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.
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.