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Regina Harris Baiocchi

Margaret Bonds was a perfectionist whose meticulous manuscript preparation rivaled that of most printing presses, and she left a legacy of mesmerizing music.

Margaret Allison Bonds was born in Chicago, Illinois. She was the only child of Monroe A. Majors, MD, and Estella C. Bonds, although Monroe Majors had an older daughter, Grace Boswell. Estella Bonds played organ for Berean Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side and taught her daughter piano, organ, and music theory. Estella Bonds was a close friend of the composers Florence S. Price, Will Marion Cook, William Dawson, and Langston Hughes, all of whom mentored young Margaret. Bonds composed her first work, “Marquette Street Blues,” at the age of five. When Price moved into the Bonds home at 6652 South Wabash to escape racism in Little Rock, Arkansas, she taught Bonds piano and composition.

Bonds earned bachelor of ...


Barbara Garvey Jackson

composer, pianist, and teacher, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, a pioneering black physician, medical researcher, and author, and Estelle C. Bonds, a music teacher and organist. Although legally born Majors, she used her mother's maiden name (Bonds) in her youth and throughout her professional life. She grew up in intellectually stimulating surroundings; her mother held Sunday afternoon salons at which young black Chicago musicians, writers, and artists gathered and where visiting musicians and artists were always welcomed.Bonds first displayed musical talent in her piano composition “Marquette Street Blues,” written at the age of five. She then began studying piano with local teachers, and by the time she was in high school she was taking lessons in piano and composition with Florence B. Price and William Levi Dawson two of the first black American symphonic composers both of whom were ...


Sharon Renee McGee

singer and songwriter, was born in Asheville, North Carolina, to Laron Flack and Irene, whose maiden name is unknown. She was one of four children, three girls and a boy. Both of Flack's parents were musically talented. Her father was a self-taught pianist, and her mother had taken a few formal music lessons, which prepared her for playing piano for the local black Methodist Church. Although, both of Flacks parents were musicians, her first experience with music came through her mother. Flack recalled the experience in an interview with Ebony, “I remember insisting that I be allowed to sit on her knee and she let me play the keys. She had a genuine gift for music though she'd only had maybe a couple of lessons” (Ebony, 56). She began playing the piano by ear at age four.

When Flack was very young her family moved to ...


singer and teacher, known as the “Black Swan,” was born a slave in or near Natchez, Mississippi. Her father may have been born in Africa, and her mother, Anna, was of mixed ancestry. Various sources offer no fewer than seven different birth dates between 1807 and 1824. Greenfield's use of “Taylor” rather than “Greenfield” in certain documents suggests that her parents used this surname, but little record of them survives.

When their owner, the wealthy widow Elizabeth Holliday Greenfield, joined the Society of Friends and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1820s, Greenfield's parents were manumitted and immigrated to Liberia. Though records suggest her mother planned to return, Greenfield never saw her parents again. She lived with her mistress until she was about eight years old and then rejoined her as a nurse-companion in about 1836 she seems to have lived with relatives in the ...


Kathleen Thompson

At a time when most African American women were enslaved and working under unbearable conditions on the plantations of the South, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield was appearing on concert stages around the country and traveling to England, giving a command performance for Queen Victoria. She was accomplished, intelligent, and ambitious, and became the best-known black concert singer of her time.

Greenfield was born about 1817 in Natchez, Mississippi, to a family named Taylor, who were slaves on the estate of Mrs. Elizabeth Holliday Greenfield. When Elizabeth was only a year old, Mrs. Greenfield, acting on her beliefs as a Quaker, manumitted the child’s parents and sent them to Liberia; she took Elizabeth with her to Philadelphia. The child stayed with Mrs. Greenfield until she was eight, and then went to live with her own sister, Mary Parker When she was in her late teens she went back to ...


Wallace McClain Cheatham

vocal recitalist, concert artist, and university professor, was born in West Helena, Arkansas, the eldest of five sons of Robert Warfield, a minister, and Bertha McCamery Warfield. Because employment and educational opportunities in West Helena were limited, the Reverend Warfield moved his family to Rochester, New York.

Warfield became interested in performing and teaching when he was a high school senior. With the pianist at his church Warfield began piano lessons at age nine. He also sang in school choral groups. When he was a senior in high school, the 1937–1938 school year, he entered and won the regional auditions of the National Music Educators League Competition. He was the only African American competitor. Winning at the district level entitled him to enter the national finals, held that year in St. Louis. He was then working with Elsa Miller his first voice teacher He ...