January 12, 2020

About Camilla Williams: Born in Danville, Virginia, in 1919, Camilla Williams became the first African American soprano to appear with a major American opera company, the New York City Center Opera, with her 1946 debut in the title role of Madame Butterfly. Camilla Williams gifted the Danville Museum with her personal effects, knowing that they could have the potential to impact our community. The Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History plans to offer an exhibit featuring Camilla Williams’ relationship with her hometown, with the New York opera world and with her students at Indiana University. The exhibition will be on view from January 12 – January 12, 2021, and narrates the story of a girl born in Danville whose voice was heard around the world. This vibrant, bold exhibit holds participatory and community engagement features that draw the audience into the life and times of Camilla Williams, when the doors around her held “Whites Only” signs. Not only was Camilla Williams able to overcome the racial barriers that held her opportunities in check, but she also became a hope for others through the Civil Rights movement. The exhibition also is a celebration of Camilla Williams’ 100th birthday and includes a variety of programs and performances starting in June of 2019 at the Museum and in off-site locations throughout the community. 

Sonya Wohlen's Last Interview With Camilla Williams (2012)


A short History of Camilla Williams (Richard Glazier, January 7, 2009)

 For additional Audio and Video Links of Camilla Williams, click here

Sponsors: The Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, Jr. Charitable Foundation Trust • Ben Rippe, Rippe’s Apparel Furs and Shoes, Danville, VA • The Schoolfield Museum, Danville, VA • Kelly Cunningham, Best Of My Ability (B.O.M.A), Danville Fashion Week, Danville, VA • DRF, Make More Happen Community Grant, Danville, VA • Averett University, Intern Chelsea Hillas, Danville VA + CCECC programming • Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness (CCECC) • University of North Carolina at UNCG, Greensboro, NC. Museum Studies Fellow Kate McDannold • Danville Concert Association (Louise Toppin Performance: Mrs. Camilla Williams 100th Commemoration Committee) • Historic High Street Baptist Church