New York Times: Groundbreaking African American Diva 'Overlooked No More'

Sep 4, 2018

In August of 2013, Walter Edgar's Journal featured a conversation with Maureen D. Lee, about her biography Sissieretta Jones, "The Greatest Singer of Her Race," 1868-1933 (USC Press, 2012), which told the forgotten story of the pioneering African American diva whose remarkable career paved the way for many who followed her. Recently, the New York Times, in their series,"Overlooked," published a detailed obituary of Jones. The series is an effort by the Times to correct what they have declared to be historical biases in their obituaries, against non-white people as well as women.

This caught our attention, and we thought we'd again share our conversation with Maureen Lee.


(Originally broadcast 08/16/13) - Sissieretta Jones, "The Greatest Singer of Her Race," 1868-1933 (USC Press, 2012), recounts the life of  Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, a classically trained soprano who was also called the "Black Patti," a nickname that likened her to the famous white, European opera star Adelina Patti. Jones sang before four U.S. presidents and for several prominent European leaders. She performed in famous venues such as Carnegie Hall, London's Covent Garden, and Madison Square Garden, as well as in hundreds of theaters and opera houses throughout the United States and Canada. Yet, this remarkable singer's accomplishments have been largely overlooked. 

South Carolina author Maureen Lee explores the obstacles and limitations Jones faced because of her race, as well as the opportunities she seized, and chronicles the development of black entertainment during the late nineteenth, and early twentieth, centuries.

Maureen Jones' web site: