This undated photograph is a portrait of the Louis L. Duncan Family. Sitting from left: Fannie Mae Duncan, Carrie Duncan (mother), Cecil Duncan, Dorothy (Duncan) Jones, Earl Wick. Standing: Edward Duncan, Vi Green (wife of Melvin), Melvin Duncan, Roy Green.
According to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, Fannie Mae Duncan was born in Luther, Okla., and came to Colorado in 1933 with her widowed mother and six siblings. She graduated from Colorado Springs High School in 1938, the first in her family to earn a high school diploma. She then married Edward Duncan, who worked as a porter for the railroad. He died in 1957. Duncan borrowed money to buy a building to house her dream — the Cotton Club — where she employed a multiethnic staff. She was the first African-American woman to succeed as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and community activist in Colorado Springs. She founded the Cotton Club, a jazz mecca where she booked luminaries such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Mahalia Jackson, and Etta James, which attracted a racially diverse following. The flamboyant Duncan died in Denver on Sept. 12, 2005, at the age of 87. MARGARETTA M. BOAS PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, COURTESY OF THE PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT, 001-8749