William L. Dawson

Author: Gwynne Kuhner Brown
The musical world of a pioneering Black composer
Cloth – $110
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 08/20/2024
Cloth: 08/20/2024
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About the Book

William L. Dawson is recognized for his genre-defining choral spirituals and for his Negro Folk Symphony, a masterpiece enjoying a twenty-first-century renaissance. Gwynne Kuhner Brown’s engaging and tirelessly researched biography reintroduces a musical leader whose legacy is more important today than ever.

Born in 1899, Dawson studied at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He worked as a church, jazz, and orchestral musician in Kansas City and Chicago in the 1920s while continuing his education as a composer. He then joined the Tuskegee faculty, where for 25 years he led the Tuskegee Institute Choir to national prominence through performances of spirituals at the opening of Radio City Music Hall, on radio and television, and at the White House. The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski premiered Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony in 1934.

Engaging and long overdue, William L. Dawson celebrates a pioneering Black composer whose contributions to African American music, history, and education inspire performers and audiences to this day.

* Publication of this book was supported by grants from the Henry and Edna Binkele Classical Music Fund and the General Fund of the American Musicological Society..

About the Author

Gwynne Kuhner Brown is a professor of music at the University of Puget Sound.



“Gwynne Kuhner Brown has given us an excellent book chronicling the life of one of America’s greatest composers. The thoughtful research into his education and career provides a stunning account that is easy to understand.”--Marques L. A. Garrett, editor of The Oxford Book of Choral Music by Black Composers