Ernestine Anderson, a vocalist who started her career as a teenager in Seattle and helped grow a legacy of jazz at her Garfield High School and in the Central District, has died. The Seattle singer was 87.
Anderson’s father reportedly brought his family to the Central District in search of a more quiet life but instead found a dynamic music scene in the 1940s:
The Andersons discovered that yes, in fact, Seattle did have good jobs available to African American workers — but, to their surprise, the town’s music scene was far from quiet. It was just under-publicized. And so, within mere months, Anderson was making friends with other young players from Garfield High School and others who often jammed at the Central District YMCA (23rd Avenue and Olive Way). Before long the young singer would discover that, in fact, Seattle had the very active — if “underground” — “Jackson Street jazz scene” based in rooms like the Basin Street (S Jackson Street & Maynard Avenue S) and the Washington Social and Educational Club (2302 E Madison Street).
The Seattle Times reports on Anderson’s long contribution to American jazz and challenges she faced in keeping her Central District home after her career ended.
In addition to her music, Anderson’s legacy lives on in the neighborhood. Built in 2012, Ernestine Anderson Place houses low-income seniors 62 years of age and older on S Jackson near 20th Ave — the same land that decades earlier was part of the Jackson Street jazz scene.