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1897 - AUGUST 25, 1975

Thelma Waide Brown was an important performer and educator in Chicago. Born in Ashland, KY, her family moved first to Indianapolis and then to Chicago where she remained for the rest of her life. She performed extensively as a soloist in the Midwest and performed on the operatic stage when possible. Her most notable stage performances were with the National Negro Opera Company (NNOC); she sang the role of the High Priestess in the initial performances of Aïda with that company in 1941, appearing in Pittsburgh and Chicago. She was also active in the administration of both the national group and the Chicago Guild and remained a staunch supporter of Black operatic performances in the Chicago area. She performed in concert productions of Samson et Delilah and was a regular soloist in performances of Handel’s Messiah.

Ms. Brown was on the faculty of Roosevelt College in Chicago for more than twenty-six years; her students included Betty Jackson King and Lena Johnson McLin. Among her honors and awards were Woman of the Year by the Chicago Chapter of the National Association of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (1954), a certificate of award from the National Association of Negro Musicians (1961), a certificate from the Chicago Music Association (1962), and the award for outstanding achievement from the National Association of Negro Musicians (1973). In 1969 the Chicago Musical College held an honorary dinner in her honor commemorating her fifty-year career.


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DGF is focused on the intersection of social justice, American history, and the arts. Deeply inspired by the achievements of America’s hidden musical figures, the foundation is invested in doing research and educating the public about their remarkable stories of courage and persistence. From enriching our musical heritage to preparing the diverse pool of tomorrow’s vocal stars, DGF will positively impact how artists are valued in this nation, encouraging inclusive opportunity, access, and advocacy for the next generation. Join our change-making efforts by supporting DGF with a donation today.

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