The Pierians, Incorporated

           Founded in 1958        National Office Established in 1982

        Honorary Members: Leaders and Legacy

The Hewitt Collection

Member Emeritus


Karen Abercrombie (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) 
Actress, Singer-songwriter  [inducted 2016]

Karen Abercrombie is an award winning actress, Parents Choice Award winning storyteller, singer-songwriter and motivational speaker. She recently received the Movieguide Grace Award for her performance in the Kendrick Brothers' film War Room. Karen played the spicy 80-year old prayer warrior, Miss Clara in the film.  She has guest starred on several television shows, her most recent roles included playing the character Zelda Molskey on the CBS show The Inspectors, playing Aberdeen in the AMC hit show Turn, and playing oncologist Stephanie Briggs on Vampire Diaries. She also appeared on Beverly Hills 90210, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Ally McBeal, Saved By The Bell, Judging Amy and Strong Medicine.  


Karen recently formed her own production company, Tapestry Entertainment, LLC, where she is creating and producing uplifting, thought provoking entertainment and positive film projects with good role models for children and teens. 


An avid lover of jazz, Karen decided to pull together some of the jazz music she had written over the years, and record it. She released her debut albun Matters Of The Heart received favorable reviews.        


Karen has also written a children's book about manners which will be available for purchase later this year. She is beyond thrilled to have the book illustrated by gifted artist Leah Visbaras who was a student of hers when Karen was artistic director of Angels Take Flight, A Children's Theatre Company which she founded in Mooresville, North Carolina. 


Karen grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh and she currently resides in Atlanta. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh and trained under honorary member Dr. Vernell Lillie, through the Kuntu Reparatory Theater. She also is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.     


Beverly Adams Thomas (Detroit, Michigan) 

Artist, Educator [inducted 2014]


Beverly Adams Thomas, is best described as a noteworthy participant in the fields of music and the visual arts. Ms. Thomas resides in Detroit, Michigan.  She received a B.S. in music Education, an M.A. in music in organ performance from Wayne State University, and pursued course work toward her Ph.D. in Educational Administration.  Ms. Thomas was an educator in Detroit Public Schools and as an administrator rose to the position of an Assistant Principal, achieved as an Intercultural Coordinator, and then was appointed Principal of the award winning Renaissance High School.  She performed with  distinction as Department Head of Fine Arts and Foreign Language at Mumford High School.  She is now retired. For many years she served as Minister of Music at Methodist and Baptist churches.  Her service on Executive Boards and Boards of Directors of various national organizations has been exemplary.  She is a Golden Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.


Currently, Ms. Thomas is enjoying popularity as a professional artist, exhibiting her paintings throughout this country, South Africa, Namibia and Canada.  She has traveled extensively in South Africa where her talent as a visual artist excelled.  The sale of prints from her original paintings helped establish The Beverly Thomas Scholarship Trust in South Africa.  In 2010, she reestablished the Beverly Thomas Fine Arts Institute at Camp Baber in Michigan, which enrolls more than one hundred talented students annually.  The summer arts program is her vision. She is a multidisciplinary artist who has established herself as an educator, performing artist and visual artist.  She continues to perform as organist, choral director, and artist.  As a role model, she has mentored and encouraged countless children and adults to develop the gift within them to the fullest degree possible.  She continues to encourage young artists by providing multiple performance opportunities and exposure to the fine arts.

K. Joy Ballard Peters (Atlanta, Georgia)
Artist, Educator [inducted 2012]


Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Joy attended public school. She studied at Howard University and received Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Design in June 1969, with minors in Art History and Graphics.  She received the Ceramic and Watercolor Painting Award; Howard University Annual Student Exhibits 1966, 1967, 1968. She participated in an exhibition with mother/teachers/artist E. Loretta Ballard.  The “MOTHER-DAUGHTER SHOW”, in 1969 took place at the Margaret Dickey Gallery, D. C. Teachers College.

Joy moved to Boston Massachusetts in January, 1969 and taught art in  the Brookline Public School System for three years.  She studied at Boston University, received  her Master of Fine Arts in Art Education in 1974 with a minor in Education. She became Co-Director of the Children’s Art Centre, 1973.  Her works were shown in the D.C. Art Association Annual Exhibits from 1971-1976.  First appliqués shown in 1973.

Joy Ballard Peters relocated to Atlanta, Georgia in August 1973. She became a founding faculty member in the University System of Georgia’s Atlanta Metropolitan College (formerly Atlanta Junior College) from September 1974 – February 2001; She retired as a Professor of Art. She remains active in the visual arts community on neighborhood, city, county, and state levels serving on all arts council for a period of time.

