A Woman to Know: Nora Holt
|Julia Carpenter||Sep 28, 2016|
Those who knew her apparently liked her, and the rest would be won over by her money, her beauty, her wit, and her charm. — portraitist Carl Van Vechten
(image via Library of Congress)
The 1930s gossip columns loooved Nora. She shut down parties; headlined concerts; dyed her hair blonde; acted as muse for Harlem Renaissance artists; frequented speakeasies; married and then divorced and then married again.
But beyond her society scandals, she was a formidable force in the music world. In 1918 she became the first African-American woman to earn a Master's degree, from Chicago Music College, and throughout her partying life she continued to write eviscerating, insightful music commentary. She self-published her own music journal for African American writers and founded the National Association of Negro Musicians. Even as she dabbled in other ventures — some modeling, some singing and opening a Los Angeles beauty salon — she contributed to for African American newspapers like the Chicago Defender and the Amsterdam News.
Her presence at a concert inspired fear in any performer. As her friend and collaborator Carl Van Vechten remembered: "Her trail is strewn with bones."
Add to your library list:
The Black New Yorkers (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture)
The Music of Black Americans (Eileen Reed)
Nora Holt (Archives of American Art)
Nora Holt Dead; Music Critic at 89 (The New York Times)
Nora Holt, a Musical Pioneer (African American Registry)
Extravagant Crowd: Nora Holt (Yale Library)
Nora Douglas Holt (Kansas Historical Society)
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