Ella Fitzgerald First Lady of Song

by Hannah Lane, Librarian, African American Department

One of the most successful Jazz singers in the history of the genre, and America’s “First Lady of Song,” was a Black woman: the unforgettable Ella Fitzgerald. You can find lots of material on Fitzgerald at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia on April 25th, 1917. Ella was an infant when her parents, Temperance Howard and William Fitgerald, separated. While Virginia was her birthplace, it was in New York City where Ella grew up and explored interests in singing and dancing. In the 1920s while Ella was still small, she and her mother moved to New York City. Their home was in Yonkers, Westchester County– not terribly far from Harlem. Ella had an active and social early childhood in New York, but she experienced the impacts of racialized, economic vulnerability and hardship. Her mother, a laundress and caterer, worked often, and from time to time Ella contributed financially to the family by working as well. In 1932 at the age of 15, Ella lost her mother. Temperance had been in a car accident, and the injuries she sustained took her life. Ella’s mental health suffered– her performance and attendance in school diminished, and it has been speculated that she suffered abuse from her late mother’s partner, Joseph De Silva. During this difficult year of her life, Ella was also incarcerated in a reform school, a violent place from which she eventually escaped.

Ella held onto her passions and desire to express herself. In 1935, the then-18-year-old entered a talent show at Harlems’ recently reopened Apollo Theatre. Though she lost her nerve to dance in front of the large crowd, Ella sang and won the night. Ella’s success in Harlem opened the way for many opportunities. She sang with Tiny Bradshaw’s band, and later became a full-time singer with the formidable Jazz drummer (and Baltimore native) Chick Webb’s orchestra. Ella’s success catapulted at this time, the height of the Swing era, and by the end of the 1930s she was one of the most recognizable voices in Jazz, America’s popular music

In 1939 Ella became a bandleader after Chick Webb, her colleague and dear friend, had passed away. The band continued under the name, “Ella Fitzgerald’s Famous Orchestra.” It was an immense undertaking that she carried until 1942 when the orchestra disbanded. But Ella’s career lasted decades beyond the Swing Era. The 1940s and 1950s were a period of collaboration, growth, and International success for the artist. Fitzgerald worked with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and countless other masters of the genre; her unique voice and beautiful musicality deeply impacted the sound, style, and feel of American popular music. 

By the end of her career in the 1990s, Ella recorded over 200 albums, won 13 Grammy awards, a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of 

Fame, and received numerous other national recognitions. Ella Fitzgerald was one of the most, if not the most, popular, successful, and influential Jazz singers in the history of American popular music. 

For more information on Ella Fitzgerald check out these other sources:





Funny eBooks To Make You Smile

By Shaileen Beyer, Librarian, Fiction Department

When times are tough, humor helps. Escape into the happy space of one of these eBooks, available to you free with a Pratt library card or eCard.

Literary Fiction

Straight Man
By Richard Russo

English Department head and wise guy Hank Devereaux is having a bad week, and his threat to kill a duck a day until his department is funded may not have helped. The more his problems multiply, the more amusingly he responds, making this academic romp a delight.

eBook | eAudiobook

Where’d You Go, Bernadette By Maria Semple

When an architect, wife, and mom disappears from her dysfunctional Seattle community, her 15-year-old daughter tries to figure out why. This delicious satire mixes traditional narrative with emails, letters, and other documents.

ebook |eAudiobook

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Caveat for tragedy-avoiders: 29-year-old social misfit Eleanor Oliphant is not fine at all—she has a tragic past. Still, Eleanor’s social missteps guarantee guffaws, in this beautifully crafted, ultimately joyful novel.


My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

David is a gay San Franciscan who does SAT prep for the rich. Decades ago, he was married to Julie, who runs an Airbnb on the New England seaside with her teen daughter. When David visits, everyone changes in this sweet, funny story about friends.


Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simsion

In this gently witty story, a retired major and a Pakistani shopkeeper create a stir in their English village when they fall in love.


The Republic of Love by Carol Shields

When Fay, an unmarried folklorist, and Tom, a thrice-married talk-show host, meet at a child’s birthday party, they seem destined for happiness. But the larger community interferes in this novel that emphasizes gorgeous language.


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

A middle-aged, self-doubting novelist distracts himself from heartbreak by accepting literary invitations to Mexico, Paris, Berlin, Japan, Morocco, Italy, and India. This poignant comedy won the Pulitzer Prize.


The Idiot by Elif Batuman

This witty, philosophical novel follows a Turkish-American girl to Harvard, where she takes a deep dive into language, learning, and love.