Her first major exhibition showing appliqués was "THREE D.C. ARTISTS SHOW", Smith –Mason Gallery, 1974, Washington, D.C.. Her group shows included Atlanta Artists Club Traveling Shows, and Black Artists/ Atlanta Annual Exhibitions.  Her juried Shows include “Artists in Georgia”, “Atlanta Life Annual Exhibits”, “Atlanta Arts Festival”.  Her One Woman Atlanta Exhibits include: “Expressions of Joy”, 1977, Handshake Gallery; “Quiet Fire”, 1979, Phoenix Arts Cultural Center; “EXHIBITION OF RECENT APPLIQUES”, 1981, Phoenix Gallery. Art work in Bishop College Collection, Texas; Georgia Art Bus, Fulton County Arts Council, Apex Museum, Bellsouth in Atlanta, Georgia; other corporate and private collections including Brown & Company CPA, P LLC (Maryland) and Andrea Young.

Ms. Peters is highly acclaimed for her work in “appliqué collage,” and has dedicated her career to art education and appreciation. Through her life’s work, she epitomizes all that The Pierians, Incorporated represents. For more than 28 years, she pursued a career as an educator in art, throughout all academic levels. Her work with elementary school children, both in the classroom and through community organized projects, demonstrates her commitment to bringing the elemental aspects of art appreciation to our youth.  She continues to remain active in the visual arts community on neighborhood, county, city and state levels. As a visual and commercial artist, she has demonstrated exceptional innate talent, imagination, and creativity, most notably through her unique appliqué collages, which are created from fabric, and depict a broad range of American life.  As creator and coordinator of the National Black Art Festival’s Artists Market, a national event, she has promoted community awareness of art and generated a greater interest in collection of art awareness, and the careers of emerging artists for more than 15 years.

Eva Anderson (Columbia, Maryland)  

Dancer, Choreographer [inducted 2003]

Our 2001 honoree has dedicated her life's work to "the beauty of the survival of the human spirit of those Africans who shaped the American character in the beginning of this country's experiment in democracy and the continuing contribution to what the world knows as American."  She stated in 1999 that "...these 25 years have been interesting, challenging, and rewarding.  I look forward to another 50."


Eva Anderson, daughter of a Presbyterian minister, grew up during the 1930's in Chester South Carolina.  After seeing a 1943 touring company production of Porgy and Bess, Eva knew what she wanted to be.  However, she recognized that there was no place for a black girl to take dance lessons.  So, formal training was deferred until she received a dance scholarship to Bard College in New York, at age 16.  Her first studies followed the style of Martha Graham, but she did not want to be restricted.  She studied classical ballet with teachers from the American Ballet Theater and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, as well as African dance with Olatunji, a noted Nigerian.


In 1975, when her husband was promoted, they moved to Baltimore, where she immediately became involved in local dance activities.  She joined the Baltimore Dance Theater as a teacher and soon became its assistant director, and later director.  Also, she taught dance at Adelphi University, Goucher College and Howard Community College.


Eva Anderson always speaks at her concerts, because for her, dance is about communication.  Ms. Anderson says, "everything I create comes from a black experience because I am a black woman with a black mind. But there are no limitations."  She has certain criteria for the dances she choreographs.  "...Each dance must have some spirituality, it must have some humor, it must come from everybody's life experience, it must have elements of blues, it must have audience participation and it must have call-and-response."


While she still teaches, she doesn't perform with the troupe anymore, except for speaking.  "I am a choreographer" she says.  "That is who I am."  She currently lives in Columbia, Maryland and works throughout the Maryland area.



 Eva Anderson passed away October 7, 2017 in Columbia, Maryland.


Dr. Leslie King-Hammond (Baltimore, Maryland) 

Art Historian, Educator, Artist [inducted 2003]

Leslie King-Hammond was born and grew up in New York.  In 1962, she began her collegiate studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.  A few years later, after working for General Electric Company and teaching art on the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, she received a scholarship at the City University of New York, where she majored in Fine Arts.  She studied with notables and concurrent with her studies, became chair of the Art Department for the Performing Arts Workshops of Queens College.  Upon graduation, she was accepted to The Johns Hopkins University Horizon Scholarship to work on her doctoral studies in art history.


While at Johns Hopkins, Ms. King-Hammond taught art history at the Maryland Institute, College of Art.  In the summer of 1973. she traveled to Scandinavia to work on her dissertation: The Life and Works of William Henry Johnson.  After graduation, she was appointed Dean of Graduate Studies at the Maryland Institute.  There, she administers six majors and three degree programs.  Concurrent with her administrative responsibilities, she teaches in the Art History Department.  In 1985, she won the Trustee Award for Excellence in Teaching.  Also during the 1980's she received Mellon Grants for Faculty Research.  In 1985, in response to a decline in students of color at The Institute, the Ford Foundation Fellowships for Minorities in the Visual Arts were initiated and Ms. King-Hammond became its director.


