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Mary Krane Derr

Roman Catholic religious leader, sacred music performer, and social justice activist, was born Bertha J. Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the granddaughter of slaves and only child of physician Theon Edward Bowman and high school music teacher Mary Esther Coleman. Baptized an Episcopalian, Bertha attended Methodist services. Growing up in segregated, impoverished Canton, Mississippi, she absorbed the spirituality and music of black community elders and her parents' own deep commitments to lives of service. At age ten, she chose to be baptized as a Roman Catholic because she admired the work of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) in Canton. In the face of public uproar, white nuns from this order taught black students at Holy Child Jesus Catholic School. Unable to read after five years of poor quality education in segregated public schools, Bertha finally became literate after transferring to this school in 1949 ...

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was born Martha Jean Jones in Memphis, Tennessee, one of five children of Virgil and Florence (Mabley) Jones. Martha Jean’s first career was nursing, but she also modeled and produced fashion shows. She married jazz trumpeter Luther Steinberg circa 1949 and they had three daughters, Diane, Sandra, and Trienere, but the marriage did not work out and the two eventually separated.

Around 1954 Martha Jean Steinberg entered a contest to be an announcer on the Memphis radio station WDIA Although owned by whites the station s format was aimed at the black community She didn t win the contest but the program director liked her voice and offered her a part time shift There are several versions of how she acquired her nickname The Queen Reporter Susan Whitall says it was t hanks to her 6 foot stature and regal demeanor p 39 But Louis Cantor a former WDIA ...