Mary Cardwell Dawson

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Mary Cardwell Dawson's House at 7101 Apple Street in the Homewood West neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was the original home of the National Negro Opera Company.

Mary Cardwell Dawson (February 14, 1894 – March 19, 1962) was an African-American musician and teacher and the founding director of the National Negro Opera Company.


In 1927, Dawson opened the Cardwell Dawson School of Music in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which remained open until 1941. [1]

After presenting the opera Aida at the NANM convention of 1941, Dawson launched her National Negro Opera Company later that same year with a performance at Pittsburgh's Syria Mosque. The star was La Julia Rhea, and other members included Minto Cato, Carol Brice, Robert McFerrin, and Lillian Evanti. NNOC mounted productions in Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Pianist Ahmad Jamal began formal training at the age of seven with Ms. Dawson, whom he says greatly influenced him.


  • Altman, Susan (1997). Encyclopedia African-American Heritage. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-3289-0. 

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