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Guide to the Memry Midgett Papers
MS 163  
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Collection Overview
 
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Description
The Memry Midgett papers consists of photographs, correspondence, musical programs, and artifacts documenting the musical career and family history of Memry Midgett.
Background
Jazz pianist and social worker Memry Florence Midgett (1920-2013) was born on December 10, 1920 in Chicago, Illinois the only child of Julia Ross and Thomas Jefferson Midgett, a bar tender and iron worker. Her parents both emigrated to Chicago, Illinois from the American South, her mother from Tuscumbia, Alabama and her father from Hickman, Tennessee. After graduating from Englewood High School in Chicago in 1939, she was awarded a music scholarship at the American Conservatory of Music where she studied piano. She worked as the assistant director of music at St. Elizabeth’s High School before going on to perform as a concert and jazz pianist and vocalist for many years. She started her career as a professional musician in the 1950s performing as an opening act for legendary bands such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Count Basie at Downbeat and Black Hawk night clubs in San Francisco, California. In 1954 she was discovered by Billie Holiday who asked her to play piano with her on tour. She performed with Billie Holiday under contract for 18 months, performing with her throughout 1954-1955 including a performance with Holliday at Carnegie Hall in September 1954.
Extent
2.75 linear feet (10 boxes + 1 oversized box)
Restrictions
Permission to publish from the Memry Midgett Papers must be obtained from the African American Museum & Library at Oakland.
Availability
No access restrictions. Collection is open to the public.