From the Outhouse to the White House

Mildred Sirls’ journey is one that is literally from the outhouse to the White House – three times.

The Outhouse

As Mildred shares in Chapter 5 (A Black Woman’s Journey):

“There was no toilet, and we had to build our own outdoor toilet. We used Sears and Roebuck catalogs and old newspapers for toilet paper.  We found the toilet to be a great place to hide from doing work. The toilet was about a quarter block from our house and therefore a good place to hang out to avoid work—at least until Mom began to count and found absentees, and sent a sibling to find the “runaway.” At night we had buckets that we used for the bathroom, which had to be emptied every morning.”

The White House

Mildred shares in Chapter 12 (A Black Woman’s Journey):

“I’d been out running errands, and upon my return Ted (Mildred’s husband) calmly said, ‘I got a call from the White House.’ I was not in shock because he joked with me in this way many times. He paused as I walked past him and assured me that this was no joke. We were to learn that the White House had arranged for Awadagin to perform there.”

Mildred’s son, Awadain Pratt, won the Naumburg International Piano Competition in 1992 and was the first African-American instrumentalist to win the award. It launched an amazing classical music career in piano, violin, conducting, and chamber music.  It also included 3 opportunities to play at the White House.  Mildred thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity, meeting President and Mrs. Clinton and President and Mrs. Obama.

Learn more about Awadagin Pratt, Professor of Piano at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music at

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