Help Desk Number:
Eva Alberta Jessye Collection
1 linear feet
Eva Alberta Jessye (b. 1895 d. 1992) was a writer, singer, and civil rights activist. In 1926, in New York she joined the Dixie Jubilee Singers. This group became the Eva Jessye Choir that performed spirituals, work songs, ballads, ragtime, jazz and light opera. The choir regularly performed on the “Major Bowes Family Radio Hour” and the “General Motors Hour.” It was at this time she met and became the protégé of Will Marion Cook, a renowned African American composer. Eva Jessye immediately began to attract attention as a trail blazer. In 1936 George Gershwin appointed Jessye to be choral director for the original production of “Porgy and Bess.” For the next thirty years, Jessye was associated with virtually every production of “Porgy and Bess” worldwide. She was also involved in the civil rights movement. In August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. selected the Eva Jessye Choir as the official chorus of the historic March on Washington. The choir performed "We Shall Overcome" and "Freedom Is the Thing We're Talking About.”
This small collection of materials donated by Eva Alberta Jessye consists of a few photographs, certificates, and a plaque. The photographs are portraits of legendary African American opera singers, jazz musicians, actresses, and composers. Also there are photographs of Eva Jessye with others including her choir at the University of Michigan and her visit in 1962 at the first anniversary celebration of the independence of Nigeria. During her career, Eva Jessye received numerous honors and recognition for her contributions as a composer, conductor, and humanist. The collection includes four honors including one given by Clark College in 1978 and the Atlanta University Center in 1981.
Additional documentation about Eva Jessye is available at Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, Kansas