Camilla Williams Exhibit

April 6th 2017
 Photo of Camilla Williams exhibit in Bridgwaters Lounge

Camilla Williams: Opera Diva and Beloved IU Voice Instructor

Camilla Williams was born in Danville, Virginia and grew up in a musical household. As a child, she developed her special gift for music by playing the piano and singing in her local church choir. This gave Williams a strong foundation for her success in vocal performance later in life. Williams earned her degree in music education from Virginia State College, and following her graduation, she studied with a respected voice instructor, Marion Szekely Freschl. Williams became the recipient for numerous voice scholarships and awards. In 1943 and 1944, she was presented with the Marian Anderson Award, which was a scholarship given to talented vocal singers.

Recognition for her talent first began in 1944, when a soprano singer, Geraldine Farrar, attended one of William’s concerts and became her mentor after enjoying this performance. Although prejudice and racism was a major barrier for Williams, the opportunity came for a key step in her career, when in 1946, the New York Opera cast her as Cio-Cio-San, a main character of “Madama Butterfly” by Puccini. In 1958, Williams experienced an African Tour, performing in fourteen African countries, including Liberia, Nigeria, Kenya, and Egypt. In the 1960s, she continued her global travels by visiting numerous countries, such as New Zealand, Israel, and Korea. She performed recitals on her worldwide tour and typically incorporated spirituals into her programs.

Williams actively engaged in music performance as a profession and passion for her life. She participated in shows for the Boston Lyric Opera and the Vienna State Opera, concerts across the United States, and even sang as a soloist for the Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic. She recorded and released music during her lifetime, and taught as a professor of voice at Brooklyn College and Queens College in New York City. In 1977, Indiana University hired Camilla Williams as a voice instructor, making her the first African American faculty member in the voice department. She taught and inspired students at Indiana University in Bloomington until retiring in 1997.

Even after her retirement, Williams lived in Bloomington, Indiana. In 2012, she passed away at the age of 92 years old and leaves behind a powerful legacy.

 Quote by Camilla: “It was not easy to be a singer in my time, break down barriers and maintain standards. I came before my time. The world was not ready for me. But I am not bitter, not mad, not mean, not small-minded. I just sit back and embrace my life.”           Quote by Camilla: “I began singing for the civil rights movement when it was not fashionable to do so. I was never paid for it. I just did it because it was right.”


Fox, Margalit. “Camilla Williams, Barrier-Breaking Opera Star, Dies at 92." The New York Times, 2 Feb. 2012, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Langer, Emily. "Camilla Williams, An Acclaimed Soprano Who Broke Racial Bounds, Dies at 92.” The Washington Post, 30 Jan. 2012, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Nash, Elizabeth. "A Day with Camilla Williams." The Opera Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 2, 2002, pp. 219-230. EBSCOhost, Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.

Shonekan, Stephanie, and Camilla Williams. The Life of Camilla Williams: The African American Classical Singer and Opera Diva. Edwin Mellen Press, 2011. 

Today's Hours

9:00am - 5:00pm All hours


  • Building Access Use entrance on west side of building (behind the Auditorium) with wheelchair accessible ramp. Library on first floor. Building Access
  • Media Showing RoomPortable viewing equipment available for showing library-owned media items for small groups. Media Showing Room
  • ScanningScanners located at workstations 2 and 9; those using scanners have priority when other workstations are available. Scanning
  • Reserve ServicesPrint and media reserves are located at the NMBCC Library Circulation Desk. Reserve Services
  • Food ServiceLounges with snack, coffee, and soda vending machines located on the 1st and 2nd floors of the building. Food Service
  • Group Study SpaceSmall Group Study Room and multiuse Exhibit Room may be reserved by emailing Collaborative Learning Center room available first-come, first-served for group study. Group Study Space
  • PrintingOne black & white printer with print release station. Printing
  • Computer Workstations9 workstations, 1 print release station, 2 flatbed scanners. Collaboration table with large screen monitor and capability to connect up to 4 laptops. Computer Workstations

Contact Info

Neal-Marshall Center A113
275 North Jordan Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47405
(812) 855-3237
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DeLoice Holliday - Head
(812) 855-4369

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