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BUILDING THE STAGE

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info@thedenycegravesfoundation.org

© 2023 The Denyce Graves Foundation

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Our Federal tax ID is 86-2276658. 

The Denyce Graves Foundation is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. 

THE DENYCE GRAVES FOUNDATION WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE FOLLOWING SPONSORS FOR THEIR TIME AND DONATIONS TO MAKE THIS EXHIBIT POSSIBLE:

THE DENYCE GRAVES FOUNDATION WOULD LIKE TO THANK OUR GENEROUS PARTNERS:

JOHN J. POHANKA FAMILY FOUNDATION TRUST

ERWIN L. GREENBERG CHARITABLE FOUNDATION

LECTURE WITH DR. KAREN BRYAN,

Mary Cardwell Dawson Historian

Self Determination on the Operatic Stage: Mary Cardwell Dawson and African American performance in Washington, DC.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2023 AT 7:00 PM

Library of Congress

101 Independence Ave SE Washington, DC 20540

EVENT SCHEDULE

MARY CARDWELL DAWSON: BUILDING THE STAGE

Exhibition Debut

JANUARY 18 - FEBRUARY 1

The Kennedy Center | HALL OF STATES
2700 F. Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20566

THE PASSION OF MARY CARDWELL DAWSON

Featuring Denyce Graves

FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2023 AT 7:00 PM

SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 2023 AT 2:00 PM & 5:00 PM

The Kennedy Center | TERRACE THEATRE
2700 F. Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20566

PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM AWARD

Given Posthumously to Mary Cardwell Dawson

SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 2023 AT 6:15 PM

The Kennedy Center | TERRACE THEATRE
2700 F. Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20566

GALA DINNER

Hosted by:

The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation

SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 2023 AT 7:30 PM

The Kennedy Center | TERRACE THEATRE
2700 F. Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20566

One who rebels against established order is often how a revolutionary is defined.

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A LIFE AND LEGACY

During the second generation following the Emancipation Proclamation, born into a family seeking opportunity and safety from community unrest, Mary Cardwell Dawson’s family migrated from Madison, North Carolina ultimately to the Homestead neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Coming of age, completing college, marrying, beginning a career were fraught for Mary Cardwell because of America’s entrenched social and economic systems set against ‘justice for all.’  While the swirl of change in America was underway in the period between The Great War and WWII, for African Americans change and progress was more halting and impeded.  The years 1942 – 1961 were those of the most significant impact of Mary Cardwell Dawson and her National Negro Opera Company, all the more impressive because her achievements and record of excellence precede the American Civil Rights Movement (1954 – 1968).

Mme. Dawson’s talents were extensive; she was a singer, pianist, teacher, music director, choral director, entrepreneur, Impressaria, employer, arts activist, social justice advocate. Her gifts aligned in extraordinary ways during her lifetime, securing unparalleled prominence in her community and among her people.  Professionally trained, earning a teaching certificate in 1925 from New England Conservatory of Music, one of America’s finest schools, she returned to Pittsburgh to open a school of music and work closely with church choirs in the area. 

Ms. Dawson chose success!   The Cardwell Dawson Choir sang at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and won many regional competitions.  She became active in the National Association of Negro Musicians and served as President in 1941, establishing the National Negro Opera Company in that same year (1941). 

One who rebels against established order is often how a revolutionary is defined.  A person among the first to discover, settle new territory, set precedence is how we describe a pioneer.  Exciting others into action is to galvanize.  Eminent in life and as we rediscover her long after her death, the matchless Mary Cardwell Dawson is lifted again, this time woven into the American tapestry with enduring threads of prominence by Self Determination on the Operatic Stage: Mary Cardwell Dawson and African American performance in Washington, DC – a lecture by Dr. Karen Bryan, Mary Cardwell Dawson Historian [Library of Congress January 2023]; the creation of new works of Art: The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson, a play with music [Washington National Opera January 2023]; the restoration and maintenance of the National Opera House; the founding of The Denyce Graves Foundation who in collaboration with Heinze History Center and The Library of Congress hosts the exhibit Mary Cardwell Dawson: Her Life and Legacy An Introduction in Pictures [Hall of Nations, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, January 2023].  These earned accolades are tangible and timely efforts as they precede our National celebration of African-American History [February] and Women’s History [March] months 2023.

The Denyce Graves Foundation, anchored at the intersection of American History, social justice, and classical vocal arts, responds to learning about Ms. Dawson with pride, gratitude and promise. 

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