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Carol Brice papers

Overview

Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Correspondence

Programs and Professional Materials

News Clippings and Collected Publications

Personal, Financial, and Collected Materials

Photographs, Scrapbooks, Oversized, and Audiovisual Materials



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Carol Brice papers, 1905-1986 | Amistad Research Center

By Diane Galatowitsch

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Collection Overview

Title: Carol Brice papers, 1905-1986Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

Primary Creator: Brice, Carol (1916-1985)

Extent: 11.8 Linear Feet

Arrangement: The Carol Brice papers are arranged into five series of correspondence (1927-1985); programs and professional materials (1932-1985); news clippings and collected publications (1931-1985); personal, financial, and collected materials (1916-1986); and photographs, scrapbooks, oversize, and audiovisual materials (1905-1981).

Date Acquired: 12/01/1972. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: African American singers, African American singers - opera, African American women

Forms of Material: Sound recordings

Languages: English, German

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Carol Brice papers document the career and personal life of Carol Lovette Brice, an acclaimed African American concert singer, recording artist, and professor in the United States and abroad. The papers encompass 11.8 linear feetof correspondence (2.3 linear feet), programs and professional materials (2.3 linear feet), news clippings and publications (1.0 linear foot), personal and financial materials, miscellaneous collected items (0.8 linear feet), as well as photographs, scrapbooks, oversize materials and audiovisual items (5.4 linear feet). The papers span over eighty years and highlight her family life and career as an opera contralto and music teacher in New York and Oklahoma. The papers are a valuable resource for the topic of African American women opera singers.

A particular strength of the papers is the collection of correspondence and materials related to Brice's professional career as a singer. Additionally, complementing the professional materials, the papers are also rich with family correspondence and photographs that demonstrate her strong relationships with family members.  However, apart from her career and family, the papers include less about her personal life, such as her battle with cancer.

Biographical Note

Carol Brice (1918-1985), an African American contralto, was a concert singer, recording artist, and professor who broke many racial barriers for African American musicians.  Carol Brice was the first African American to win the Walter H. Naumberg Foundation prize, to sing with the Yale Glee Club, to sing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, as well as one of the first African Americans hired by the Metropolitan Opera Company.  Additionally, Brice received many honors and awards for her singing, including the honor to sing at the inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 and a Grammy Award for her solo work in Porgy and Bess in 1978.

Carol Brice, the youngest of four children, was born on January 16, 1918, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Reverend Dr. John Brice and Ella Hawkins Brice.  Her father, John Brice, was a 1904 graduate of Knoxville College, a chaplain during World War I, a Congregationalist minister, as well as the vice president and religious director at Palmer Memorial Institute for thirty years in Sedalia, North Carolina.  Her mother, Ella Hawkins Brice, also a graduate of Knoxville College, was an educator and musician who taught history and pursued a career as a singer. Ella Hawkins Brice spent so much time on the road that John Brice took Carol and her siblings to Sedalia, North Carolina, when she was only eighteen months old and gave custody of the children to Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown.  Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a cousin of Ella Brice and the founder and president of the Palmer Memorial Institute.  The institute was the only finishing school for African Americans in the United States.

Carol Brice thrived in Sedalia and began her music debut as a student at the Palmer Institute. By the age of three, Carol Brice’s singing voice was exceptional, and as an early student at Palmer she toured the country with the Sedalia Singers.  In 1930, at the age of thirteen, Brice won an award for the best contralto voice at a North Carolina music festival. The following year she appeared with the Sedalia Singers at Town Hall in New York City and later performed in such places as Symphony Hall in Boston and the White House.  The group served as the major fund-raising arm of Palmer Memorial Institute and it performed traditional African American spirituals.

