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Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Mount Vernell Allen Jr., a principal in the Detroit public school system, and Barbara Jean Allen, a defense contract administrator for the federal government. She began studying classical piano at age seven but was also exposed to jazz at an early age. She met the trumpeter Marcus Belgrave when he was an artist-in-residence at her high school, Cass Technical; she studied jazz piano with him, and he became an important mentor, appearing on several of her later recordings. Allen also studied at the Jazz Development Workshop, a community-based organization.

After graduating from high school, Allen attended Howard University, where she was captivated by the music of Thelonious Monk and studied with John Malachi. In 1979 she earned a BA in Jazz Studies and taught briefly at Howard before moving to New York City where she ...

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Mary Krane Derr

multi‐instrumental musician, teacher, and orchestra conductor, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. Some sources give her birth year as 1885; however, according to U.S. census data, it was most likely 1882. Her mother, Betty Anderson, was born March 1849 in Virginia. Little is known about Hallie Anderson's father except that he was also a Virginia native. When Hallie was three, the family migrated to New York City. As a child, Hallie took public school and private music lessons. She received classical training at the New York German Conservatory of Music. Although it did not record her occupation, the 1900 census noted that Hallie's mother was a widow who could neither read nor write, and who had seven living children. Betty Anderson was then living with three of her children, all of whom could read and write: Charles (born Sept. 1872), a waiter; John ...

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William Lichtenwanger

minstrel performer and composer, was born in Flushing, Long Island, New York, the son of Allen M. Bland, an incipient lawyer, and Lidia Ann Cromwell of Brandywine, Delaware, of an emancipated family. Bland's father, whose family had been free for several generations, attended law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and in 1867 became the first black to be appointed an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office.

James Bland entered Howard University as a prelaw student in 1870 at the urging of his father but the subject and the life associated with it did not appeal to him Instead he was attracted to the minstrel show that was approaching its peak during the 1870s He played the guitar danced the steps sang the minstrel songs and most important composed songs for the shows A free black man who attended college for two years Bland had to learn ...

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Eric Gardner

musician, educator, and activist, was born to free parents in Drummondtown, Accomack County, Virginia. His father died when Carter was about eight, and his mother, whose maiden name was probably Drummond, cared for Dennis. When one of his cousins, Henry Drummond, was bound out to an area slaveholder named Thomas R. Joynes because of his status as an orphan, Carter's mother began to fear that her son would also be enslaved should something happen to her. Determined that her son stay free, she moved with him to Philadelphia in about 1825. There Carter's musical talents flowered, in part under the tutelage of the famous black Philadelphia bandleader Francis Johnson.

Carter toured with Johnson's band sporadically during the 1830s, 1840s, and early 1850s, reportedly joining Johnson's 1837 trip to Great Britain and an 1851 trip to Sulphur Springs Virginia In addition to working as a musician Carter ...

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Julia Sun-Joo Lee

slave and minister, was born in Maryland. The names of his parents are unknown. For the first twenty-five years of his life Cooper was known as “Notly.” He escaped to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, around 1800 and took the name John Smith. Employed at a lumberyard, he married a free black woman and had four children. Around this time Cooper's identity was betrayed by a friend. He was separated from his family and sent to Washington, D.C., to be sold at auction. He managed to escape and, with the help of a friend, return to Philadelphia, where he was reunited with his family. Still in danger of recapture, Cooper concealed himself at the home of a Quaker, where he stayed for a week while his master attempted to locate him.

Cooper fled to New Jersey where he was hired by a farmer His whereabouts were again discovered and Cooper escaped by ...

