Delray Beach, Fla. – When speaking of jazz, most think of jazz legends as male. Dr. Joan Cartwright would disagree.

Instead, the local musician/scholar can point to regional, national and international jazz greats who are decidedly female. Some inspired their male counterparts to new levels of musical genius.

In its newest exhibit, The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum displays the contents of Cartwright’s vault, which includes photos, paintings and artwork by Charles Mills.

“Jazz: The Joan Cartwright Collection” opens Sept. 23 and runs through Jan. 31. The exhibit will also feature instruments and albums from local Delray Beach donors.

In her presentation, entitled “Amazing Musicwomen,” Cartwright explains that blues singers were an element of the subculture created from Africans who, while enslaved, sang European music.

European classical listeners considered them crude and loud. Jazz, however – the original American classical music – liberated singers from the precise pitch and calculated rhythms of European music. The melody was more natural and the rhythm was more like that of speech.

The first black women singers came out of the spiritual and blues styles, and later developed the jazz styles.

Cartwright includes Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, Celia Cruz, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne and Eartha Kitt among her list of jazz giants.


As part of the exhibit program, Cartwright and Charlene Farrington, museum director, will host “Blues Women: First Civil Rights Workers,” a musical presentation on the role of women blues singers and composers in the fight for civil rights.

The virtual presentation will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, via Zoom. Admission is free. To register, send your name and email address to

Cartwright, a veteran of jazz and blues for 40-plus years, is a retired vocalist, composer, and author, who has toured and taught in 22 countries.

Her ensemble with Jus’ Cynthia and Roberta DeMuro traces the origins of jazz from the west coast of Africa to the clubs of Harlem.

Her titles include “Blues Women: First Civil Rights Workers,” “Amazing Musicwomen,” “So You Want To Be A Singer?” and “A History of African American Jazz and Blues” with interviews with Quincy Jones, Dewey Redman, Lester Bowie, and other noted Jazz musicians and aficionados.


In 2007 Cartwright founded Women in Jazz South Florida, Inc., a nonprofit organization promoting women musicians, globally.

She hosts an Internet radio show, Musicwoman, featuring women who compose and perform their own music.

Cartwright has two personal CDs: “Feelin’ Good” and “In Pursuit of a Melody.”

The Spady Cultural Heritage Museum, at 170 NW Fifth Avenue in Delray Beach, is dedicated to showcasing the contributions of members of the African Diaspora to Florida and the U.S. Programs include exhibitions, city tours, and community events.

Hours are 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, and Monday by appointment. Closed Sundays. Admission $10; members free.

For other information call 561-2798883 or visit