New Collection: Martha Flowers Papers

We are excited to announce the Martha Flowers papers are now open for research. This collection contains programs, clippings, and photographs documenting the career and personal life of the legendary actress, singer, and UNC professor. Many of these items highlight Flowers’s performances in “Porgy and Bess” in the 1950s and 1960s.

Flowers, a Winston-Salem native, graduated from Fisk University before continuing her music studies at The Julliard School in New York City where she began her career as an opera singer.

Black and white profile image of Martha Flowers
Wellington Jones Concert series program

The renowned soprano toured internationally in the touring company as Bess in  “Porgy and Bess,” during the 1950s and 1960s, performing in 29 countries on four continents, and received numerous awards. Included in the collections are photographs of the cast in costume, programs from  international shows, and programs from the Flowers’ solo shows.

In 1973, Flowers joined the faculty in the Department of Music at UNC-Chapel Hill, becoming the first Black faculty member in the department. Flowers’s arrival was covered by Sadie Copland for Black Ink, the newspaper of the Black Student Movement. Copland wrote that Flowers “wanted to teach where she was most needed. Since there were no Black music instructors here, but there were Black students in the program, she decided UNC was where she could best fulfill this need.” During her tenure at UNC, she taught courses in voice, diction, and Afro-American music, and performed in faculty recitals in the Hill Hall Auditorium (now Moeser Auditorium).

Martha Flowers at piano with group of UNC Students.
Martha Flowers and UNC class, ca. 1970s.

Learn More:

Marc Callahan, David Garcia, and LaToya Lain, “DWW: Martha Flowers: Black Music Faculty Trailblazer.” UNC Department of Music, 11 November 2020.

UNC-CH honors Black music faculty trailblazer, Martha Flowers. The Durham Voice.

Remembering Martha Flowers (1926-2022). UNC Department of Music, June 3, 2022.