Mezzo-soprano opera singer whose career has spanned fifty years and includes singing in Don Carlo and Ernani. She was the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor in 2009.
She won a contest that granted her a scholarship to Boston University. She was Venus at Bayreuth, casted by Wieland Wagner.
She helped pave the way for African-American opera singers.
She was born into a family of modest means; her father worked as a railroad porter and her mother was a housewife.
She and Aretha Franklin both are considered leaders in their musical genres, setting a precedent for African-American women in the industry.