Pioneering opera singer Todd Duncan in 1930, photographed by Addison Scurlock. In 1935, Mr. Duncan was selected by George Gershwin to originate the role of Porgy in “Porgy and Bess” and in 1945, he became the first African American to perform with a major American opera company, the New York City Opera. In 1955, he was the first person to record the now classic song, “Unchained Melody.” Born Robert Todd Duncan in Danville, Kentucky in 1903, he earned a bachelor’s degree at Butler University in 1925, and a master’s at Columbia University Teachers College in 1930. Soon after, he joined the music faculty of Howard University where he taught voice, well into his 90’s, for over fifty years. He died in 1998. Photo: National Museum of American History.

Pioneering opera singer Todd Duncan in 1930, photographed by Addison Scurlock. In 1935, Mr. Duncan was selected by George Gershwin to originate the role of Porgy in “Porgy and Bess” and in 1945, he became the first African American to perform with a major American opera company, the New York City Opera. In 1955, he was the first person to record the now classic song, “Unchained Melody.” Born Robert Todd Duncan in Danville, Kentucky in 1903, he earned a bachelor’s degree at Butler University in 1925, and a master’s at Columbia University Teachers College in 1930. Soon after, he joined the music faculty of Howard University where he taught voice, well into his 90’s, for over fifty years. He died in 1998. Photo: National Museum of American History.

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