International Sweethearts of Rhythm

International Sweethearts of Rhythm - band/ensemble

This was the first racially integrated women's band and it lasted for over a decade, playing to primarily black audiences in theaters and ballrooms across the country. At the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C., the band set a new box office record of 35,000 patrons in one week of 1941.

The band was founded in 1937 at the Piney Woods Country Life School for poor and orphaned black children in Mississippi. The intent was for the group to be a profit-making enterprise to support the school. However, by 1941 the Sweethearts severed their ties with the school, moved to Virginia and recruited some seasoned professionals. One of these new members was Anna Mae Winburn. Anna Mae had been singing with and directing a professional male orchestra; however, many of the musicians were lost to the draft because of World War II.

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