Dr. King-Hammond is an art historian, educator, fiber installation artist.  As a artist who works with fibers, her involvement in the arts has been continuous and expansive.  Some of her exhibitions and publications include The Intuitive Eye; Art as a Verb; Masters, Mentors and Makers, Masks and Mirrors: African American Art.  One of her works, Barbadian Spirits, pays homage to her grandmother.  King-Hammond maintains an active profile in the civic and professional arts community.  she sits on juries, boards, and art commissions including a position as President of College Art Association; Board of Overseers, Baltimore School for the Arts; Vice President, Jacob Lawrence Catalog Riasonne Project; Trustee, Baltimore Museum of Art and the Advisory Board, Edna Manley School for the Visual Arts, Kingston, Jamaica. She has chaired major conferences.


It is clear that this dynamic artist does not intend to lose momentum.  She says "Scientists tell us we only use at best, 10 percent of our brain capacity.  I want to exercise a little bit more of that mental muscle and step beyond the typical ten percent."

Dr. Vernell A. Lillie (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) 

Artistic Director/Theater Producer, Lecturer, Writer [inducted 2003]

Dr. Vernell A. Lillie is an artistic director, producer of theatre drama, lecturer and writer. She serves as Assistant Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Her vita is long and features experiences in the area of psychodrama, theater teaching, ancient Egyptian history, and a myriad of artistic endeavors. 


Dr.Lillie holds a doctoral and masters degree from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.  Her undergraduate studies in drama and speech took place at Dillard University in New Orleans.  She has further graduate study in Egyptology with Asa Hilliard of Georgia State; and English Texas State Certification for Teaching at Texas Southern University.  Additionally, she has a long, diversified list of training experiences.


In 1974, she founded the Kuntu Repertory Theatre for the purpose of presenting the works of Rob Penny (Playwright-in-Residence) and other African American writers.  Its initial intent was the examination of Black life from a sociopolitical-historical perspective, and to use the theater to educate, entertain and move both performers and audiences to social action.  Later, Kuntu broadened its scope to provide an arena for the black writer to develop a supportive, intellectually stimulating environment for cultural reflections, and to enable its members to work as a group for cultural and social development of the community.  Since 1974, the Kuntu Repertory Theatre has sponsored many outstanding activities to give visibility to the African American presence at the University of Pittsburgh and to involve diverse groups in examining the black experience in America and throughout the world.


Among Dr. Lillie's artistic achievements include over 80 productions such as: The Evolution of Jazz, in Edinburgh, Scotland; direction of Little Willie Jones and Profiles in Black.  She has produced three National Black Films and Filmmakers Festivals with Sears, Roebuck and Company, and the Afro-American Museum of Philadelphia.  Her work as a workshop leader covers an impressive range of subjects: psychodrama approaches to training, Afro-American literature, and arts education, visual and performing arts for the deaf, and cross cultural relationships.


Her awards and professional affiliations substantiate Dr. Vernell Lillie's numerous and varied activities.

Dr. Vernell Lillie passed away May 11, 2020. It was her 89th birthday.

Dr. Vivian Davidson Hewitt (Charlotte, North Carolina)  

Collector, Benefactor, Advocate for Arts [inducted 1999]

Dr. Vivian Davidson Hewitt, and her husband John, began a collection of art fifty years ago as newlyweds. Their first original work was acquired from Dr. Hewitt's cousin, J. Eugene Grigsby. From this purchase sprang the plethora of the Hewitt Collection of Art. Dr. Hewitt has spent half a century as art collector, art aficionado, and patron of great American artists.


The Hewitt Collection is regarded as one of the most important and comprehensive collections of art produced by artists of color during this century. Among the artists represented in the collection are: Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jonathan Green, Jacob Lawrence, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and Hale Woodruff. The fifty-eight works in the collection range in style from straightforward representation to total abstraction.


The Hewitt Collection was recently purchased by The Bank of America as a promised gift for the African-American Cultural Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. After a three-year national tour, the Collection will find its permanent home at the center. Dr. Hewitt is an inspiration, teacher, benefactor, and advocate of the Arts who embodies the Essence of The Pierians, Incorporated.