Brice continued her education at the Palmer Institute, which led to further educational opportunities in Alabama and New York throughout the 1930s.  Brice graduated from the high school department of the institute in 1933 and completed Palmer Memorial Institute Junior College in 1935.  At Palmer, she became acquainted with numerous luminaries who visited the school, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary McLeod Bethune, Marian Anderson, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  Additionally, with the aid of a Palmer Memorial Institute supporter and benefactress, Carrie L. Stone, Brice journeyed to Talladega College in Alabama, where she majored in music, studied under the noted voice teacher Frank G. Harrison, gave numerous concerts, joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and received a bachelor of music degree. Upon graduation from Talladega, she moved to New York City, where her mother (who was then divorced) and her brother Jonathan were residing. In New York, she attended the Juilliard School of Music from 1939 to 1943 as a fellowship recipient and came under the tutelage of Francis Rogers.

In the summer of 1939, Brice received wide acclaim when she performed with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in the musical The Hot Mikado at the New York World's Fair. There, she met her husband, Cornelius Wiley "Neil" Scott, a baritone in the chorus; they had two children before his death in 1967.

During the 1940s, as a versatile contralto Brice was able to attain recognition that was less available to other African American musicians at that time.  Often compared to Marian Anderson and other giants of her day, and as an African American singer, Carol Brice succeeded in many firsts.  For example, she was the first African American singer to earn the prestigious Naumberg Foundation Award for young performers in 1943, a prize that included a recital at Town Hall in New York City on March 13, 1945.  Additionally, she had the pleasure in January 1941 to sing at the third inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which was one of the first times that an African American performed at an inauguration.

From here, her career blossomed as she began to receive wide acclaim and perform with orchestras and symphonies across the country.  Brice performed with the Pittsburg Orchestra in 1945, with the Boston Symphony in 1946, and with the San Francisco Symphony in 1948.  Serge Koussevitsky, the director of the Boston Symphony, had heard her on a CBS broadcast with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and invited her to sing with him.  Carol Brice was one of the first African Americans to sing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and she sang under Koussevitsky's direction on at least ten occasions in Boston, New York, and at the prestigious Tanglewood festival in Massachusetts.

Into the 1950s, Brice continued singing in America and expanded her success abroad.  During the summer of 1950, she toured in South and Central America, singing in Puerto Rico, Curacao, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, and Panama.  In 1951, Carol Brice and several other singers were the first African Americans hired by the Metropolitan Opera Company.  In 1954, Carol Brice and four other musicians were invited to be guests of the Federal Republic of Germany for a four-week visit.  During the visit, she sang with the Berlin Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.  Furthermore, on May 11, 1956, Carol Brice, Leontyne Price, William Warfield, and Luther Saxon became the first African American soloists to perform at the Cincinnati May Festival.

In addition to her personal success, Brice often performed with her brothers Eugene and Jonathan Brice.  Eugene was also a graduate of Juilliard and performed in numerous Broadway productions.  Jonathan, apart from being the accompanist for Brice, sang with the Robert Shaw Chorale and the New York City Opera.  From 1944 until 1977, Brice sang in recitals across the United States, most often accompanied on the piano by her brother, Jonathan.  In 1958, Brice formed a trio with both Jonathan and Eugene.  Together, they called themselves the Brice Trio and performed at Town Hall in 1958.

Beyond concert singing, Brice performed in several Broadway performances, and made much-praised recordings. Brice's Broadway career included the roles of Addie in Regina (1959), Maude in Finian's Rainbow (1960), Queenie in Showboat (1961), Harriet Tubman in Gentlemen, Be Seated (1963), and Maria in Porgy and Bess (1961, 1976). She was also a member of the Vienna Volksoper from 1967 until 1971. Brice made a number of outstanding and much-praised recordings, as she was among the first African American classical artists to record extensively in the United States. Her most noted recordings include Gustav Mahler's "Songs of a Wayfarer," with Fritz Reiner and the Pittsburg Orchestra; Falla's El Amor Brujo; The Grass Harp by Claibe Richardson; and her Grammy winning recording of Porgy and Bess in 1978.

