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Lois Bellamy

composer, educator, choral conductor, music professor, singer, and author, was born to Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner, former slave, and Sophie Stuart, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner was born in South Carolina and was nine years old when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 Edward Boatner s grandmother was a slave who was determined that her son Daniel would receive a good education She worked very hard scrubbing floors washing cooking and nursing children of wealthy whites to send him to school Dr Boatner attended Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee and graduated from New Orleans University where he received his bachelor s and master s degrees After earning his doctorate from Gammon Theological Seminary at Atlanta Georgia he served on the faculty of Philander Smith College a Methodist School in Little Rock Arkansas where he taught Hebrew ...


Alexander J. Chenault

was born in Washington, DC, and raised by her adopted mother Beullah Hanson Caldwell, in Baltimore, Maryland. Caldwell had a solidly middle class upbringing. Her father was a carpenter and her mother was an elementary school teacher, who later retired as a principal. Caldwell began piano lessons at the age of four with one of only two African American piano teachers in Baltimore. By the age of seven, Caldwell had given her first piano recital at Morgan State University. She attended the Hamilton Elementary School and Pimlico Middle School—which were both segregated. However, Hansonia attended the racially integrated, all‐girls, Eastern High School where she served as accompanist for the school’s choir. Caldwell graduated from high school in February of 1962.

She then attended Boston University’s School of Performing Arts, and was initiated into the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in1963 and received her B Mus ...


Doris Evans McGinty

singer and educator, was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler, former slaves. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and in 1896 was awarded a diploma that was replaced by a bachelor's degree in 1906, when the conservatory began granting degrees. The Oberlin Conservatory chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society, elected her a member in 1927. She studied voice further with Sydney Lloyd Wrightson at the Washington Conservatory of Music in Washington, D.C., with William Shakespeare, and with Oscar Devries at Chicago Musical College.

As a singer Childers enjoyed modest distinction. During her college years and shortly afterward, she performed in the Midwest with the Eckstein-Norton Music Company, a quartet of singers and their accompanist teamed with the concert pianist Harriet A. Gibbs The group contributed their earnings to the development of ...


Lisa E. Rivo

singer, musician, educator, and advocate for African American music and musicians, was born Emma Azalia Smith in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Henry Smith, a blacksmith and native of Murfreesboro, and Corilla Beard, the daughter of Wilson Beard, an escaped slave who began a profitable laundry business after fleeing to Detroit. Following the birth of Azalia, as she was called, Corilla Smith opened a school in Murfreesboro for newly freed slave children. In 1870, just after the birth of Azalia's sister Marietta increasing hostility from local whites forced Corilla Smith to close the school The family moved to Detroit Michigan where Henry Smith opened a curio shop and Corilla Smith taught school In the early 1880s the couple separated and Corilla raised her daughters on wages earned by private tutoring In Detroit the Smiths were the first black family in their neighborhood and ...


Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, the daughter of Corilla Beard and Henry Smith, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was raised in Detroit, Michigan, where the family moved after her mother's school was closed due to opposition from the white community. She started taking piano lessons at age three, later studying violin and voice, and played professionally after school.

In 1883 Hackley became the first African American to attend Washington Normal School, taking education classes and supporting herself by teaching music lessons. After her graduation, she taught second grade until 1894 when she eloped with journalist Edwin Henry. They moved to Denver, where Hackley organized a branch of the Colored Women's League and earned a music degree from the University of Denver (1900). In 1901 she separated from her husband and left Denver.

Hackley settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and served as a church musical ...


Roanne Edwards

A woman of many talents, Eva Jessye pursued a music career that spanned more than half a century and won her a reputation as “the dean of black female musicians.” During the 1930s she gained international attention as director of the Eva Jessye Choir, which toured the United States and Europe, and sang in the first production of George Gershwin's folk opera Porgy and Bess (1935). During the next three decades, she led the choir in numerous revivals of the opera and in 1963 directed the choir for the historic March on Washington led by Martin Luther King

Jessye grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas, where, after the separation of her parents in 1898, her grandmother and her mother's sisters reared her. As a child she began singing, organized a girls' quartet, and, at the age of twelve, helped composer Will Marion Cook copy music for ...


Rachel Antell

Dorothy Leigh Maynor (originally Mainor) was born to John J. Mainor, a pastor, and Alice Jeffries Mainor, in Norfolk, Virginia. At age fourteen, Maynor enrolled at Hampton Institute where she studied with the goal of becoming a public school teacher. During her college years, Maynor's focus increasingly shifted toward vocal training and the study of piano and orchestral instruments. After graduating, she decided to pursue a second degree in music from Westminster Choir College in New Jersey and then spent four years in New York continuing her musical studies privately under Wilfried Klamroth and John Alan Houghton.

In 1939 Maynor made her solo singing debut at the Berkshire Musical Festival in Tanglewood Massachusetts for which she received widespread acclaim The performance was soon followed by a New York debut at Town Hall where reviewers called her one of the most remarkable soprano voices of her generation ...


John G. Turner

teacher, missionary, and social worker, was born Lucy Gantt in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the daughter and only child of a mixed-race former slave, Eliza Gantt. Her father, who may have been white, played no role in her upbringing. As a young child Lucy attended school between cotton seasons. At the age of eleven she gained admission to Talladega College, a school for blacks run by the Missionary Association of the Congregational Church. Eliza Gantt worked as a domestic servant to pay her daughter's tuition for the nine years that Lucy spent at Talladega.

During her last several years at Talladega, Gantt taught in one-room rural schools during the summer months. She took voice lessons at Talladega and toured for a year with Frederick J. Loudin's Jubilee Singers. In 1886 she secured employment as a teacher in Grayton Alabama where she lived and taught in a ...


Janelle F. H. Winston

choral director, composer, arranger, and author was born Andre Jerome Thomas in Wichita, Kansas, the only son and first of three children born to Leva J. Thomas, a carpet cleaner, and the third child and only son of Willie Mae Caldwell, a coach cleaner. By age four Thomas's proclivity for music was evident. Mahalia Jackson and other gospel greats engaged his spirit and music took up permanent residence within his soul His mother watched as the passion for music established itself within her son and as much as she may have hoped it to be fleeting she accepted the inevitable and engaged a teacher for him His teacher was a stern woman demanding nothing less than flawlessness from her student As he learned his first piece she would rap him on the knuckles when he played it incorrectly His mother found this method of ...