News

Effort Under Way To Honor NYC Blues Singer Mamie Smith

Pioneering Singer Is Now Buried In Mass Grave
Mamie Smith Burial Site

The burial site of blues singer Mamie Smith at Frederick Douglass Memorial Park on Staten Island. (Credit: Alex Silverman/WCBS 880)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York City blues singer who opened the doors for many others was forgotten in death.

But as WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, an effort to make everything right has now been launched decades later.

Mamie Smith (1883-1946) was a pioneer.

“The record companies did not think that African-Americans bought records,” said blues writer Michael Cala.

But the record companies were proven wrong. In 1920, Smith’s records sold 75,000 copies in a month, according to Cala.

“Thanks to her to have done this, all of these wonderful people got on record that we may have lost forever,” he said.

When she died on Staten Island at the age of 63, Smith was poor, and she ended up being buried in an unmarked mass grave at Frederick Douglass Memorial Park. It has been nearly 70 years, but Cala said the burial just won’t do.

“That’s where the obelisk will go, her monument,” he said.

Cala is raising money through IndieGoGo. He will have a ceremony when the headstone is ready.

“I think she deserves it,” he said.

Check Out These Other Stories From CBSNewYork.com: