From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Harris, Emma E. "The Mammy of Moscow"

(born: 1875  -  died: 1937) 

Actress and singer Emma Harris told others that she was from Kentucky but gave Augusta, GA as her birth place on her 1901 U.S. Passport Application. She returned to the U.S. two years later but lived much of her life in Moscow, Russia.

Harris left the U.S. from Brooklyn, NY, where she had been a church choir director, with the "Louisiana Amazon Guards [or Gods]," a six-woman theater troupe with a seventh woman as a reserve. The group toured Germany.

Harris later became a member of the "Six Creole Belles" [which may have been the same group under a different name and management]; they toured Poland and Russia before disbanding, all but two members returning to the U.S. in 1905 because of the revolutions taking place in Russia.

Harris then formed the "Emma Harris Trio," a singing group that continued performing in various European cities. Years later, the trio broke up and Harris was stuck in Siberia, where she taught English for a living before returning to performing as a concert soloist in Russia.

Emma Harris had studied voice at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. She also served as a nurse in the Ukraine during the Russian Civil War, working with the American Relief Association, and later was a speaker for the International Red Aid.

Harris remained in Moscow with her husband and manager, Ivanovitch Mizikin. She knew Stalin and was a friend of Maxim Gorky's. She spoke fluent Russian and gave speeches against the Scottsboro Boys case. Harris was also an excellent cook of culturally-diverse meals and liked to entertain; she had many connections for getting food during the period when food was rationed in Moscow. She returned to the U.S. in 1933 and died in Brooklyn in 1937. 

For more see "The Mammy of Moscow" in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, vol. 9: Essays on Art, Race, Politics, and World Affairs, by L. Hughes, et al.; and R. E. Lotz, "The Louisiana Troupes in Europe," The Black Perspective in Music, vol. 11, issue 2 (Autumn 1938), pp.  133-142.

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Collected works of Langston Hughes
NKAA Source: The Black perspective in music (periodical)

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NKAA Entry: Thomas, India P.

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“Harris, Emma E. "The Mammy of Moscow",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 13, 2024,

Last modified: 2024-01-03 21:56:03