In Memoriam

Elizabeth Louise Allen (1927-2009)

Betty Allen, the internationally known opera singer and longtime educator, died late last month from kidney disease in Valhalla, New York. She was 82 years old.

Allen was born in Campbell, Ohio. Her father worked in a Youngstown steel mill. Her mother took in neighbors’ laundry. She lived in an integrated neighborhood with Italian and Greek immigrants. She was exposed to opera at a young age from radios blaring from the windows of Italian homes.

Allen’s mother died when she was 12. Her father began to drink heavily so Allen ran away from home. She lived in foster homes until the age of 16 when she moved into the Youngstown YWCA, supporting herself by working as a household maid.

She won a scholarship to Wilberforce University where she was a classmate of Leontyne Price. Allen studied voice and opera and later earned a scholarship to the Hartford School of Music.

In 1954 she made her debut with the New York City Opera in Showboat. She performed at the Metropolitan Opera and with companies in Boston, Houston, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires.

In 1969 she joined the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music and remained there until her death. She was also the executive director of the Harlem School of the Arts from 1979 to 1992.

Philip D. Curtin (1922-2009)

Philip Curtin, a leading scholar of African history and the slave trade, died last month from pneumonia at a hospital in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Curtin was a native of Philadelphia. He was a graduate of Swarthmore College and earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University. He taught at Swarthmore College and the University of Wisconsin and then was Herbert Baxter Adams Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University for 23 years until his retirement in 1998.

Curtin was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and served as president of the American Historical Association. He was the author of a dozen books including his 1969 work, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census. This research of ship logs enabled him to estimate that between 20 million and 30 million black Africans were boarded onto slave ships in Africa. But Curtin estimated that only 9 million to 12 million survived the Middle Passage.