The Family Man by Elinor Lipman

When a wealthy gay man reconnects with his daughter, an aspiring actress, his life turns topsy-turvy and he finds romance. This novel has quirky, charming characters



The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

On the run from a career-ruining error, workaholic London attorney Samantha finds herself hired as the housekeeper in a rural mansion. Helped by Nat, the gardener, she embarks on a hilarious education in the home and the heart.


The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

After Alexa and Drew get stuck on an elevator, she agrees to be his date at his ex’s wedding. Can they keep the sparks flying long-distance? This rom-com is fast-paced and fun.


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

With the help of a 16-page survey, Don, a socially challenged genetics professor, sets out to find his soulmate. A barmaid named Rosie fails his test yet interests him in this humorous love story.


Jazz Appreciation Month

by Hannah Lane, Librarian, African American Department

April is Jazz Appreciation Month! Every year librarians, museums, dancers, musicians, and jazz lovers across the United States celebrate the rich histories and joyful rhythms of jazz music, and the roles that jazz continues to play in our lives and communities. Here in the African American Department, we are celebrating, too!

This year’s theme for Jazz Appreciation Month is Women in Jazz. You may already be familiar with such Black Jazz greats as Duke Ellington and Wynton Marselis, but how much have you heard about the Black women who also shaped the genre, such as Mary Lou Williams, Tiny Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Blanche Calloway, Billie Holliday, and Clora Bryant? Our doors at the Pratt may be closed, but we’re taking this opportunity to celebrate powerful Black women in Jazz by connecting you with some of our wonderful, digital resources.

A brief history of Jazz

When some imagine Jazz, they locate it, first, in places like New York. They imagine Jazz in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance; in a cafe with Zora and Langston, or bursting from the windows of the Savoy Ballroom, Carnegie Hall, or the Birdland.

And they wouldn’t be incorrect. During the 1930’s in cities like New York, St. Louis, Chicago, and Kansas City, important developments in the genre emerged and numerous legendary Black Jazz artists rose to fame. Countless standards from “Take the A Train,” “East St. Louis Toodle-oo,” and Lucky Millinder’s “Savoy” honor the musical legacies of Black communities in these vibrant settings.

And just as many Jazz standards recall the place where the deeply diverse, Afro-diasporic music was born–near the mouth of the Mississippi river, in the cosmopolitan port city of New Orleans, Louisiana. There, in the first decades of the twentieth century, Black musicians (many, people who survived slavery and their descendants) brought the music to be. At the same time, millions of Black families, workers, musicians, and artists were leaving the South for economic opportunities in northern and midwestern cities, as well as to escape the terror that was ripping throughout the south with the rise of racist violence and organized, white supremacist groups. Jazz moved throughout the United States with these hopeful Black travelers, and set down new roots in the burgeoning, new centers of Black arts and culture that they created.

Jazz Appreciation Month,” Smithsonian Museum of American History website.

Artist such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington rightfully live on in our historical memory of Jazz music, but they weren’t alone. Since the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century, Black women have been key innovators in Jazz and Blues music. Think, iconic vocalists like Gertude MaRainey, born in Columbus, Georgia in 1886, or Bessie Smith, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1894. Ma Rainey, “Mother of the Blues” and Smith, “The Empress of Blues” are regarded as two of the most influential vocalists in American popular music.

Throughout the month of April, the African American Department will introduce amazing Black, women Jazz vocalists, composers, and bandleaders who, likewise, left immortal legacies in American popular music and culture. In the meantime, enjoy these digital resources about Jazz and the Blues in African American history!

For more Jazz Documentaries click the links below:

Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns

T’Aint Nobody’s Bizess: Queer Blues Divas of the 1920s

Feliz Dia del niño! / Happy Dia del Nino!

El personal de la biblioteca Southeast Anchor de Enoch Pratt Free Library espera ver a todos en nuestra comunidad una vez que sea seguro hacerlo.

The staff at the Southeast Anchor Library can’t wait to see our community again once it’s safe to do so.

Mientras tanto, la biblioteca tiene muchas actividades divertidas, recursos educativos y libros, películas y más gratis disponibles en línea, incluyendo estos videos que hicimos especialmente para Dia del Niño. ¡Echar un vistazo!

In the meantime, the library has many fun activities, educational resources, and books, movies, and more available online, including these videos that we created especially for Dia del Nino.

¿Qué necesitas? / What do you need?

Acceda a los recursos de la Biblioteca Pratt con una computadora, tableta, eReader o smartphone y su tarjeta Pratt Library.

Access Pratt’s resources with a computer, tablet, eReader, or smartphone and your Pratt library card.

