The holidays are quickly approaching! Recently I have been dutifully working on rewriting the Holiday Tour at The Louis Armstrong House Museum. This year the museum is participating in the 30th Annual Holiday House Tour, hosted by The Queens Historical Society. Our museum will be featured alongside other historic sites located in Queens, such as The Kingsland Homestead, The Voelker Orth Museum, Lewis H. Latimer Museum, Flushing Town Hall, Friends Meeting House and Bowne House.
This year is The Centennial of The Women’s Suffrage Movement. In honor of this historic anniversary the overarching theme of The Holiday House Tour is centered on celebrating prominent women associated with the historic site. It was apparent the highlighted woman for the Louis Armstrong House Museum would be Louis’s fourth and final wife, Lucille Armstrong.
Personally, I feel as if Lucille were a pioneer in her own right. She is a person of interest due to her unwavering dedication to Louis. However she had notable accolades of her own. Lucille and Louis initially met in 1938 at The Cotton Club. The Cotton Club was a “Whites Only” establishment even though it often featured African American performers. Lucille was a beautiful Cotton Club dancer, while Louis was playing at this venue. The stereotypical Cotton Club dancer was light skinned, over 5’6” and thin. Lucille was the first dark-skinned dancer to be featured. This accomplishment was monumental due to the intense colorism that was prominent during that time.
Lucille was responsible for relocating Louis to Corona, Queens. Louis spent over 300 days out of the year on tour, so he essentially lived on the road. Lucille and Louis wed in 1942, and Lucille ended her dance career in order to dedicate her life to promoting Louis. In 1943, Lucille purchased the house without Louis’ knowledge. He had never previously owned a house, so he was delighted with Lucille’s initiative to create a home for them.
Louis suffered from a fatal heart attack on July 6, 1971. Lucille devoted the 12 years of her widowhood to ensuring that Louis’ legacy would not be forgotten, until her own death in 1983. She is also responsible for getting their home declared a National Historic Landmark. Phoebe Jacobs stated “Lucille Armstrong was a living testament to the strength and ingenuity of women everywhere. Her life is her contribution to the success of one of the world’s true musical geniuses.” In Lucille’s will she left their home to The City of New York. All of Armstrong’s personal belongings were left to The Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. If Lucille had not done this, it’s safe to assume that The Louis Armstrong House Museum would not be functioning today.