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Pamela Lee Gray

composer, violinist, and conductor, was born in New Orleans to parents who were free Creoles of color. His father and mother were originally from the French West Indies but immigrated to the United States in approximately 1809 as part of the mass political exile during that period His father was a professional musician who worked as a bandmaster for a local military unit As a child Dédé studied the clarinet and then began playing the violin His teachers were Ludovico Gabici and Constantin Debergue Debergue was director of the Philharmonic Society established by the free Creoles of color in the area he was also a violinist which may account for Dédé s particular affection for that instrument Gabici an Italian was one of the earliest music publishers in New Orleans and the director of the Saint Charles Theater orchestra Dédé was schooled in music by many ...

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Michael Frank Knight

, clerk, editor, Civil War veteran, and recipient of the Medal of Honor, was born to Charles and Anna Marie Fleetwood, free people in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1863 Christian left a lucrative position as a clerk in the Brune shipping and trading empire and joined the Fourth United States Colored Troops as a private. Just over a year later Fleetwood received the Medal of Honor for bravery and coolness under fire at the Battle of New Market Heights (Chaffin's Farm), 29 and 30 September 1864. He was one of only sixteen African American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.

Christian Fleetwood's remarkable story begins in the home of the prominent Baltimore businessman John C. Brune Fleetwood s father served for a long time as the majordomo in the Brune household and it was there that Christian received his early education in reading ...

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crystal am nelson

community leader and musician, was born Occramer Marycoo in West Africa. Although his country of origin is unknown, a 1757 ship manifest shows that he was brought to America at the age of fourteen. He was on one of that year's seven slaving voyages that brought a total of 831 African slaves to Rhode Island. Gardner was one of the 106,544 slaves brought to Newport, Rhode Island, between 1709 and 1807. Caleb Gardner, a white merchant and member of the principal slave-trading team Briggs & Gardner, bought the teenage Marycoo and baptized him into the Congregational faith as Newport Gardner.

The forced exposure to Christianity aided Gardner s rise to a leadership position in the New World He quickly learned English from daily Bible studies with his master who freed Gardner after overhearing him pray for emancipation Upon gaining his freedom Gardner combined his new religious fervor with ...

Article

John Davis

pianist and composer, was born in New Orleans to Edward Gottschalk, a Londoner of German-Jewish extraction who emigrated to Louisiana to trade in real estate, commodities, currency, and slaves, and Aimee-Marie Bruslé, whose murkier ancestry has contributed to much confusion over her musician son's ethnic heritage. Virtually all period sources identify Gottschalk's mother as “Creole,” a term “synonymous with native” in early-nineteenth-century New Orleans and embracing “all objects indigenous to Louisiana, from cabbage to cotton, and all people, regardless of hue” (Gary B. Mills, “Creole,” in Encyclopedia of Southern Culture 426 By the late 1800s however the word was reserved both for those of pure white ancestry who were wealthy and aristocratic and rooted in the Delta country of lower Louisiana as well as for those uniformly poor in worldly goods quaint in customs and mixed of blood Mills 427 That Edward Gottschalk in addition to ...

Article

David Bradford

guitarist, teacher, composer, arranger, and civil rights advocate, was born in Norfolk County, Virginia, to Exum Holland a farmer. His mother's name is not recorded.

Justin Holland recognized at an early age that rural Virginia offered few opportunities for an ambitious young African American. Born on a farm in Norfolk County to free parents in 1819, Holland was only fourteen when he set out for Boston. Massachusetts was the first state to abolish slavery (in 1783 and Boston had a small but comparatively thriving black population Holland found work that provided in his words a good living in nearby Chelsea and became immersed in the energetic cultural life of the city He had shown a knack for music from a young age but farm life provided little opportunity to develop musical talent Now inspired by the performances of Mariano Perez one of the ...

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Andy Gensler

bandleader, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and teacher, was probably born in Philadelphia to parents whose names are unknown. Early scholarship suggested he was born in Martinique in the West Indies. By 1812 he was known to be a professional musician in Philadelphia. While there is little historical record of Francis “Frank” Johnson's early life, it is known that three key figures helped young Francis hone his prodigious music skills: Matt Black, an African American bandleader from Philadelphia; P. S. Gilmore, “the father of the American band”; and Richard Willis, the director of the West Point military band.

