nora holt

Nora Douglas Holt - b. 1885 or 1890, d. 1974

Born Lena Douglas in Kansas City, Kansas, she changed her name to Nora in 1916. She was a singer, composer, teacher, and music critic who was an important part of the Harlem Renaissance - and the first African American woman to receive a masters degree in the United States.

She composed over 200 pieces of music by the mid-1920s, which were lost when they were stolen from storage while Nora was on a trip to Europe. Her only surviving work is a piano piece called Negro Dance.

After the end of her fifth marriage she became known as something of a wild socialite. Wealthy from an inheritance from her fourth husband, she was the subject of newspaper gossip and part of the cream of Harlem society. She never married again, but spent much of her time abroad, in Europe and later in Shanghai, performing in nightclubs and hobnobbing with intellectuals such as Gertrude Stein.

Later in life she was an editor and music critic for the Amsterdam News and New York Courier in NYC. She also organized radio programs and concert series that featured African American musicians. She retired to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, and died January 25, 1974.

Photo credit. Bio credit.


Nora Douglas Holt (1885-1974) - American musician and singer who composed over 200 pieces. In 1918 she was the first African American woman to earn her master’s degree from Chicago Musical College. During the roaring 1920s, Nora Holt was a wealthy socialite and party girl, Holt was a major player during the Harlem Renaissance. The photo is by an unidentified photographer c1930.                                                                                                                                    

Nora Douglas Holt (1885 or 1890 – January 25, 1974) was an American singer, composer and music critic. Born as Lena Douglas in Kansas City, Kansas, she was the first African American to receive a masters degree in the United States. She composed over 200 works of music and was associated with the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance and the co-founder of the National Association of Negro Musicians. She died in 1974 in Los Angeles.