¿No tienes una tarjeta? No hay problema. Los residentes de Maryland pueden obtener una eCard en línea para obtener acceso instantáneo a libros electrónicos, audiolibros, medios de transmisión y bases de datos de investigación.

Don’t have a card? No problem! Maryland residents can get an eCard on line, and get instant access to ebooks, eaudiobooks, streaming media, and research databases.

No necesita identificación para obtener una tarjeta electrónica.

You don’t need ID in order to get an eCard.

Descargas y streaming gratis / Free downloadable and streaming media

Su tarjeta le da acceso a medios descargables y de streaming para niños, adolescentes y adultos.

Your card gives you access to streaming and downloadable media for kids, teens, and adults.

Saque libros electrónicos o audiolibros, películas y programas de televisión, música, revistas y más con su tarjeta Pratt Library. 

Check out ebooks and eaudiobooks, movies and TV, music, magazines and more with your Pratt library card.

Club de Lectura de Primavera / Spring Reading Club

¡Regístrese en el Club de Lectura de Primavera de la biblioteca! Lea o escuche libros de nuestra biblioteca digital, lea los libros que tiene en casa y complete actividades divertidas.

Register for the library’s Spring Reading Club! Read or listen to books from our digital library, read books that you have at home, and do fun activities.

Muéstranos qué estás leyendo y haciendo para Spring Reading usando el hashtag #prattspringreading

Show us what you’re reading and doing for Spring Reading using the hashtag #prattspringreading

Aprende desde casa / Learn at home

Aprende desde casa con nuestros recursos digitales para estudiantes. Hemos recopilado recursos de la Biblioteca Pratt para ayudar a los estudiantes durante este tiempo sin precedentes, incluidos varios recursos académicos completamente nuevos. Con una tarjeta de la Biblioteca Pratt, los estudiantes pueden encontrar materiales de estudio, conversar con un tutor en vivo, obtener ayuda con la tarea y más. Para obtener aún más recursos educativos gratuitos en línea, consulte esta inmenso lista.

Learn at home with our digital resources for students. We have compiled Pratt library resources that will help students during this unprecedented time, including some completely new ones. With a Pratt library card, students can find study materials, talk to a live tutor, get help with homework and more. For more free online resources, check out this immense list.

Recursos para aprender a codificar / Learn to code

¡Ahora es el momento perfecto para para practicar habilidades de codificación! Muchos sitios ofrecen lecciones gratuitas de codificación, que incluyen:

This is the perfect moment to practice coding skills! Many sites are offering free coding lessons, including:

Eventos en línea / Online events

Nuestras bibliotecas están cerradas, ¡pero tenemos muchos eventos virtuales en línea! Explore nuestros eventos virtuales y asista a talleres en línea, grupos de escritores y mucho más desde la comodidad de su propia casa.

Our library buildings are closed, but we have many virtual events online! Check out our virtual events and try an online workshop, writing group, and much more from the comfort from your own home.

No necesitas una tarjeta de biblioteca para disfrutar de estos eventos.

You don’t need a library card to enjoy these events.

Hemos enumerado muchos de los servicios y materiales de Pratt para niños, pero la biblioteca también tiene muchos recursos valiosos para adultos. Nuestro sitio web tiene información actualizada sobre COVID-19 y libros, música, revistas y películas para adultos, incluidas muchas películas en español en la app Kanopy.

We have listed many of the Pratt’s services and materials for children, but the library also has many valuable resources for adults. Our website has reliable information about COVID-19 as well as books, music, magazines and movies for adults, including many films in Spanish in the Kanopy app.

Por favor, ten cuidado. La biblioteca está aquí para ti.

Please stay safe. The library is here for you.

Serving Customers During COVID-19

The Pratt Library continues to serve our community

As we wrap up National Library Week, we are celebrating in a very different way.  In mid-March the Pratt Library closed its doors to protect the health and safety of our customers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. But that has not stopped staff from working tirelessly to serve Maryland.

Here are just a few things that are happening at the Pratt:

  • Hundreds of staff are working from home to provide services
  • A robust schedule of daily virtual programs has been developed including Writers CRIBS! and Virtual Storytime. 
  • An educational webpage has been set up to help parents find resources for home schooling their students including live online tutors. 
  • Collections staff members are working with City Schools to launch new educational databases like Tumblebooks and Scholastic.
  • Staff are using Teen Center sewing machines and 3D printers to make PPE for healthcare workers
  • A web guide has been developed to provide accurate sources of information on COVID-19.

This is just a small sample of the ongoing work of the Pratt to serve Baltimore. The Pratt will always be here for our community.