The Arts - Women


Marian Anderson
February 27, 1897 to April 8, 1993

Marian Anderson began singing at age six in the junior choir of the local Baptist church. By age 13, she joined the senior choir, began visiting other churches, and became very well known in the community. She often sang at three different locations in an evening. At the age of 22, Ms. Anderson sang at the 1919 National Baptist Convention.

In December of 1928, Ms. Anderson performed at Carnegie Hall and received a glowing review from the New York Times. She studied in Britain on a National Association of Negro Musicians scholarship. On September 16, 1930, she performed at London’s Wigmore Hall. She returned to the U.S. and shortly thereafter returned to Europe on a Julius Rosenwald Fund Scholarship.

Ms. Anderson made several trips abroad. During one trip to Europe, she performed 142 concerts in Scandinavia between 1933 and 1934. In Europe, she was welcomed in the finest hotels and restaurants. However, in the U.S., she was often given third or fourth-class accommodations.

In 1939, Ms. Anderson was denied the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, a building owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The director of the hall refused to allow any Black person the opportunity to perform in Constitution Hall. The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR in protest. The First Lady, along with Walter White, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP) convinced Harold Ickes, the Secretary to the Interior, to allow Ms. Anderson to sing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

On Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, Marian Anderson performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of more than 75,000 people. Thousands more listened on the radio. Following her performance, Ms. Anderson gave a private concert at the White House, for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the First Lady, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Britain.

Throughout her career,  Ms. Anderson performed at many of the country’s and the world’s most distinguished venues. In 1943, she gave a rectal at Constitution Hall and insisted that DAR suspend its segregated seating policy for the concert. By 1956, she had performed more than a thousand times.

On January 7, 1955, Ms. Anderson debuted at New York's Metropolitan Opera. She was the first Black singer to perform as a regular member of the company.

In 1957, as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S. State Department and the American National Theater and Academy, she toured India and the Far East. She sang at the inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. In 1963, she sang at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On April 19, 1965, Easter Sunday, Ms. Anderson gave her final concert at Carnegie Hall.

During her career, Marion Anderson received many awards, including:

                      1939 - The Spingarn Medal
                      1941 - The Bok Award, given annually to an outstanding Philadelphia citizen.
                      1963 - The American Medal of Freedom.
                      1977 - Congress awards her a gold medal for her 75th birthday.
                      1980 - The U.S. Treasury Department coined a half-ounce gold commemorative medal with her
                      1986 - The National Medal of Arts.

Early in her career, she insisted on a seating arrangement in segregated cities that allowed Blacks to be seated in all parts of the auditorium. It was often the first time Blacks sat in the orchestra sections. By 1950, she would not sing in venues where the audience was segregated.

On April 8, 1993, Marian Anderson died of heart failure, at the age of 96. In June of the same year, more than 2,000 admirers attended her memorial service at Carnegie Hall.

Top L:
 Marian Anderson.  Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231].  R: Grave marker for Marian Anderson's mother, Anna Anderson; middle sister, Alyse Anderson; Marian Anderson; younger sister, Ethel DePreist and Ms. DePreist's husband James. 
Photo taken April 30, 2009. Black and white photos Public Domain.  

Audio Recordings

Anderson, Marian. The Lady from Philadelphia. RCA Victor, 1957. LP.

"Marian Anderson.", Web. 7 Apr. 2009.

"Marian Anderson.", Web. 7 Apr. 2009.

Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.

Site Visit
Marian Anderson gravesite. Eden Memorial Cemetery. Collingdale, PA. 30 Apr. 2009.


Eden Memorial Cemetery, 1434 Springfield Road, Collingdale, PA 19023. Phone: 610-583-8737. 

Posted to website: May 2, 2009.

Pearl Mae (Bailey) Bellson
March 29, 1918 to August 17, 1990

Singer and actress Pearl Bailey appeared in Vaudeville and on Broadway. In 1968, she won a Tony Award for her title role in the all Black production of Hello Dolly. She won a Daytime Emmy Award for her portrayal of a fairy godmother in the 1986 after school special Cinder Eller: A Modern Fair Tale. She earned a B.A. in theology from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in 1985 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on October 17, 1988.

 Pearl (Bailey) Bellson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]. R: Her grave marker. 
Photo taken April 30, 2009. Black and white Public Domain.

Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.

Site Visit
Pearl Bailey Bellson gravesite. Rolling Green Memorial Park, Inc. West Chester, PA. 30 Apr. 2009.


Rolling Green Memorial Park, Inc. 1008 W. Chester Pike, West Chester, PA 19382. Phone: 215-727-5700 or 610-692-2292. Contact person Mr. Prentice Cole, Jr., Family Services Counselor. 

Posted to website: May 2, 2009.

