Florence B. Price was a composer whose career spanned both the Harlem and Chicago Renaissances, and the first African American woman to gain national recognition for her works. This June, we’re delighted to publish Rae Linda Brown’s biography, The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price. Few read a biography without at least a little prior knowledge about the biographical subject, so before you dive in, here are five things you should know about Florence Price.
Florence Price was the first African American woman composer to have her symphony performed by a major orchestra.
- Symphony No. 3 in C. Minor is the symphony Rae Linda Brown first heard, sparking her interest in writing about Price in 1979.
Florence Price grew up a part of the Black elite in Little Rock, Arkansas in the Reconstruction Era of the late-nineteenth century.
- She moved to Chicago after the Jim Crow laws were put into place.
- Her maternal grandparents were part of the small percentage of free blacks in the antebellum south, and they could read and write.
- Her mother was a pianist, singer and businesswoman while her father was a dentist.
Florence Price was the first African American composer to be represented through the Illinois Federation of Music Clubs and the first black member of both the Chicago Club of Women Organists and the Musicians Club of Women.
- Colorism was a factor in Price’s success. She was let into these places on account of her lighter skin color. Race and sex discrimination in the world of composition hindered her opportunities as well.
- These clubs supported women as they struggled to gain recognition in professional fields, such as composers, that were exclusive to men.
The Heart of a Woman by Rae Linda Brown is the first biography of Florence Price.
- Radio 3, a BBC classical station, did a broadcast of her works for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018.
- Florence Price was a private person but was open about sharing her music.
- Florence Price wrote over 300 works for a variety of instruments but some are missing because of poor historical preservation. Symphony No.4 was just recovered recently. There is no official count of all of her works.
Florence Price was a music teacher before becoming a composer.
- Florence Price started writing Symphony in E minor while she was in college at The New England Conservatory of Music.
- She went back to Little Rock, Arkansas after college to teach music from 1906-1912 because of a strong sense to serve her community.
- Florence Price did not get back to writing her symphony until 20 years later, and by then she had moved to Chicago.
Learn more about the revolutionary African American woman composer Florence Price, in the biography The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price by Rae Linda Brown.