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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

[Camilla Williams oral history]

Repository: Sonya Wolen

Collection Description (Extant): This is an oral history of famed African American opera singer, Camilla Williams, who grew up in Danville, Virginia, and became the first black opera singer to receive a contract with a major American opera company, singing the title role in Puccini's Madama Butterfly in 1946 with the New York City Opera. She toured in the United States and Europe. Her long-time accompanist is a Bulgarian, Dr. Boris Bazala, who in the interview talks about moving to the back of the train to sit with her during the time of Jim Crow. In 1963, she sang the "Star Spangled Banner" at the White House and before 250,000 people in Washington DC preceding Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Also, her late husband was an attorney of Malcolm X. In this oral history, she discusses growing up in segregated Danville and her career as an opera singer.

Access Copy Note: Ms. Sonya Wolen, who interviewed her and is assistant director of the Danville Science Center, currently has the digital file of the oral history, and she plans to donate it to an archive. She also has a digital file with the images that were used for the podcast.

Collection URL: External Link

Date(s): 2008

Digital Status: Born-digital

Extent: digital audio recording, photographs

Language: English

Interviewees: Camilla Williams

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American singers
African Americans--Virginia
Virginia--Race relations


Sound recordings


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   May 15, 2015
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