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks
June 17, 1917 to December 3, 2000

Gwendolyn Brooks grew up on the south side of Chicago. She attended public schools and Wilson Junior College. By age 16, she had already published poetry in the leading African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender. By the 1940’s her writings began to appear in popular journals and anthologies such as Negro Story and Edward Seaver’s Cross Section series. She also won many prizes and fellowships including two Guggenheim fellowships.

In 1945, she wrote her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville. Her second book of poetry Annie Allen published in 1949 won her a Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1950; the first time an African American won the award. By the late 1950’s her work focused on the struggles faced by African Americans in their pursuit of civil rights. She was made Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968. In 1988, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was awarded more than seventy-five honorary degrees from colleges and universities worldwide. She continued to write until her death in 2000.

Gwendolyn Brooks. 
Picture taken circa 1993.

Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.

Posted to website: September 13, 2008.

Alice Coltrane
August 27, 1937 to January 12, 2007 

Jazz pianist, organist, harpist, composer, and wife of John Coltrane. Also see John Coltrane.

Alice Coltrane, public domain. Video: Ravi Coltrane & Alice Coltrane - A Love Supreme. R: Grave marker for Alice Coltrane and her husband John Coltrane. 
Photos taken May 24, 2009.

"Alice Coltrane.", Web. 8 May, 2009.

"Alice Coltrane Harp Solo.", Web. 8 May 2009.

Site Visit
Alice Coltrane gravesite. Pinelawn Memorial Park, Farmingdale, NY. 24 May 2009.


Pinelawn Memorial Park, Pinelawn Road and Wellwood Avenue, Farmingdale, New York 11735. Phone: 631-249-6100.

Posted to website: May 28, 2009.

Aaliyah Haughton
January 16, 1979 to August 25, 2001

Aaliyah Haughton, singer, actress and great talent died in a plane crash August 25, 2001.

#L: The mausoleum wall. R: Flowers at the base of the wall.                        
# Picture included in the documentary, "Beyond the Headlines: Aaliyah". World Premier first aired November 15, 2014, on the Lifetime channel. 
Photos taken December 29, 2007.

Site Visit
Aaliyah Haughton Crypt. Ferncliff Cemetery. Hartsdale, NY. 29 Dec. 2007.


Ferncliff Cemetery 280-284 Secor Road, P.O. Box 217, Hartsdale, NY 0530 (914)-693-4700. Rosewood Mausoleum, Unit 4A, Tier CC Private Section, Crypt 3. 

Posted to website: April 5, 2008.

Billie Holiday (Eleanora Fagen)
April 17, 1915 to July 17, 1959
Pennsylvania Avenue and West Lafayette Avenue
West Baltimore City, MD 21217

Inscribed on the right side of the monument are the words:

*Billie Holliday

Born Eleanora Harris, in Philadelphia, PA, April 7, 1915, rose from the depths of poverty and the racial injustice that has characterized the African American experience, to achieve world - renown as a great jazz singer.

This monument acknowledges **"Lady Day" as a socially relevant artist who served suffering as well as beauty through her songs... as she was heard on the stage of the historic Royal Theatre in Baltimore the city of her youth.

Dedicated April 7, 1985 Mayor
William Donald Schaefer. 

Rededicated July 17, 2009, the 50th anniversary of Billie Holiday's Ascension
Mayor Sheila Dixon & the citizens of Baltimore"
*According to the 1920 United States Federal Census, Billie Holiday's original name was Eleanora Fagan.

**Billie Holliday was given the nickname "Lady Day" by jazz saxophonist Lester Young.                       

Billie Holiday Statue.  
Photos taken June 12, 2010.  Video: Billie Holiday sings Strange Fruit.

Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.

"Billie Holiday - The Official Site of Lady Day.", Web. 1 Aug. 2012.
"Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit." Web. 1 Aug. 2012.

"Eleanora Fagan.", Web. 1 Aug. 2012.

Site Visit
Billie Holiday Statue. West Baltimore City, MD.  12 Jun. 2010.

Posted to website: August 1, 2012.

Zora Neale Hurston
January 7, 1891 to January 28, 1960

Inscribed on the number 4 Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail Marker are the words:

Zora Neale Hurston Gravesite, Garden of Heavenly Rest Cemetery, Avenue S and 17th St

Zora Neal Hurston died on January 28, 1960. After friends from near and far raised over $600 in her memory, Zora’s funeral was held at the Peek Funeral Chapel (Heritage Trail Marker #7) on February 7, 1960. Zora was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in this (then segregated) cemetery. In the early 1970s, Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, located the grave which she determined to be Zora’s and so began Zora’s second rise from near obscurity to fame.

Alice Walker Rediscovers Zora

“We are people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. If they do, it is our duty as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children. If necessary, bone by bone.” Alice Walker, author, 1976.

In 1973, Alice Walker visited Eatonville, fully expecting it to be just as Zora described. As part of her pilgrimage, she discovered that Zora was buried in Ft. Pierce. Walker’s search for Zora’s gravesite is described in the last chapter of her story, “Looking for Zora,” A Zora Neal Hurston Reader, I Love Myself When I Am Laughing 1979, in which she describes searching the (then overgrown) cemetery with the help of a funeral home employee named Rosalee. Finally Walker stopped and decided to “ask” Zora for help.

