Focus On… History

A Lasting Legacy: Fannie Mae Duncan
She was a changemaker during her lifetime, and Fannie Mae Duncan left a lasting Colorado legacy. Born in 1918 to Oklahoma farmers Herbert and Mattie Bragg, Fannie Mae came to Colorado Springs in 1933. She thrived during her school years and became the first in her family to graduate high school: Colorado Springs High School, class of 1938.

Early Entrepreneurship
Though schools were integrated during that time, much of Colorado Springs had segregationist policies. In 1942, Fannie Mae and her husband Ed managed the soda foundation at Camp Carson’s Haven Club, a facility for Black soldiers. During that time, they petitioned the city manager for a business license to operate the USO café in downtown Colorado Springs. They earned a reputation for their friendliness and generosity. Their customer base quickly spread from soldiers to the Colorado Springs Black community.

Making Moves
In 1947, Fannie Mae and Ed opened Duncan’s Café and Bar on the ground floor. And Fannie Mae created her dream on the top floor at 25 W. Colorado Avenue: The Cotton Club. The nightclub hosted Black celebrity entertainers including Louis Armstrong, Etta James, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and BB King. Since hotels wouldn’t always rent a room to Black Cotton Club performers, Duncan bought a mansion in Colorado Springs to house these headliners after their performance.

Everybody Welcome
Thanks to Fannie Mae’s tenacity and slogan of “Everybody Welcome,” the Cotton Club was the first racially integrated business in Colorado Springs. Fannie Mae was also the first Black woman in Colorado Springs to succeed as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and community activist. She earned a place in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012. Colorado Springs further memorialized Fannie Mae Duncan with the bronze statue of her likeness at the Pikes Peak Center (near the former site of her Cotton Club) in 2019, more than 100 years after her birth.

Where to See the Statue
The life-size statue of Fannie Mae Duncan stands outside the Pikes Peak Center at 190 S Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80903.