That Johnson played many instruments is clear from a student's observations of his studio, which housed “instruments of all kinds…. Bass drum, bass viol, bugles and trombones” (A Gentleman of Much Promise: The Diary of Isaac Mickle, 1837–1845 196 While Johnson was an accomplished French horn ...

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Paul Devlin

singer, composer, minstrel performer, street musician, and one of the world's first recording stars and the first African American to make any recording, was born in Wheatland, Loudon County, Virginia, though possibly in Fluvanna County, Virginia. It is unclear as to whether he was born free or as a slave. His father, Samuel Johnson, was listed as free soon after George's birth. His mother was known as Druanna, or “Ann Pretty.” While still a small child Johnson was hired as the “bodyservant” for a young white boy his same age, Samuel Moore. Johnson grew up in the prosperous Moore household and was taught to read and write. He is thought to have spent the Civil War working as a laborer for one or both armies.

Johnson moved to New York sometime around 1873 and began performing on ferry boats. In 1890 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

music teacher and conductor, bass singer, Civil War veteran, and active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, author of the first African Methodist Episcopal Church hymnal (working with Bishop James C. Embry), was born in Eulesstown, New Jersey. The 1860 census lists several free families of African descent named Layton, but none have been definitively identified as his. Charles and Harriet Layton, of Warrenville, may have been his parents, but the ages of their children (often the subject of error by census takers) are not a definitive match.

Layton enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 25 August 1864 at Jersey City, giving his occupation as laborer/farmer. Assigned the rating of Landsman, he served on the vessels Larkspur and O.M. Pettit Both were tugboats assigned to the South Atlantic Blocking Squadron towing and repairing ships of the squadron while gathering intelligence on shore and ...

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Jeffrey Green

choir leader, was born in Portage County, Ohio, the son of a farmer whose name is now unknown and whose financial contributions to a nearby college neither overcame the local prejudice nor secured a place for his son among the student body. Educated in Ravenna, Ohio, Loudin went on to train as a printer, only to find his opportunities restricted by white printers who refused to work with him. Even his Methodist church rejected his application to join its choir. For all its positive associations for their kinfolk in the slavery states, mid-nineteenth century Ohio was a hard place for the Loudins, as it had been for Frederick Douglass who was mobbed in Columbus, Ohio, when Frederick Loudin was a boy. He was to recall that the “ostracism was even more complete and unchristian in the free than in the slave States” (Marsh, 106).

After the Civil War Loudin ...

Article

Elliott S. Hurwitt

songwriter, was born Richard C. McPherson in Norfolk, Virginia. Nothing is known of his parents or his early life. He studied at the Norfolk Mission College and at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and set his sights on the study of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. At first music was merely an avocation, but he gradually found his musical interests crowding out his medical ones; he began serious music studies in New York with the eminent Melville Charlton, the organist at some of New York's leading churches and synagogues for several decades. His activities during the years around 1900 were manifold evincing a considerable degree of energy In addition to his musical activities he was an enthusiastic member of the New York Guard rising to the rank of lieutenant He was also later active in the African American entertainment brotherhood known as the Frogs together with the ...

Article

musician and composer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Anne Emerine Beluche Snaër and François Snaër. His family immigrated to New Orleans from St. Domingue via Cuba before 1818 and was of mixed African, French, and German ancestry. His mother was purportedly the daughter of the Caribbean pirate René Beluche, and his father was a wealthy grocer and church organist. The young Snaër played more than a dozen musical instruments, including violin, cello, piano, and organ. He was also a prolific composer. Little is known about Snaër's life before the Civil War other than his first song, “Sous sa fenêtre,” was written sometime around 1851 when he was eighteen As a member of the free black population in New Orleans before the Civil War many of whom spoke French identified with French culture and had a certain amount of wealth Snaër s ...