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African-American leaders have been vital to making America strong.

Valaida Snow (1904-1956): Jazz Pioneer and “Queen of the Trumpet”

  • Jazz performer and pioneerValaida 1
  • Louis Armstrong called her the “second best trumpet player” in the world; Armstrong placed himself first. 

Valaida Snow was born into a show business family in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her mother taught Valaida and her siblings to perform, and from a young age, Valaida showed great promise.  Her sister Laveda, eight years her junior, was also a remarkable performer but Valaida outshone all the others.

By the time she was five, she was singing and dancing and playing the violin as Valada the Great. (She changed the spelling of her first name in the 1930s.)  Valada the Great was the star attraction of the Pickaninny Troubadours, trained and managed by the Snow parents.

By the age of 15, she demonstrated professional mastery of the cello, bass, banjo, violin, mandolin, harp, accordion, clarinet, saxophone, and trumpet.   She also sang and danced.  Her preferred instrument was the trumpet, and she soon acquired the nickname, “Little Louis,” from Louis Armstrong himself who acknowledged her greatness—he told others she was the second best jazz trumpet player alive.

Most women of the era did not play any of the brass instruments, so her fondness for the trumpet made Valaida a trendsetter.

Full Performance Schedule

At age 17, she started touring cities in the United States, and her acclaim was such that she was soon invited to perform in Europe and China. 


Jackie “Moms” Mabley (1894-1975): Trailblazing Comedian

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Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908-1998): Photographer and Chronicler of African-American Life

Had a true photographer’s eye for capturing people doing everyday things; took more than 80,000 images during his career, mostly of daily life in


Alice Coachman (1923- ): First African-American Woman to Win an Olympic Gold Medal

World-class athlete specializing in the high jump First African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal…


Charles David, Jr. (1917-1943): Selfless Coast Guard Hero of World War II

Enlisted in the military as soon as it was clear the U.S. was entering World War II


Marjorie Stewart Joyner (1896-1994): Inventor of a Permanent Hair-Wave Machine

Invented a permanent wave machine that added curl to straight hair and could be used to straighten curly hair


Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952), First African-American to Win an Oscar

First African-American woman to sing on radio First African-American to win an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress for her role in Gone with the Wind); however, McDaniel was not permitted to…