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Karen M. Bryan

[Douglas, Lena ]

(b Kansas City, KS, 1885; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 24, 1974). American critic, composer, singer, and pianist. After receiving a BSc from Western Ontario University in Quindaro, Kansas, Holt studied at the Chicago Musical College and earned the first MusM in composition awarded to an African American (1918). During the 1920s she performed as a singer throughout Europe, studied composition briefly with Nadia Boulanger, and developed close friendships with Harlem Renaissance figures such as Carl Van Vechten and Langston Hughes.

While Holt’s career included periods in which she composed (only one of approximately 200 compositions survive) and performed (she sang extensively in private venues during her travels), she always returned to music journalism. She served as critic for The Chicago Defender from 1917–21, becoming the first woman music critic in the United States. During this same period she published Music and Poetry (1919–21), in which she included new compositions (including her own)....