African Americans have had a profound impact on the development of music in the United States. While their role in the history of American popular and folk music is now generally acknowledged and appreciated, their influence within the “classical” music world has received little attention–even within the African American community.

Afrocentric Voices focuses on African American performers and composers and on the vocal music forms they influenced, especially opera and art songs, including Negro spirituals composed for concert performance.

The musicians profiled here not only opened pathways for today’s young African Americans through their own accomplishments, they advised and encouraged youth with lectures and master classes, articles and books. Many of them established scholarships and competitions for young musicians whose talents and desires lead them to seek out careers in “classical” music. These artists showed–and continue to show–the African American community that support of their young artists is important and does yield positive results.

Presented here is an extensive bibliography of books and other research resources. There is a small–but growing–list of biographies of vocalists and composers, such as Marian Anderson, Harry T. Burleigh, Leontyne Price, and others. Most of these biographies now have video playlists of these musicians in performance themselves or of others performing their works, as well as photographs, music score examples, and links to resources related to their lives or careers.

Additionally, Afrocentric Voices has a chronology of major events and accomplishments by African American vocal musicians and a list of libraries and research centers that house significant collections of resources by and about African American musicians. The Afrocentric Voices Portrait Gallery features African American singers and classical composers of vocal music who have established international musical careers.

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To cite this page:
Afrocentric Voices in Classical Music. Created by Randye Jones. Created/Last modified: February 10, 2016. Accessed:.