[ students & alumni ]
Helen Eugenia Hagan was a concert pianist and composer who graduated from the Yale School of Music in 1912; she is believed to have been the School’s first African American student. She was the first black pianist to perform a solo recital at a New York venue, and, in 1919, became the only African American performer to travel to France to entertain black troops stationed there after World War I.
Yet, despite her accomplishments, Hagen is buried in an unmarked grave in New Haven’s Evergreen Cemetery. Elizabeth Foxwell, editor of In Their Own Words: American Women in World War I, (2015), was dismayed to learn of this, and decided to launch a crowdfunding effort to mark the grave. “Reading the reviews of her performances — these rave reviews — and then you find out she’s in this unmarked grave, I was just totally shocked,” Foxwell said.