Black Women in Sisterhood for Action, Metropolitan Washington Area
Dawson, Mary Cardwell, 1894-1962
Evans, William Bruce
Evanti, Lillian, 1890-1967
Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
National Negro Opera Company (U.S.)
Tibbs, Roy Wilfred
Tibbs, Thurlow E., Jr.
Turner, Lorenzo Dow
Evans-Tibbs Collection consists of objects from the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Many of the seventy-three objects, mostly acquired throughout the 20th century, belonged to Tibbs’ grandmother, Lillian Evanti, the opera singer.
One of the earliest items is a red crystal shot glass with “Annie 1906” etched on the front; the latest item is Evanti’s award from D.C. Women’s Hall of Fame presented posthumously in 1990. Other awards include Evanti’s Alumni award from Howard University presented in 1944 and the Distinguished Black Women Award presented by Black Women in Sisterhood for Action (BISA) also awarded posthumously in 1987.
Much of the collection consists of dress accessories, including jewelry, ornamental combs, and handheld paper fans. At least one of the pins includes a photo of William Bruce Evans, Evanti’s father. Opera glasses, a woman’s cream suit, and a knitted infant matching set of shawl, socks, and bonnet can be found.
Other items included in the collection: decorative leather matchbox covers and photograph albums; two chalk drawings of a woman and man; wall plaque of side profile of Tasso, Ariosto, Petrarca, and Dante; printing plate of Evanti holding a wild cat; two wallets which belonged to Lorenzo D. Turner; Johnson/Humphrey campaign buttons; and a custom made piano for Evanti. The piano, made by the Fisher Piano Company, incorporated a large carving of a lyre, Evanti’s logo, into the design.
A related archival collection - Evans-Tibbs Collection - which consists of photographic material, correspondence, and sheet music is available in the Archives at the Anacostia Community Museum. Contact the Archivist for more information.
Madame Lillian Evanti, born Annie Lillian Evans, was a prominent opera singer, a lyric soprano, based in Washington, D.C. Notably, Evanti, who spoke and sang five languages, was the first African American woman to perform opera with an organized European company.
In 1890, Evanti was born into a cultured, well-educated, middle-class family in Washington, D.C. Her mother, formerly Anne Brooks, and father, Wilson Bruce Evans, were teachers. She also had a brother named Joe. After completing teacher’s college and briefly teaching kindergarten, Evanti attended Howard University to complete a bachelor of music degree in 1917. She married Howard University music professor, Roy Wilfred Tibbs, in 1918. The couple had one child, Thurlow Tibbs., and two grandchildren, Diane Elizabeth and Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.
Evanti created her professional name by combining her maiden name with her married name. In 1925, she moved to France to break into the European opera scene. After several years of performing with the Nice and Paris opera companies throughout Europe, she returned to the United States at the outbreak of World War II.
In the United States, Evanti was well received by audiences, but also faced racism embedded in the opera world of her day. On several occasions, she sang for Presidents Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Truman at the White House. In 1941, with Mary Cardwell Dawson, Evanti founded the National Negro Opera Company to provide a space for African Americans to perform and study opera. Additionally, she began her own publishing company, Columbia Music Bureau, to write and publish her own songs. Throughout the forties and the fifties, Evanti toured Latin American countries as a goodwill ambassador for the United States.
Following Evanti’s death in 1967, Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr., moved into her house, known as the Evan-Tibbs House, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. In 1989, he opened an art gallery, in his home, beginning with a collection of paintings left to him by his grandmother. In 1996, Tibbs, Jr. donated the gallery’s art collection, known as the Evan-Tibbs Collection, to the Corcoran Gallery of Art. After his death, the Anacostia Community Museum acquired the collections of his grandmother along with other artifacts.
Lawrence Savoy was the Personal Representative of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.
Logan, Rayford Whittingham, and Michael R. Winston. 1982. Dictionary of American Negro biography. New York: Norton.
McElroy, Guy C., Richard J. Powell, and Sharon F. Patton. 1989. African-American artists, 1880-1987: selections from the Evans-Tibbs Collection. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in association with University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Potter, Joan, and Constance Claytor. 1994. African-American firsts: famous, little-known and unsung triumphs of Blacks in America. Elizabethtown, NY: Pinto Press.
Smith, Jessie Carney, and Shirelle Phelps. 1992. Notable Black American women. Detroit: Gale Research.
Southern, Eileen. 1982. Biographical dictionary of Afro-American and African musicians. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
Evans-Tibbs collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.
African American singers
Collectors and Collecting
Social life and customs
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum