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Ann H. Sneed dies at 87; jazz enthusiast fought for civil rights

Ann H. Sneed of Stony Brook, a jazz

Ann H. Sneed of Stony Brook, a jazz preservationist, has died of cancer at age 87. She grew up among legendary artists, including singer-actor-activist Paul Robeson, who once sang ''Ol' Man River'' on her porch. Credit: Sneed Family photo

Ann H. Sneed grew up among legendary artists, including singer-actor-activist Paul Robeson, who once sang “Ol’ Man River” on her porch, and forged that experience into her own life dedicated to preserving and promoting jazz and civil rights.

Sneed, who lived in Stony Brook for decades, died of cancer April 21 at a Las Vegas hospice. She was 87.

The daughter of Dr. Harold J. Harris and Aileen Russell Harris, Sneed was born in upstate Westport. She grew up in an arts community on the shores of Lake Champlain before moving to Long Island in 1959.

Five years later, she founded the nonprofit organization International Art of Jazz, where she would spend 35 years promoting, preserving and presenting what she always called America’s music.

Over the years she developed the organization so that it presented creative arts and education programs in schools throughout the state, as well as free concerts at the South Shore’s Heckscher State Park. She worked closely with the Suffolk County Human Rights Association and the National Endowment for the Arts as well as the state Council for the Arts and many private foundations, corporations and donors.

She was also active in the Suffolk County Democratic Committee.

In 1968, shortly after the assassination of civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sneed was asked by the county Human Rights Association to present concerts, which drew many African-American children. That was the moment she turned her avocation into a full-time job, said her daughters, Jan Sneed and Kathleen Lukens.

Through it all, the hard-driving, good-time jazz classic “Little Rock Getaway” was her life’s soundtrack. Her daughters said the song suited their mother: fast-paced, brilliant and relentlessly upbeat.

Sneed left a legacy in music from the concerts she produced. The IAJ’s collection, now in the Library of Congress, includes works by Wynton Marsalis, Illinois Jacquet, Ruth Brown, Johnny Hartman, Clark Terry, Marian McPartland, Illinois Jackett, Billy Taylor and Thad Jones.

In Stony Brook, she tilled her garden and cared for her cats. She was married twice, to John Evo and William Sneed. In addition to her daughters Jan Sneed and Kathleen Lukens, Ann Sneed is survived by her daughters and two grandsons.

Services are to be announced. The family asks that contributions in her memory be made to the Compassion Care Hospice, 7842 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas NV 89117.


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