Brice received numerous awards for her pioneering spirit and commitment to singing. In 1948, she was honored as an outstanding "Negro woman musician" by the National Council of Negro Women, and in 1954, she was chosen as one of Long Island, New York's, "Women of the Year." In 1955, her alma mater, Talladega College, awarded her with an honorary doctor of humane letters; in 1963, she was presented the Emancipation Proclamation Award by the National Association of Negro Musicians; and in 1965, she and her two brothers were honored at the Fifth Annual Founder's Day Program of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Eastern Region.

In 1968, Brice met baritone Thomas Carey during a tour for the U.S. State Department in France. They were married the following year and together performed in Porgy and Bess throughout the world.

In 1973, Brice joined the University of Oklahoma faculty as an associate professor of music.  In 1974, she and her husband, Thomas Carey, founded the Cimarron Circuit Opera Company, which prospered under their leadership. In 1977, both Brice and Carey were named Oklahoma Musicians of the Year.

Carol Brice died of cancer on February 15, 1985, at the age of 66.

Subject/Index Terms

African American singers
African American singers - opera
African American women

Administrative Information

Repository: Amistad Research Center

Accruals: Additions to the Carol Brice papers were received in 1978, 1979, and 1991.

Access Restrictions: The Carol Brice papers are open and available for use.

Use Restrictions: Copyright to these papers has not been assigned to the Amistad Research Center. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for publication from the holder of the copyright to any material contained in this collection.

Acquisition Source: Carol Brice

Acquisition Method: Gift

Appraisal Information: The Carol Brice papers document her musical career as a concert singer, recording artist, and professor in the United States and abroad.

Related Materials: The Amistad Research Center holds several other collections that relate to operatic singers, including the Annabelle Bernard papers, the Camilla Williams papers, the Anne Wiggins Brown papers, the Thomas Carey papers, the Ellis Cooper papers, the John Wesley Dobbs family papers, and the William Warfield papers.

Preferred Citation: Carol Brice papers, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Processing Information: The processing of this collection was completed in December, 2011.


Box and Folder Listing


Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence, 1927-1985, undated],
[Series 2: Programs and Professional Materials, 1932-1985, undated],
[Series 3: News Clippings and Collected Publications, 1931-1985, undated],
[Series 4: Personal, Financial, and Collected Materials, 1916-1986, undated],
[Series 5: Photographs, Scrapbooks, Oversized, and Audiovisual Materials, 1905-1981, undated],
[All]

Series 1: Correspondence, 1927-1985, undatedAdd to your cart.
Correspondence encompasses 2.3 linear feet, which document Brice's operatic career and personal life. The letters include incoming correspondence from admirers, churches, universities, educators, foundations, musicians, contractors, businesses, friends, and family members.  The papers only include about 0.2 linear feet of outgoing correspondence from Brice, the majority written to family members. This series is organized chronologically by general (0.9 linear feet), family (1.0 linear foot), and subject correspondence (0.4 linear feet), with correspondence from 1927 to 1985.  The series also includes incoming greeting cards and invitations.
Sub-Series 1: Correspondence: General, 1938-1984, undatedAdd to your cart.

The majority of the general correspondence documents Brice's communications regarding recitals, voice auditions, awards, travel, school, teaching positions, and performances. Of particular note, are several letters from the Walter W. Naumberg Musical Foundation that provide critiques of Brice from voice auditions for their prestigious award, which Brice eventually won in 1944.  Additionally, there is correspondence regarding her travels to Europe (1954), several letters from Carl Van Vechten, as well as correspondence related to the Grammy Award she received for her solo work in the opera Porgy and Bess in 1978.  One of Brice's principal correspondents was Frank Harrison, her professor of music and voice at Talladega College.

