No blacks allowed

 

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May 9, 1957
Austin, Texas

Texas State Rep. Joe Chapman is no opera lover, especially when the
cast includes an African American in the lead. He wants soprano Barbara
Louise Smith out of the university production of Henry Purcell’s "Dido
and Aeneas" immediately and has threatened to cut campus funds if
officials don’t comply.

According to Smith, Dean E.W. Doty said University President Logan Wilson decided to
ask her to step down "to ensure my well-being… and… there was a
possibility my appearance would precipitate a cut in the university’s
appropriation by the Legislature."

Although stunned by the action, Smith said: "I began to realize that
the ultimate success of integration at the university was more
important than my appearance at the opera."

Campus officials generously said they would allow Smith to attend the performance even if she couldn’t be in it.

The university’s action provoked immediate protests from the Student
Council, the Young Democrats and the Young Republicans. And showing
that hate doesn’t discriminate, Chapman, Smith and State Rep. Jerry
Sadler were all hung in effigy in the state Capitol, the Mirror said.

More important, eight Texas legislators signed a letter of apology and
Henry Belafonte called Smith to express support, not only from
himself but from Sidney Poitier and Mahalia Jackson.

Smith ultimately adopted the stage name of Barbara Conrad and her singing career included appearances at the Metropolitan Opera.

Read an interview of her here.

And read about the incident here.

This is the city of Austin’s website on the incident.

As for Texas Rep. Joe Chapman of Sulphur Springs, Texas?  He apparently vanished into the mists of history.

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About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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