Madame Marie Selika Williams (born Marie Smith) was herald as the “Queen of Staccato.” Not much is known about Williams’s early life except that she was born in Natchez, Mississippi around 1849. She studied voice under a wealthy white family who arranged the lessons.
Williams moved to San Francisco around 1873 where she continued her voice studies with the Italian singer, Signora G. Bianchi. She also studied with a coach by the name of Farini. She later met her future husband, baritone concert singer, Sampson Williams, he billed himself as Signor Volosko a ‘Hawaiian Baritone.’
In November 1878, just two years after her concert debut, she along with her husband became the first African American concert singers to perform at the White House.
Williams moved to Boston and is said to have replaced Hungarian soprano Etelka Gerster one evening at a concert. During this time, Williams along with her husband toured Europe, performing in Paris, Russia, Germany, and England, and giving a command performance for Queen Victoria at St. James’ Hall in October 1883. Williams also performed at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. After her husband’s death in 1911 and with her career in decline, Selika accepted a teaching position at the Martin-Smith Music School in New York City. Madame Marie Selika Williams died on May 19, 1937.