Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Mary Lou Williams

signature image

Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

Mary Lou Williams
b. 1910, Atlanta, Georgia; d. 1981, Durham, North Carolina

Mary Lou Williams, American jazz instrumentalist, composer, and arranger, was a master of blues, stride, swing, and boogie-woogie. In the 1940s, she inspired and popularized the revolutionary new sound of bebop, characterized by fast tempo, complex harmonies and melodies, and a condensed sound. Extended jazz compositions such as the Zodiac Suite (1945) established her as a pioneer composer. In 1977, Duke University created an artist-in-residence position for Williams, who worked as an educator until her death. To honor her memory and her significant cultural contributions, Duke founded the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture in 1983.

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