Colorado Experience: Fannie Mae Duncan and the Cotton Club

Fannie Mae Duncan was an African American nightclub owner who brought her motto, “Everybody Welcome,” to true meaning in her Colorado Springs jazz venue. Music lovers of all backgrounds had a place to enjoy entertainment at the Cotton Club despite rampant and volatile national racism and segregation.

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Fannie Mae Duncan was the granddaughter of enslaved African Americans living in Alabama and the daughter of Oklahoma tenant farmers who escaped Alabama amidst racial violence and terror. Fannie Mae arrived shortly thereafter, on July 3, 1918, the first person in her family born outside the south. Following the death of her father, Fannie Mae, her mother and siblings came west to Colorado Springs.

 

Fannie Mae attended the non-segregated Colorado Springs High School before becoming the first woman of color to gain a business license in the city, operating a USO café. She went on to purchase her own building and there created the Cotton Club, the first integrated business establishment in Colorado Springs.

 

Taking a stand through civil disharmony and personal heartbreak, Fannie Mae became a beacon for her community, spreading her wealth far and wide. She maintained the Cotton Club for almost thirty years. In 1975, her downtown property and its five businesses, including the Cotton Club, were seized by the city via eminent domain and torn down as part of  Urban Renewal's efforts to erase black culture from the business center of downtown.

Selected Resources

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Colorado Experience: Fannie Mae Duncan Script (pdf)

 

Interview Transcript with Fannie Mae Duncan biographer Kay Esmiol and interviewer Kate Perdoni: Interview Transcript (pdf)

 

"Colorado Experience: Fannie Mae Duncan" Premiere Q&A, Stargazer's Theatre, Colorado Springs Oct. 24, 2018 (YouTube)

Selected Press

Colorado Experience: Fannie Mae Duncan was nominated for Best Cultural Documentary in the 2018 Heartland Emmys®.

Springs Magazine: Honoring Fannie Mae Duncan

 

Colorado Springs Gazette: Colorado Springs civil rights pioneer Fannie Mae Duncan subject of Rocky Mountain PBS documentary

 

Colorado Springs Business Journal: Duncan’s role echoes in today’s Women of Influence

 

KCME Classical Radio “Culture Zone” Cast with Fannie Mae Duncan biographer Kay Esmiol and filmmaker Kate Perdoni

 

On Colorado Springs Blog Interview with Filmmaker Kate Perdoni

The Colorado State House of Representatives honored Fannie Mae Duncan in a Legislative Tribute at the Colorado State Capitol on Monday, April 15, 2019. Colorado Experience: Fannie Mae Duncan was shown on the House floor as part of the commemoration. 

https://youtu.be/qvOnlA08XLk

A statue of Fannie Mae was placed in downtown Colorado Springs in 2019. People came from all over the world to attend the commemoration, filling the Pikes Peak Center's Studio B and crowding the hallways. Speaking at the ceremony were Duncan's biographer Kay Esmiol, Kate Perdoni, Mayor John Suthers, family members of Fannie Mae, Regina Lewis, and sculptor Lori Kipplinger Pandy.

Southeast Express article: "Everybody Welcome"

Article from Voyager Denver

Royce Talks Podcat Interiew