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*Lillian Evanti was born on this date in 1890. she was a Black lyric soprano.
Lillian Evans was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Armstrong Manual Training School. Her father, W. Bruce Evans, was its first principal. Her paternal grandfather, Henry Evans, was born in North Carolina. As a free Black man, he moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where he helped with the Underground Railroad. Evanti's maternal grandfather John H. Brooks was elected to the House of Delegates in 1874 and defeated Frederick Douglas Jr.
Although gifted in music, in 1908, Lillian entered Miner Teachers College (now the University of the District of Columbia) to educate Black elementary school teachers. While there, she met Georgia Douglas Johnson, a poet and literary figure she would later consult in writing songs.
She studied and graduated from Howard Universities School of Music in 1917. The name Evanti was a combination of her maiden name and that of her husband and Howard professor, Roy Tibbs. Her most notable performances were in Italy and France, including the Casino Theater in Nice (1925) and the Trianon Lyrique in Paris (1927). Evanti made her American debut at Town Hall (Washington D. C.) in 1932 and gave recitals throughout America, Europe, and the Caribbean.
She was the first Black to sing opera with an organized European company. She was honored at the Franklin Roosevelt White House in 1934 and won critical acclaim for her role as Violetta in the National Negro Opera Company’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata in 1943. Lillian Evans Evanti died on December 6th, 1967, in Washington, D. C.
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York