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Photos: Gallery | Colorado Springs Gazette, News

A Look Back

Images from Colorado Springs' past

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Firefighters battle a blaze at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind on March 22, 1950. The fire was triggered by an electrical short. The school was opened in 1874 by a father of three deaf children. Blind students were added in the 1880s. About half of the school’s 220 students, ages preschool through 21, reside on site and are from around the state. Others are locals who are bused in from area school districts. The campus is listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties as a district, with many of its 17 buildings noted. DELBERT G. GREEN PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION , COURTESY OF PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT, 439-10

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Fannie Mae Bragg Duncan’s oldest brother, Vernon Bragg, and his teenage bride, Asie, are shown in the early 1930s, before the family came to Colorado from Oklahoma. Duncan was the owner of the legendary Cotton Club in the Springs. Duncan hired many of the great entertainers of the day to play at her club, including Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr. and Fats Domino. AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN COLORADO SPRINGS COLLECTION, COURTESY OF PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT, 412-11

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Fannie Mae Duncan’s nephew Les Franklin is seen in this undated photo. The family called him Syl. He was an outstanding athlete at Colorado Springs High School — now Palmer High School. Duncan, his aunt, became a symbol of racial harmony through the Cotton Club, her nightclub on West Colorado Avenue that hosted a who’s who of jazz and blues entertainers. AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN COLORADO SPRINGS COLLECTION, COURTESY OF PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT, 412-8

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Jesse Bragg, uncle of Fannie Mae Bragg Duncan, is seen on his farm in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl days. Jesse helped brother Herbert, Fannie Mae’s father, move his family to Colorado Springs near the time his family moved to the Springs. Duncan was an entrepreneur, philanthropist and community activist whose nightclub, The Cotton Club, helped define entertainment in Colorado Springs. AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN COLORADO SPRINGS COLLECTION, COURTESY OF PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT, 412-12

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A 1900 portrait of the Rev. Francis B. Hill. Written on the back of the photograph: “Chairman of the Board 1899-1911/All Souls Unitarian Church Coll.” All Souls was constructed in 1892 and dedicated in early 1893. Walter F. Douglas designed the building, based on a standard plan used by Unitarians in the East, according to a history online. ALL SOULS UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST COLLECTION, COURTESY OF PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT, 058-8893

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Senior Master Sgt. Johnney Johnson, member of the Army 5th Division Band, is shown in this undated photo. The inscription reads: “Love to my inspiration, Fannie Mae — Johnney.” Fannie Mae Duncan was owner of the famed Cotton Club in Colorado Springs, whose sign read, “Everybody welcome” — regardless of their skin color. AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN COLORADO SPRINGS COLLECTION, COURTESY OF PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT, 412-93

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This undated photograph depicts staff and customers at Duncan’s Cafe, which occupied the ground level in the building that also contained Colorado Springs’ Cotton Club, which was just upstairs from the cafe. Fannie Mae Duncan, who is pictured next to her brother Cornelius in the rear of the photo, operated the club and the cafe along with several family members. The Cotton Club opened on West Colorado Avenue in the 1950s and for years was the only venue in the Springs that allowed black performers. Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and B.B. King were among the stars that played there. This year, the Pioneers Museum said it is raising money to erect a sculpture in Fannie Mae Duncan’s honor in 2019. AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN COLORADO SPRINGS COLLECTION, COURTESY OF PIKES PEAK LIBRARY DISTRICT, 412-95

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