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"Through Muck and Mud"


In May 2013, I went to Pittsburgh, PA, for my nephew's graduation from law school. As usual I made a list of landmarks to women in Pittsburgh. I arrived by plane, so I enlisted my nephew's parents, who had come by car, to joined in the search. We set a one-day record of finding eight landmarks to historic women! The image is of me standing beside the historic marker that honors a Black woman—Mary Lou Williams, known as "the first lady of the jazz keyboard." An illustrious jazz pianist, composer, arranger, educator, and activist, Mary Lou Williams said, shortly before she died, "I did it, didn't I? Through muck and mud." The marker reads: "Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) Pittsburgh, PA. Famed jazz composer & pianist. A child prodigy, she grew up in this city; went to Lincoln School here, 1919-23. Played for Andy Kirk in 1950s; then arranged music for Duke Ellington and others. Major works include "Zodiac Suite" and "Mary Lou's Mass." You can listen to her music on YouTube.


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