Mary Cardwell Dawson to be Inducted Into The North Carolina Music Hall Of Fame

By Afton Wooten
(Photo credit: Library of Congress)

The North Carolina Music Hall Of Fame has announced its 2024 inductees.

Among the recipients is North Carolina native Mary Cardwell Dawson. Dawson founded the National Negro Opera Company in 1941, which while it was short lived due to Dawson’s death in 1962, the company produced over 110 opera and broke barriers for singers of color. The National Negro Opera Company performed at the Civic Opera House in Chicago, Griffith Stadium in Washington, Madison Square Garden, and became the first Black opera company to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. 

Dawson studied voice and piano at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she was the only Black person in the 1925 graduating class. She furthered her studies in Chicago and New York City and opened a music studio in Pennsylvania, where she mentored several notable jazz musicians. She also led the National Association of Negro Musicians. Her efforts gained recognition from first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and in 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Dawson to his national music commission. In 2023, following Washington National Opera’s production of “The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson,” she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her work promoting Black performers and fighting against the challenges systemic racism.

The North Carolina Music Hall Of Fame’s 2024 Induction Ceremony will take place on Oct. 17.