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Anna Montgomery Woodson

Born on 10-25-1889. She was born in Americus, GA. She was accomplished in the area of Business. She later died on 4-11-1978.
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There are many untold stories of strong Black women, who have left a record of founding businesses, organizations, houses worship and more as they created "community" in the regions in which they lived. Anna Montgomery is an exemplary model of an African American female community builder, who contributed to the African American community in Buffalo and provided a model for other women entrepreneurs in the State and in the nation.

Anna Montgomery Woodson was born in Americus, Georgia. Her father's name is unknown but her mother's name was Mamie Ellis. When she was an infant, her parents moved to Los Angeles, California. She attended school in Los Angeles as well as in Texas before moving to Buffalo, New York, in 1910.

Shortly after her arrival in Buffalo, Anna opened an ice cream parlor at 496 Michigan Avenue, which would later become the location of the Little Harlem. She operated the ice cream parlor until the early 1920s when she established the Oriental Billiard Parlor. A few years later she converted this business into the Little Harlem Hotel and nightclub. Mrs. Montgomery began the cabaret that initiated the nightclub in 1934. In the early days, the Little Harlem became a major showcase for aspiring new stars during an era when it was difficult for them to obtain jobs in their professions elsewhere. The roster of stars included both black and white performers such as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, Bing Crosby, Vincent Lopez, Cab Calloway, and Dinah Washington, among the more popular names who performed at or visited the hotel and club. The club was also frequented by celebrities such as Heavy Weight Champion, Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson. The nightspot also became a meeting ground for political and elected officials. As noted in her obituary, "For many years the Little Harlem Hotel has been considered a landmark in Buffalo and it is believed to be the oldest established black business here." (Buffalo Courier Express, April 12, 1978)

Mrs. Montgomery was a member of the Buffalo Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); the Michigan Avenue YMCA; and the Hadji Court 62, Daughters of Isis. She was known to be a supporter and generous contributor to the Boys Club of America, the Negro College Fund Foundation, the Salvation Army, the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, Catholic Charities, the Police Athletic League, and numerous other community and civic organizations. She also assisted many young people by giving them jobs in the hotel or money to complete their educations. Mrs. Montgomery said that many had gone on to careers as lawyers, doctors, judges, journalists, tradesman, elected officials and community leaders and businessmen. (Buffalo Courier Express)

Anna Montgomery was a remarkable businesswoman. Her death, on April 11, 1978, ended a career that spanned nearly seventy years. Anna's husband, Paul Dilworth Woodson, managed the club for thirty-three years prior to his wife's death. He continued to manage the club for many years until his retirement and the sale of the club to Judge Wilbur Trammell. Unfortunately, the club, which was placed on the roster of national historic sites, was destroyed by fire during the 1990s.