Fannie Mae Duncan: Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, and Community Activist

1 Posted by - May 10, 2023 - LATEST POSTS

Fannie Mae Duncan was known for entrepreneur flair, philanthropist, and community activist in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is best known as the proprietor of the Cotton Club, an early integrated jazz club in Colorado Springs named for the famous club in Harlem.

Duncan was born on July 5, 1918, in Luther, Oklahoma. Her parents, Herbert and Mattie Brinson Bragg, worked as sharecroppers in Oklahoma. At a very early age, Duncan showed an entrepreneur flair.

After marrying Edward Duncan, she began to work with the military who trained in Colorado Springs during World War II. At Camp Carson, she opened a soda fountain at the facility established for African-American soldiers called Haven Club. During this time, Flip Wilson was stationed at the camp and Duncan said that she gave him his first chance to perform.

She opened a United Service Organizations (USO) center, after convincing the city manager to issue her a business license, at a time when it was very rare for an African-Americans and particularly African-American woman to own a business there

Duncan then opened Cotton Club to serve, and by served by, people irrespective of their ethnic heritage. Her customers included soldiers and their brides. Among the notable people that played at the jazz club included Duke Ellington, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton, Mahalia Jackson, and numerous others.

Duncan was very active in civic organizations, she was the first woman to become a member. She donated the first iron lung in the city and was a fundraiser for medical research. She was cofounder of the Sickle Cell Anemia Association chapter in the city and the philanthropic 400 Club.

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