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SEPTEMBER 3, 1901 - FEBUARY 19, 1986

A graduate of Hampton University and Westminster Choir College, soprano Dorothy Maynor was persuaded to pursue singing by composer R. Nathaniel Dett. She became the first African American to sing for inaugural galas of U.S. presidents (Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower). Conductor Serge Koussevitzky proclaimed in 1939, “The world must hear her!” and then hired her as a soloist in recordings with the Boston Symphony. Her Town Hall recital that year sold out and Maynor’s career soared. She sang with the National Symphony in 1952 at Constitution Hall in the first commercial appearance featuring an African American artist since the historic denial of Marian Anderson. The New York Times noted, “Although she committed more than 100 operatic roles to memory, she never appeared on an opera stage; there were no such opportunities for a black artist . . . when she was in her prime.” In 1964, she founded the Harlem School of the Arts and in 1975, Maynor became the first African American board member of the Metropolitan Opera.

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Video Credit: Ashton Joliet

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