My Contribution: I was a talented musician—a vocalist, organist, and pianist—who performed in churches, public events, and ra- dio programs in Harrisburg and the surrounding communities of central Pennsylvania. I was also a dedicated teacher at the Calder School where I helped many children succeed in life, and I served as a mentor to other teachers. I was especially involved in the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA both as a musician and as a representative of young professional women.

My Legacy: Although I had a difficult life—losing both parents when I was a child—I emerged from these tribulations to bless the African American communities of the region with musical perfor- mances, recitals, and service. I also helped to usher in generational change through my commitment to the causes of the organizations of professional women at the YWCA.

About Me: “Miss Mildred Mercer will play the signature song, ‘The Negro National Anthem.’ Miss Mildred Mercer is in charge of this program.”—at an event of the Negro Achievement Broadcast —The Evening News, February 13, 1931.

“Miss Dorothy Curtis, lyric soprano, assisted by Miss Mildred Mer- cer, pianist, will present a program at the A.M.E. Church … Both Miss Mercer and Miss Curtis are teachers in the public schools of this city.” — The Evening News, March 29, 1930.

Full Name: Mildred Armithine Mercer; Mildred Mercer Cannon

Birth Date: December 28, 1902

Death Date: January 10, 1986

Place of Birth: Pittsburgh

Sex: Female

Race: Black (1920 Federal Census), “Negro” (1930 Federal Census)

Places of Residence: 211 Carroll Street, Pittsburgh; Harrisburg: 150 Balm Street, 129 Balm Street (1920 and 1930), 21 N. 15th Street (after 1933)

Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Was child when the Eighth Ward was uprooted; contributed to church communities in and near the Old Eighth, performing on the piano and serving as accompanist to important vocalists for area events.

Family Members: 

Grandmother: Harriet Hawkins. Father: James Nathan Mercer. Mother: Rachel (Hawkins) Mercer. Brother: James Nathan Mercer. Maternal Aunt: Earo Hawkins White, and her husband James H. White. Husband: Paul Lawrence Cannon, b. 1907 (Virginia), m. 1933-1975. Sister-in-Law:
Hannah Scott Cannon. Children: Paul Cannon, Susan Cannon, Mildred Cannon, and Laura (Cannon) Williams.

Education: Central High School; Froehlich School of Music; Cumberland Valley State Normal School (Shippensburg State Teacher’s Col- lege), 1923; Columbia University (between 1923 and 1933); Elizabethtown College, certification in special education (mid-1950s)

Occupations: Public School Teacher at the Calder School

Church Membership: Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church; Sec- ond Baptist Church; Capital Presbyterian Church

Activism: Team captain of anti-fly campaign, public health event in Harrisburg undertaken by the State Auxiliary Junior Health League of Colored Girls and the Division of Public Health Education of the Pennsylvania Department of Health; served on waitress committee for the Welcome Home supper in Harrisburg for returning soldiers from World War I; active musical contributor as vocal accompanist and pianist at events at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA and regional churches; involved in Professional Women’s Club at YWCA (delegate for convention at Cheney School for business girls); and “The Negro Achievement Program” on local radio (assistant director).

Connections: Hannah Scott Cannon (Sister-in-Law), James M. Auter, Rosabelle Quann, A. Dennee Bibb, and Ida Brown.