Saturday, November 13, 2010

Opera and Sisterhood

Mary Cardwell Dawson
On November 12 in Black History...

In 1941, Mary Cardwell Dawson founded on November 12 the NATIONAL NEGRO OPERA COMPANY.  in 1941. The NNOC grew to include chapters New York, Chicago,Washington, DC, and other cities around the country. Dawson's opera company, her music school and the Cardwell Dawson Choir, opened new doors and launched careers for African-Americans who had little or no access to classical odr opera music training.  First Lady Elanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson were honorary board chairs. 
The house  where the company was housed also has a rich history beyond Mary Cardwell Dawson. Businessman William "Woogie" Harris, brother of famed photographer "Teenie" Harris, bought the house in 1930, hosting and housing prominent black entertainers (Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, Cab Calloway) and athletes (Joe Louis, Roberto Clemente) who were denied Pittsburgh hotel accommodations because of their race. Neighbors dubbed the house "Mystery Manor" because of the famous comings and goings.  The Company disbanded in 1962 upon Dawson's death.  Currently there are efforts to restore the house. 
National Negro Operal Company

In 1922 SIGMA GAMMA RHO, INC. was founded on November 12 by seven school teachers: Mary Lou Allison Little, Dorothy Hanley Whiteside, Vivian White Marbury, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Hattie Mae Dulin Redford, Bessie M. Downey Martin, and Cubena McClure.  The sorority was the first African-American sorority founded at a predominantly white college, Butler University in Indianapolis, IN.  The group became an incorporated national collegiate sorority on December 30, 1929, when a charter was granted to Alpha chapter at Butler.

Its first three years were devoted to organizing. Now, Sigma Gamma Rho continues to grow through Sisterhood, Scholarship and Service. The sorority has supported the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Council of Negro Women, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Urban League, March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, National Mental Health Association, United Negro College Fund, Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, Black Women's Agenda, and American Association of University Women.

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., now has over 400 chapters in the United States, Bermuda, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, and Germany.

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