JHU Exhibit Celebrates Beloved Jazz Vocalist, Daughter of Baltimore

May 2, 2024

Ethel Ennis, the Baltimore-based international jazz musician, said she was proud to have bloomed where she was planted, in her hometown of Baltimore.

Now memorabilia from her long career lives on in the Sheridan Libraries archives at Johns Hopkins and was on display at the George Peabody Library through April 14.

The collection contains sheet music, recordings, and memorabilia, including film and video recordings of some of her live and television appearances preserved by Arnett, said Gabrielle Dean, curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Libraries. It also contains materials from her family and everyday life, including photographs, ephemera, and newspaper clippings.

“Some of these relate to her life growing up, but also politics, baseball, cooking—all the things she was interested in,” Dean said. “It also documents Earl’s career and interests—manuscripts from his days as a journalist for The Baltimore Sun, for example. And it includes business records from the various enterprises Ethel and Earl founded and ran together here in Baltimore, because they were committed to artistic livelihoods in the city.”

The exhibit aims to highlight Ennis as a daughter of Baltimore, and to reflect Ennis’s voice.

“Throughout her travels, Ethel was outspoken about her roots and experiences growing up in Baltimore. Her connection to and pride in her hometown is apparent through so many of the materials in the collection,” curator Raynetta Wiggins-Jackson said. “It was clear that life in Baltimore was a significant part of the story—and I thought it was important for the exhibition to honor that.”

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