Uplifts and Downbeats: What if Jazz History Included the Prairie View Co-eds?
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When Prairie View A&M University celebrated its Founders Day and Honors Convocation on March 27, 2002, the historically black college also revived a chapter of forgotten Texas music history. The Prairie View Co-eds were an extremely popular all-woman big band of the 1940s, who brought audiences to their feet from the Houston Civic Auditorium to the Apollo Theater and back again throughout World War II. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a good many people across the Prairie View Campus, notably those in the College of Nursing, whose turn it was to organize the convocation, the Prairie View Co-eds brought audiences to their feet again with their vivid stories, distinguished presence, good humor, and poignant histories. Almost unbelievably, the university was able to assemble twelve former members of this fifteen piece band from sixty years ago, flying members in from as far as New York and California, as well as two daughters of deceased members. This celebration of the Prairie View Co-eds provided an unforgettable glimpse into history for everyone who heard the honorees tell of their experiences as black college women playing big band music during World War II, as well as a very special reunion for former band members, most of whom had not seen each other, or visited Prairie View, since the mid-1940s.