The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first all-female interracial band in America, faced down both Jim Crow and sexism in the 1930s and 1940s. Then, they faded into obscurity.
This week the Smithsonian Institution celebrates the Sweethearts’ legacy as part of the launch of the museum’s Jazz Appreciation Month.
The Sweeethearts’ exhibit will be on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC from March 25 to May 31. Members of the Sweethearts, which included Black, white, Latino and Asian women, will participate in several events on March 29 and 30 at the museum. Radio One founder Cathy Hughes, whose mother Helen Jones Woods was an original band member, will also be a participant [NewsOne is a division of Radio One]:
Hughes, the Piney Woods School and Roz Cron (she had the largest collection) will participate in a “Donation Ceremony” to highlight their collection. And then Ms. Hughes will facilitate an brief (10 minute) onstage discussion with six of the original Sweethearts who will participate in programming at the Smithsonian: They are Helen Jones Woods (trombonist), Ms. Hughes’ mother; Willie Mae Wong Scott (saxophonist), the child of a Chinese father and mixed race Native American mother, she grew up on Mississippi in 1920s; Sadye Pankey Moore (trumpeter), African American; Johnnie Mae Rice Graham (pianist), African American; Lillie Keeler Sims (trombone), African American woman who played with the Sweethearts their first year but later served as an educator and administrator in the NYC school system 40 years; and Roz Cron, one of the first white woman to join the band. On March 30th, the Sweethearts and Cathy Hughes will participate in a 60 minute discussion on the Sweetheart’s legacy that will be webcast via UStream.
NewsOne will provide continuing coverage and a deeper look into the Sweethearts’ history in the coming week.