Furthermore, much of the general correspondence demonstrates Brice's importance as an African American musician.  Throughout her career, Brice received many letters from students and teachers from across the country requesting photographs and information for projects related to successful African American musicians.  While many praised her, others encouraged her to use her success to promote racial equality.  For instance, on January 18, 1941, Dofey Wilkenson of the Emergency Conference on Inaugural Jim Crowism wrote to Brice and motivated her to question her participation in the inaugural events for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Moreover, there were many letters discussing other African American artists (primarily singers).  These artists include Marian Anderson, Dorothy Ellison, Theresa Green, Roland Hayes, Marvin Hayes, Charles Holland, Fanni Jones, Lenora Lafayette, Everett Lee (conductor and violinist) and his wife - Sylvia Olden Lee (pianist), Doris Mayes, Kermit Moore (cellist), Leontyne Price, Gladys Smith, John William, Lucretia West, Camilla Williams, and Lawrence Winters.  Of particular note, there are several letters (1939-1941) from Harry T. Burleigh (1866-1949), composer and singer, who was a soloist at St. George's Protestant Episcopal Church in New York and a mentor to Brice.

Box 1Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Correspondence: General, 1938-1941Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Correspondence: General, 1942-1943Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Correspondence: General, 1944Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Correspondence: General, 1945Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Correspondence: General, 1946-1947Add to your cart.
Folder 6: Correspondence: General, 1948-1949Add to your cart.
Folder 7: Correspondence: General, 1950-1951Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Correspondence: General, 1952-1953Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Correspondence: General, 1954Add to your cart.
Folder 10: Correspondence: General, 1955-1956Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Correspondence: General, 1957-1958Add to your cart.
Folder 12: Correspondence: General, 1959Add to your cart.
Folder 13: Correspondence: General, 1960-1961Add to your cart.
Folder 14: Correspondence: General, 1962-1965Add to your cart.
Folder 15: Correspondence: General, 1966-1969Add to your cart.
Box 2Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Correspondence: General, 1970-1972Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Correspondence: General, 1973-1974Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Correspondence: General, 1975Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Correspondence: General, 1976Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Correspondence: General, 1977Add to your cart.
Folder 6: Correspondence: General, 1978-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 7: Correspondence: General, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 8: Post Cards: General, 1940-1979Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Post Cards: General, 1980-1984, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 10: Post Cards: General, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 11: Greeting Cards: General, 1939-1968Add to your cart.
Folder 12: Greeting Cards: General, 1970-1984Add to your cart.
Folder 13: Greeting Cards: General, undatedAdd to your cart.
Box 3Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Greeting Cards: General, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 2: Greeting Cards: General, undatedAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 2: Correspondence: Family, 1927-1984, undatedAdd to your cart.
The family correspondence includes outgoing correspondence from Carol Brice to family members, as well as incoming correspondence organized by family member.  Overall, there are over 400 letters from Carol Brice and family members between 1927 and 1984. Of particular note, are letters from and about Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown (1883-1961), who raised and educated Brice until she went to college.  Additionally, there is correspondence between Brice and her parents. While there are only six letters from her mother, Ella Hawkins Brice (1886-1947), there are over 70 letters from her father, John Brice (1935-1960).  Furthermore, while there is little correspondence between Brice and her brothers, her sister, Harriet Lolita, was a faithful correspondent and there are more than 50 letters from her between 1931 and 1974.  Additional family members include her husbands (Cornelius W. Scott, Sr. and Thomas D. Carey), her daughter (Lisa E. Greer), her son (Cornelius W. Scott, Jr.), and other family members.
Box 3Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Correspondence: Family, Carol Brice, 1927-1957Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Correspondence: Family, Carol Brice, 1958-1963Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Correspondence: Family, Carol Brice, 1964-1984, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: Greeting Cards: Family, Carol Brice, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 7: Correspondence: Family, Ella Brice (Mother), 1942-1947Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Correspondence: Family, John Brice (Father), 1935-1953Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Correspondence: Family, John Brice (Father), 1954-1959Add to your cart.