“Zora! I yelled, as loud as I can, ‘are you out there?"

"Rosalee; “if she is, I sho hope she don’t answer you. If she do, I’m gone.” 

“Zora!’ I call again. ‘I’m here. Are you?"                        

“If she is,” grumbles Rosalee, “I hope she’ll keep it to herself.”                        

“’Zora!’ Then I start fussing with her. “I hope you don’t think I’m going to stand out here all day, with these snakes watching me and these ants having a field day. In fact I’m going to call you just one or two more times…Zora!’ And my foot sinks into a hole. I look down. I am standing in a sunken rectangle that is about six feet long and about three or four feet wide.”

Thus Walker concluded that this was Zora’s gravesite, since it was the only one located near the center of the cemetery. She then ordered the headstone that now identifies the final resting place of the “Genius of the South.” Within a few years, an important biography of Zora, written by Robert Hemenway, was published, and Zora’s books began to reappear in the popular market.

In the 1980s, members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority placed the large slab on top of the gravesite. This has become a popular place for visitors to leave offerings and messages in honor of Zora Neal Hurston.

“I will remember you all in my good thoughts, and I ask you kindly to do the same for me. Not only just for me. You who play zig-zag lightning of power over the world, with the grumbling thunder in your wake, think kindly of those who walk in the dust. And you who walk in humble places, think kindly too, of others. There has been no proof in the world so far that you would be less arrogant if you held the level of power in your hands. Let us all be kissing friends. Consider that with tolerance and patience, we godly demons may breed a noble in a few hundred generations or so. Maybe all of us who do not have the good fortune to meet or meet again, in this world, will meet at a barbeque.” Dust Tracks on a Road 1942."

Top L:
 History Marker. R: Young Zora, location and date unknown. Zora was born in 1891 but always shaved ten to twelve years off her age. In an interview with the St Petersburg Times, biographer Valerie Boyd, Author of Wrapped in Rainbows: the Life of Zora Neale Hurston, said that “Hurston lied so she could get a Baltimore high school education, something free to those under age 20. At the time, Huston was 26 but got away with saying she was 16.” (Reaching out From the Rainbows,” by Adrienne P. Samuels, St. Petersburg Times. January 30, 2003). Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Zora Neale Hurston Collection, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Department of Special Collections. R: Zora at the Federal Writers Project Booth, New York Times Book Fair, New York City, 1937. Zora authored seven major books, dozens of magazines and newspaper articles, and at least nine plays in her life. After blossoming during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s’ Zora met the 1030s Depression head on. While money and work were scarce for the most part, Zora plugged away. She wrote most of her books and plays during the 1930s, received grants for folklore work, and was hired by both Federal Theater Project and Federal Writers Project. Work Progress Administration (W.P.A.) photographer. Courtesy Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tiden Foundations. 

Second L: Zora (center) with unidentified friends, in Ft Pierce, probably 1959 (age 68). Her weight gain was one symptom of increasingly poor health. Throughout her life, whatever she lived and worked, Zora managed to meet and enjoy people from all walks of life. She learned early in her career that pretense gained her false friends and no information. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Zora Neale Hurston Collection, George a. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Department of Special Collections.    
Remaining Photos:
 Art on columns in front of cemetery. 
Photos taken December 20, 2010. 

Continued next section.


Zora Neale Hurston



Top and Second: Art on columns in front of cemetery.                       
Third L: Entrance to cemetery. R: Zora Neale Hurston's grave. 

Fourth L: Patrick Duval, 83 (2003), standing next to Zora’s gravesite. Mr. Duval is a hero to historians, for after Zora’s death, he personally rescued her papers (including much of her last book) from a burning trash heap. He first met Zora when he was a student at Lincoln Park Academy and his class traveled to Bethune-Cookman College, in Daytona Beach, where Zora briefly taught and lived aboard a boat (probably 1934). Duval later became a friend of Zora’s and engaged in many lively debates with her. He remembers discussing with Zora a controversial article she wrote about the alleged purchase of Black votes, and her response to him: “Are you angry that I wrote it or angry because it’s true?” Photo by Susan Kilmer. 

Bottom: Column art designer.  
Photos taken December 20, 2010.

Hurston, Lucy Anne. "Speak, So You Can Speak Again - The Life of Zora Neale Hurston." New York: Doubleday, 2004. Print.

"Zora Neale Hurston.",  Web. 23 May 2009.

"Women in History",, Web. 26 Feb. 2012.

Site Visit
Gravesite. Garden of Heavenly Rest Cemetery, Ft. Pierce, FL. 20 Dec. 2010.


Garden of Heavenly Rest Cemetery, End of 17th Street, Ft. Pierce, FL 34982.

Posted to website: February 27, 2012.


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