See Her Collection


Etta Moten Barnett (Chicago, Illinois) 

Concert artist, Lecturer, Recitalist, Artifacts Collector,

Student of Third World Culture [inducted 1991]


Etta Moten was one of the singers to achieve an international reputation and to concertize in the thirties. She played Bess with Todd Duncan on the Broadway stage in George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess. The opera played in Europe and was made into a movie with various casts. Porgy and Bess is a nationally known American Opera. It is one opera that has achieved world wide fame. Many of the songs from the opera, Summertime, I Got Plenty O'Nottin', and It Ain't Necessarily So, have become very popular.


Etta Moten was the first black woman to sing at the White House. The occasion was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's birthday. Highlights of her stage career include Broadway performances in Fast and Furious, Sugar Hill Zombie, and Lysistrata. Film performances include Flying Down to Rio and The Gold Diggers of 1933. She hosted radio programs in San Francisco and at NBC in Chicago. As a concert artist, she toured Canada, Argentina, Brazil, England, and West Africa.

Mrs. Barnett and her late husband, Claude Barnett, Founder-Director of the Associated Negro Press, represented Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson on official visits to Liberia, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Cameroons. As a private citizen, Etta Moten Barnett has been to the continent over twenty times.


She has been a marvelous mother to three daughters. Her public service includes: the Du Sable Museum of Afro-American History, Chicago Urban League, The Women's Board of the University of Chicago, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Artist in Residence in the Departments of Music and Drama at the University of Iowa and at Florida A&M University.

A quote from Etta Moten Barnett at the 1991 Pierian Assembly:

"In the final decade of the 20th century, I am delighted to join you in your efforts to discover and encourage the young people. I want you to continue to dream big dreams, for what would we do in this world of ours were it not for the dreams ahead, for thorns that reach through the blooming flowers, no matter what path we tread. Each of us has his golden goal stretching far into the years."


Etta Moten Barnett passed away January 2, 2004 at the age of 102.


Dr. Selma H. Burke (New Hope, Pennsylvania)  

Famous sculptress, Painter, creator of the FDR profile that appears on the dime [inducted 1991]


You are probably carrying sculptress Selma Burke's work in your pocket; it's a replica of her most famous creation -- a dime bearing the profile of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


She taught art in Pittsburgh and ran the Selma Burke Art Center from 1972 to 1981. She was chosen in the 1943 competition to design President Roosevelt's profile. Before the profile was unveiled, it had to be approved by the Roosevelt family. Mrs. Roosevelt said, "Oh, it's well done, but you've made him too young." Mrs. Burke replied "I've not done it for today, but for tomorrow and tomorrow."


Selma Burke was born in Mooresville, North Carolina and studied in Paris under French sculptor Aristide Maillol. She was a member of the Harlem Renaissance, a noted artistic movement in New York City in the 1920's and 1930's. Her first husband, Claude McKay, was a well-known black poet who died in 1947.

Dr. Burke did busts and bas relief sculptures of other famous people -- Booker T. Washington, Duke Ellington, President Calvin Coolidge, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mary McLeod Bethune.


At age 83, she took a tour of classical Greece. On climbing to the Parthenon, she said, "I have taught this building so many times. I never thought I would live to see it." (Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) Comments from Dr. Selma Hortense Burke at the 1991 Pierian Assembly during her Honorary Membership Induction:


"I am forever grateful to The Pierians and the Pittsburgh have tied your arms around me and it makes my heart cry inside. Thank you for sharing the last days of my life. It gives me great joy and satisfaction to know you are with me. Thank you."


Selma H. Burke, 94, died on Tuesday August 29, 1995 in New Hope, Pennsylvania.


Dr. Eileen Cline (Louisville, Colorado) 

Award-winning author/educator,

Former Dean of the Conservatory of Music at

The Johns Hopkins University

Author of The Pierian Hymn [inducted 1991]


Dr. Eileen Cline was born in Chicago to parents who encouraged their children to not accept mitations. She excelled at ballet, piano and sports. For three decades she held teaching and administrative positions at university, public school and community music school sectors in Colorado, Indiana and Connecticut. From 1983 to 1995, Dr. Cline served as Dean of the conservatory of Music at The Johns Hopkins University, then Senior University Fellow in Arts Policy at the Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies where she oversaw major developments in quality of students, facility and curriculum. She was a mentor to a long list of young African American musicians active on the national and international scene today. 


An award-winning author and educator, active for nearly half a century in a broad range of professional and civic enterprises, Dr. Cline was a resource fellow at the Aspen Institute Executive Seminar and served as Board Member and advisor to numerous organizations, including the American Symphony Orchestra League, Marlboro Music Festival, Institure for Theology and the Arts, North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance, and was a juror for the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Dr. Cline wrote our beloved Pierian Hymn and for this we are most proud.  A wonderful biography of Dr. Cline is available on HIstory Makers.