1947 Dorothy Maynor Concert Brings First Integrated Audience to UNC

Dorothy Maynor following a concert at Bennett College in Greensboro, January 1947. From the Bennett College scrapbooks via the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

When African American soprano Dorothy Maynor performed at UNC on January 19, 1947, she sang in front of what was probably the first integrated audience in Memorial Hall. An editorial in the Daily Tar Heel published a couple days later declared, “For the first time, to our knowledge, a Negro and white audience attended a concert in Memorial Hall without any segregation in the seating arrangement.”

Maynor was a popular soprano who toured the country, performing songs from famous operas. While her solo concerts were hailed by critics and audiences, she was never offered the opportunity to perform in a major opera. The Metropolitan Opera in New York would not cast its first African American soloist until 1955.

The integrated audience at Maynor’s UNC concert did not occur by accident. Maynor stipuated that she would not perform in front of a segregated audience. The proposed concert was debated by campus administration. The decision ultimately went to university system president Frank Porter Graham, who insisted that the performance go ahead without any restrictions on seating.

The Daily Tar Heel editorial praised the UNC community for its “liberal, progressive attitude” following the concert. The editorial made no mention of the fact that African Americans were still prohibited from attending the university. UNC would not admit its first black student until 1951.

Daily Tar Heel, January 21, 1947, via Newspapers.com