A Guide to the When I Rise Archive, 2011
The award-winning documentary film, When I Rise, portrays the story of Barbara Smith Conrad, a gifted music student at University of Texas who became a target of racial discrimination and ultimately ascended the heights of international opera. Produced by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, When I Rise, an Alpheus Media Production, in association with Allentown Productions, was screened at numerous film festivals throughout 2010, including the South by Southwest Film Festival and the Indianapolis International Film Festival, where it won the audience award. The documentary premiered on the PBS series Independent Lens in February, 2011.
Opera singer Barbara Smith Conrad was born in Center Point, Kerry County, Texas, in 1940. She entered the University of Texas in 1956, the first year in which African American students were admitted to the university as undergraduates. In 1957, Conrad auditioned and won the role of Dido, the queen of Carthage, in the university’s production of Dido and Aeneas. Playing the love object opposite a white male lead, Conrad’s part aroused controversy, and the UT president, advised by the Texas Legislature, removed her from the cast. Conrad’s story was covered by the national media, prompting an offer from Harry Belafonte to support her studies elsewhere. Still, Conrad remained at the University of Texas and became a champion for a more diverse university community.
After graduating in 1959, Conrad’s career as a mezzo-soprano singer included leading operatic roles with the Vienna State Opera, Teatro Nacional in Venezuela, the Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera. She also performed with the New York Philharmonic, and the London, Boston, Cleveland, and Detroit Symphonies.
Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. “Projects - When I Rise.” Accessed on March 14, 2011. http://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/when_i_rise/index.php.
Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. “Projects - Barbara Smith Conrad - Biography”. Accessed on March 14, 2011. http://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/when_i_rise/barbara_conrad_bio.php.
The When I Rise Archive, 2011, consists of programs to the 26th Santa Barbara Film Festival (2011), at which the documentary was screened, and a 2011 program for the Texas Medal of Arts Awards, in which Barbara Smith Conrad was a lifetime achievement honoree.
This collection is open for research use.
When I Rise Archive, 2011, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by Evan Usler.
Detailed Description of the Papers