New Exhibition Showcases Black Composers

Cover and sheet music for The Negro Speaks of Rivers

For the past decade, the Booth Family Center for Special Collections has been collecting the works of prominent African-American classical composers and performers with the goal of documenting, preserving, and making accessible the works of these artists whose influence on classical music remains largely overlooked by musicologists and the general public today.

A new exhibition, “Till Victory is Won: Black Classical Composers and the American Canon,” features materials from the Library’s collections on Margaret Bonds, William B. Cooper, Noel Da Costa, Mark Fax, and Ruth Norman–all individuals who made impactful contributions to their local communities and the greater world of classical music. Items on display include handwritten manuscript copies of their works, album covers, programs, newspaper clippings, writings, and photographs, which provide context for both their musical output and their lives as Black composers and performers.

The exhibition is on display in the Leon Robbin Gallery in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections on Lauinger Library’s fifth floor through September 30.