on it and you don't know what I got, and then you tell me no, then I'll pull my ace out, or I don't tell 'em--come here for a second--I said, "I would like to look and see how your patients, Negro patients, are treated here and I'd like to see how, what kind of treatment they're getting." The director of nurses told me, "No, we can't do anything like that." I said, "Well, where is the director of the hospital, because I would like to know exactly--you get federal funds and I want to know how patients are," so my wife takes over from there, "Jane Mitchell, director of nurses at Delaware State Hospital, and we're here to look at this." "Well, I can't do that." "Oh," I said, "Are you sure you can't just let me go see? Oh," I said, "Well, read this, then, and see what you think about that." They'd read that letter where it said we want to know how our federal funds are being spent and you will give us the information as to whether we will keep the score. She said, "Oh, my goodness, I better get Dr. Beebe [ph.]." I said, "It's all right with me." So, Dr. Beebe was also a member of the board of trustees of one of the banks. Said, "He's in a bank meeting." I said, "Get him out, get him out, or else I'm gonna have a long thing for you." They got him out and he comes down and she said, "This is Mr. [HistoryMaker Littleton Mitchell] and Mrs. Mitchell, and they want to visit our hospital." He said, "Well, you know they can't do it." She said, "Dr. Beebe, you better read this first." He read it and he said, "Take 'em through." So we looked and it was the same there. They were down in the cellar, pipes with their heads where they come up and sit up, when they sat up to eat the meal, they did like this to keep from hitting their head on the pipe. They had to go back down like that. So, my statement was, "Within one month, we want the (unclear) integrated." He said, "Oh, I don't know whether we can do that." We went back in one month; they were integrated, every hospital in the state. Federal funds, that's what it does. Federal funds.