Why a Headstone for Blues Singer Mamie Smith?

World famous blues singer Mamie Smith is in an unmarked grave in Staten Island since 1946. I want to buy and install a headstone for her grave.

I am a professional music critic and writer about blues music for Blues Revue, Sing Out! and other publications.  I am also researching a book about blues singer Mamie Smith (1884-1946)  and her composer, Perry Bradford.  In my research,  I learned that Mamie is lying in an unmarked grave in an African American cemetery on Staten Island since 1946.  Mamie was, at one point, the most famous African American blues singer in America. She is lying in empty ground and I am determined to change that.

The last time a similar project moved me was when fans raised funds for a headstone for “Empress of the Blues,” BESSIE SMITH in Philadelphia in the earrly 1970s.  I believe erecting a monument to MAMIE SMITH, who was responsible for getting ecord companies to record black blues and jazz artists, will set history right. She deserves to be recognized.  The last 10 years of her life were lived in poverty and ill health in Harlem.

Your contribution will allow me to commission a stone cutter to create a bas relief carved headstone featuring a likeness of Mamie Smith on a 4-foot-high monument that will be erected in Frederick Douglass Cemetery on Staten Island.  There will be a dedication ceremony that I am planning to hold on the anniversary of her death — September 16, 2013.  This is 67 years after her burial in 1946.

Erecting a headstone will recognize MAMIE SMITH as a catalyst for recording the great American blues and jazz artists starting in 1921 – without her incredible recording success, it may have taken 10 years or more for the record labels like OKEH, COLUMBIA, VICTOR, PARAMOUNT to press records featuring gigantic African American blues and jazz talent.

What We Need & What You Get

The cost of the monument — hand carved by a stone mason — is approximately $5000.00.  This will include a donation to the Frederick Douglass Cemetery for perpetual care of the gravesite.  I would also like to raise an additional $2000-4000. asw a donation to modernize the Frederick Douglass Cemetery’s records using computers and database software.  Right now, the Cemetery uses index cards to record and review those buried on its grounds.

If the goal is not reached, the money will be placed in escrow as additional funds are raised through charity concert, house concerts, direct mail pitches.

The Impact

History will be corrected by acknowledging the contributions to blues history and African American culture of MAMIE SMITH.

Please help me get the word out so that we can have the headstone in place by September 16, 2013.  And please use INDIEGOGO SHARE TOOLS.


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