Search For:

Share This

No Title 1268

Supplement to “Robert Todd Duncan: A Musician of Firsts”

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights started the Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians in 1970 to recognize the achievements of African Americans who were overlooked in traditional histories and to introduce African American history in Kentucky classrooms.

On February 22, a poster for Robert Todd Duncan will be unveiled, and he will join 40 other African Americans featured in the gallery. Located at the headquarters for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, the gallery features people from all walks of life who have “made outstanding contributions to the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” says Glenda Green, Title 6 coordinator for the Commission. The gallery is also featured on the Web at

Nominees must have been born in Kentucky, lived here, or directly affected the lives of people of Kentucky. Green said the Commission is particularly interested in hearing about individuals who lived outside the major metropolitan areas.

The poster unveiling will be held at Somerset Community College on February 22. There is no cost for the event, but an RSVP is requested. Contact Green at (800) 292-5566 for more information or to RSVP.


Feb. 12, 1903 – Born Danville, Kentucky; family later moved to Indianapolis

1910 – Moved to Somerset, Kentucky

1921 – High school graduation at Simmons University, Louisville

1925 – Bachelor’s degree – Butler University in Indianapolis

1930 – Master’s degree – Columbia University Teacher’s College

1931 – Music instructor at Howard University

June 23, 1934 – Married Gladys J. Jackson

1934 – First opera appearance with Aeolian Opera in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana

Oct. 10, 1935 – Opened as Porgy in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess on Broadway

1935 – Performed at the White House for President Franklin Roosevelt

1936 – Led successful strike on National Theatre in Washington, D.C., to end segregated performances of Porgy and Bess

1937 – Starred in Porgy and Bess revival

Oct. 15, 1941 – Sang in the first integrated performance held at Centre College, Kentucky

1940 – Starred in Vernon Duke’s Cabin in the Sky on Broadway

1942 – Starred in Porgy and Bess revival; began concert tour

1942 – Appeared in movie Syncopation

1945 – First African-American to perform with the New York City Opera. Performed the role of Tonio in Pagliacci

1945 – Performance tour of 22 Latin American countries. When he was refused hotel accommodations in Venezuela, it caused an international incident and the country’s Congress made discrimination a crime

1946 – First black concert artist invited to perform in Australia. It was a 40-performance tour

1949 – Starred on Broadway in Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars, an adaptation of Alan Parton’s novel Cry, the Beloved Country

1950 – New York Drama Critics’ Award for Lost in the Stars

1950- The Donaldson Award

1955 – “Unchained Melody” from movie Unchained nominated for Academy Award

1964 – Retired from public performances

1965 – Sings at the Inauguration of President Lyndon Johnson

1984 – George Peabody Medal from the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the Johns Hopkins University

1990 – Appeared in PBS documentary on Marion Anderson

Feb. 28, 1998 – Died at his home in Washington, D.C.

Feb. 21, 2003 – Town of Somerset presented “Todd Duncan Centennial Celebration”

2005 – Duncan inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame

Feb. 2006 – Duncan inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

Feb. 22, 2006 – Duncan joined the Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians

To read the Kentucky Living February 2006 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Robert Todd Duncan: A Musician of Firsts

Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.