Browse Topics



A King Celebration 2003

Timeline: Dr. King and African-American Music

Jan. 15 - Martin Luther King is born in Atlanta.

Premiere of Afro-American Symphony by William Grant Still, Rochester, NY. (CD recording: Chandos CHAN9154)

James P. Johnson composes the Harlem Symphony. (CD: MusicMasters 01612-67140-2)

Death of Sisserita Jones, African-American concert artists, who was one of the most sought-after operatic performers of her time.

Todd Duncan, first black singer at the New York City Opera, also creates the role of Porgy in a Broadway production of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, New York. (CD: MCA MCAD-10520)

Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial after being banned by the Daughters of the American Revolution from Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

Dean Dixon, one of the first black Americans to conduct a major orchestra, makes his debut with the NBC Symphony.

Duke Ellington inaugurates a series of annual concerts at Carnegie Hall with Black, Brown, and Beige.

King graduates from Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Sixteen-year-old double bassist Henry Lewis debuts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is believed to be the first African-American named to a permanent position with an American orchestra.

King marries Coretta Scott - a voice major at The New England Conservatory in Boston.

King assumes pastorship of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

Dr. King receives a Ph.D. in theology from Boston University.
Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up her bus seat.

Dr. King leads a successful non-violent protest against segregated public transportation. The boycott lasts 12 months.

Marian Anderson makes her debut with the Metropolitan Opera, becoming the first African American ever to sing with the opera company.

Paul Robeson resumes an international career with a concert at Carnegie Hall after being blacklisted in the early 1950s as a communist sympathizer.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is founded, with Dr. King as its president.

Dr. King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech to several hundred thousand people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington, D.C. for civil rights.

Sixteen year-old pianist André Watts appears in a New York Philharmonic Young People's Concert, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

Dr. King and 770 marchers are arrested in Selma as they protest Alabama's voter registration laws. Dr. King is released five days later. The protest continues, and on March 7, five hundred demonstrators are attacked by Selma police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as they begin a march to Montgomery.

Dr. King receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, on December 10.

Dr. King is assassinated April 4 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where he was leading a strike by the city's sanitation workers.

Henry Lewis conducts the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in a bombed-out Newark building in the wake of riots following King's assassination. Henry Lewis was given the post of permanent musical director of the New Jersey Symphony. He was the first black man to be appointed to that position with a professional orchestra in the United States.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem, founded in 1968 by Arthur Mitchell, is incorporated.

Scott Joplin becomes the first African-American to receive the Pulitzer Prize, awarded posthumously for his opera Treemonisha. In 1975, Gunther Schuller orchestrated the work for a fully staged production by the Houston Grand Opera. (CD - Deutshe Grammophon 2-435709-2 GX2)