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Black Composers in Classical Music

A research guide for finding recordings, music, and information on classical music written by black composers.

Find books at Temple Libraries and Beyond

Biographical Databases

*Temple University authentication only.

Try searching these databases for biographical information on Black composers.

Collage logo for African American Biographical Database

African American Biographical Database - contains content from Black Biographical Dictionaries 1790-1950, and Black Biography 1790-1950.  




American National Biography Logo: Billie Holiday, Albert Einstein, Jacqueline Kennedy, Malcolm X

American National Biography is a standard reference work for information about the lives of significant persons in American history.




Biography In Context logoBiography Resource Center (Biography in Context) provides biographies of hundreds of thousands of men and women from throughout history, around the world, and across all disciplines and subject areas. The entries are drawn from a long list of standard biographical reference works including:

  • American Eras
  • Contemporary Authors
  • Dictionary of American Biography 


Biography of Black Composers - Selected Bibliography

*Temple University authorization only

Abdul, Raoul. Blacks in Classical Music: A Personal History. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1978.

Banfield, William. Musical Landscapes in Color: Conversations With Black American Composers.  Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2003.

Berry, Lemuel. Biographical Dictionary of Black Musicians and Music Educators. [S.l.] : Educational Book Publishers, 1978.

Carter, Madison H. An Annotated Catalog of Composers of African Ancestry. New York: Vantage Press, 1986.

Cuney-Hare, Maud. Negro Musicians and Their Music. New York: Da Capo Press, 1974.

de Lerma, Dominique-René, and Marsha J. Reisser. Black Music and Musicians in the New Grove Dictionary of American Music and the New Harvard Dictionary of Music. CBMR Monographs, no. 1. Chicago: Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College, 1989.

Donovan, Richard X. Black Musicians of America. Portland, Ore.: National Book, 1991.

Ficher, Miguel.  Latin American Classical Composers: a biographical dictionary.  Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002.

Floyd, Samuel A., ed.  International Dictionary of Black Composers.  Chicago : Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999.  Also online*, vol. 1, vol. 2.

Green, Mildred Denby. Black Women Composers: A Genesis. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1983. 

Handy, W. C.  Negro Authors and Composers of the United States.  New York: AMS Press, 1976.  

Holly, Ellistine Perkins. Biographies of Black Composers and Songwriters: A Supplementary Textbook. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers, 1990. 

Logan, Rayford W., and Michael R. Winston, eds. Dictionary of American Negro Biography. New York: Norton, 1982.

Mack, elaine.  Black Classical Musicians in Philadelphia: Oral Histories Covering Four Generations.  Little Rock, AR : Writing Our World, 2009.

 Sadie, Stanley, John Tyrrell, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed. New York: Grove, 2001. 29 v.  Also online.*

Smith, Eric Ledell. Blacks in Opera: An Encyclopedia of People and Companies, 1873-1993. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1995.

Southern, Eileen. Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982.

Thomas, Velma Maia. No man can hinder me: the journey from slavery to emancipation through Song. New York: Crown, 2001.

Walker-Hill, Helen. From Spirituals to Symphonies: African-American Women Composers and Their Music. Westport, CT : Greenwood Press, 2002.