Black Virtuosos and Civil Rights: Racial Desegregation of the Concert Hall and Opera Stage after World War II


ACLS Fellowship Program


Music and American Studies


In the decades immediately after World War II, African-American virtuosos of classical music joined the battle for civil rights by challenging racial segregation in the largely white world of concert performance. This study probes their collective experiences, confronting racial silences in existing histories of the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic. Chosen for their diverse professional odysseys, the project focuses on the singers Marian Anderson, Reri Grist, Robert McFerrin, Leontyne Price, and William Warfield, and the conductor Everett Lee, Jr. While New York City is the study’s primary site, because of the impact of European exile and the artistic validation and political pressure that resulted from international tours with the State Department, its scope is global.