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AfriGeneas Schools, Organizations, Churches and Institutions Forum

Re: The Cotton Club
In Response To: The Cotton Club ()

I am also interested in photos and stories about Mildred Dixon-our aunt. Please contact us. No book about Ellington's life is complete without her inclusion. Her photo seems to be included in serious books about Ellington's life. She was a dancer at the club. She met the Duke when he first opened at the club. She danced in a duo with Henri Wesson billed as "Mildred and Henri" esteemed as one of the finest professional "ballroom" dance acts in the country. She lived with Ellington at 381 Edgecombe Ave for many important years in his career. We estimate late 20s through 1938. They lived in the best part of Harlem called Sugar Hill. He called her "Sweet Bebe". pg 48 of his son's book and she called him "Tubby". She was born in Boston and left at around the age of 16 to go to New York. She lived with him as his wife and with his parents, his sister,Ruth and his son,Mercer Ellington. I believe he never divorced his wife. Mildred also went on tour with him when wives were left at home. One of the best books that I have read that gives insight into Ellington's relationship with Mildred was written by Mercer Ellington, his son, and is out of press. Mercer includes a beautiful photo of Mildred and his affection for her is evident. Long after her relationship with Ellington ended, Mildred always referred to Mercer Ellington as her godson and she maintained her relationship with Ruth until her old age and condition made it impossible for her to keep it up. Ruth would send a car into New Rochelle to pick Mildred up and bring her to NY to visit. Although Mercer's observation was that she looked like she was from the East Indies and I would agree, her birth certificate says that she was white. Mercer who called her "Mil" described her as a woman "with innate class comparable to Ellington's own", and stated of Ellington, "he showed her great courtesy,attention and affection". The young Ellington wrote that "they made a graceful pair". "She carried herself like the lady she genuinely was", he wrote. It was known that the Duke wrote songs about his ladies. He composed at home where he had a piano. We would love to know which song was Mildred's and we would love to obtain copies of any photos of Aunt Mildred at the club or on tour with Ellington.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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