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SHOUT! Black Gospel Music Moments - Dorothy Maynor

The glorious voice of Dorothy Maynor deserves to be better known today.

Dorothy Maynor should be better known – and celebrated – today. Born in 1910, her obvious vocal talents led her to Hampton Institute, where she studied with the legendary composer R. Nathaniel Dett. Despite what was clearly a generational voice, racism kept Maynor out of American opera houses and concert halls until she was heard by the conductor of the Boston Symphony.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, she became a mainstay in major operas, both in the United States and abroad – and was even the first African American to sing in an inaugural ball when President Harry S. Truman invited her in 1949.

In addition to many recordings of opera arias and other classical music, she did take time to record an LP of spirituals, including this soaring rendition of the haunting “Were You There.”

MUSIC: Dorothy Maynor Sings Spirituals and Sacred Songs LP, “Were You There,” Side 1, Track 2 (January 28, 2024)

2404 Dorothy Maynor - Were You There 44100 1.mp3

I’m Robert Darden … “Shout! Black Gospel Music Moments” is produced by KWBU and the Black Gospel Music Preservation Program at Baylor University Libraries.

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Robert F. Darden is the author of two dozen books, most recently: Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume II: Black Sacred Music from Sit-In to Resurrection City (Penn State University Press, 2016); Nothing But Love in God’s Water, Volume I: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement(Penn State University Press, 2014); Jesus Laughed: The Redemptive Power of Humor(Abingdon Press, 2008), Reluctant Prophets and Clueless Disciples: Understanding the Bible by Telling Its Stories(Abingdon Press, 2006); and People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music(Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2004).