Folder 10: Correspondence: Family, Charlotte Hawkins Brown (Mother's Cousin), 1941-1956Add to your cart.
Box 4Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Correspondence: Family, Charlotte Hawkins Brown (Mother's Cousin), 1958-1970Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Correspondence: Family, Jonathan Brice (Brother), 1958-1962Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Correspondence: Family, Harriet Lolita Bluford/"Geet" (Sister), 1931-1959Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Correspondence: Family, Harriet Lolita Bluford/"Geet" (Sister), 1960-1968, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 5: Correspondence: Family, Harriet Lolita Bluford/"Geet" (Sister), 1970-1976, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: Greeting Cards: Family, Harriet Lolita Bluford/"Geet" (Sister), undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 7: Correspondence: Family, Eugene Brice/"Genie" (Brother), 1944-1977Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Greeting Cards: Family, Eugene Brice/"Genie" (Brother), undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 9: Correspondence: Family, Cornelius W. Scott, Sr. (Husband), 1939-1967, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 10: Greeting Cards: Family, Cornelius W. Scott, Sr. (Husband), undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 11: Greeting Cards: Family, Thomas D. Carey (Husband), circa 1970s, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 12: Correspondence: Family, Lisa E. Greer (Daughter), 1956-1967Add to your cart.
Folder 13: Correspondence: Family, Lisa E. Greer (Daughter), 1963-1969, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 14: Correspondence: Family, Lisa E. Greer (Daughter), 1970-1978, undatedAdd to your cart.
Box 5Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Greeting Cards: Family, Lisa E. Greer (Daughter), undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 2: Correspondence: Family, Cornelius W. Scott, Jr./"Butch" (Son), 1945-1975Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Correspondence: Family, Cornelius W. Scott, Jr./"Butch" (Son), 1976-1980, undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 4: Greeting Cards: Family, Cornelius W. Scott, Jr./"Butch" (Son), undatedAdd to your cart.
Folder 5: Correspondence: Family, Miscellaneous Relatives, 1944-1961, undatedAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 3: Correspondence: Subject, 1954-1985, undatedAdd to your cart.
The subject correspondence includes collected letters from Brice's friend, Vera Little, as well as collected correspondence related to Brice's teaching career in New York, incoming correspondence from students at the University of Oklahoma, greeting cards from a time when Brice was sick, and  collected invitations.  In the letters from Vera Little from Europe, 1954-60, 1972, there is much discussion of news about Black performers abroad.  Carol Brice studied voice at Talladega College with Vera Little and maintained correspondence with her after she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1954 and went to Paris to study.  Little gave concerts in Europe and, in 1958, performed the title role in Carmen in Berlin, eventually becoming a member of both the Berlin and Vienna Opera Companies.  Correspondence items  related to teaching in New York include correspondence regarding licensing for teaching music to junior high students from the Board of Examiners in Brooklyn, positive feedback on performances by the Queens Glee Club at P.S. 45, as well as letters from the school principal with praise for her work and commitment to students.  Additionally, there are collected letters related to Brice's time teaching at the University of Oklahoma. There are letters from her students, as well as formal correspondence with the University of Oklahoma regarding her employment.  Additionally, there are collected hand drawn greeting cards from students in New York from when Carol Brice became sick. The series also includes collected invitations from events including weddings, recitals, and other performances and functions.
Box 5Add to your cart.
Folder 6: Correspondence: Subject, Vera Little, 1954-1960, 1972Add to your cart.
Folder 7: Correspondence: Subject, Teaching Career, New York City, 1960-1970Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Correspondence: Subject, Students, 1974-1979Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Correspondence: Subject, Students, 1980-1983Add to your cart.
Folder 10: Correspondence: Subject, Students, undatedAdd to your cart.
Box 6Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Correspondence: Subject, University of Oklahoma, 1975, 1985Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Greeting Cards: Subject, Illness, 1968Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Greeting Cards: Subject, Illness, 1968Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Invitations, 1939-1985Add to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence, 1927-1985, undated],
[Series 2: Programs and Professional Materials, 1932-1985, undated],
[Series 3: News Clippings and Collected Publications, 1931-1985, undated],
[Series 4: Personal, Financial, and Collected Materials, 1916-1986, undated],
[Series 5: Photographs, Scrapbooks, Oversized, and Audiovisual Materials, 1905-1981, undated],
[All]


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