Melodic Biography: Women Musicians of Color (Part One)

November 17, 2018

Each fall in Savannah, Georgia, classical musicians from all over the world gather for the Colour of Music Black Classical Musicians Festival. Inspired by the man many have dubbed “The Black Mozart,” slave-trade era composer Chevalier de Saintes-Georges, they pay tribute to black excellence in music, especially chamber ensemble players.

In the spirit of #ColourofMusicFestival, we have compiled a reading list centered on accomplished musicians of color – women, specifically – and their manifold contributions. As in so many areas, the achievements of women of color have been underplayed, sidelined, and relegated to the marginalia of history. Some names will be familiar to many parents and a few kids, while others may be completely new. Such is the beauty of modern juvenile non-fiction!

For the next few weeks, Mia Learning’s blog will be shedding the spotlight on several of these titles at a time. Here is our master list:

  1. Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  2. When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson, the Voice of a Century by Pam Munoz Ryan
  3. Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers
  4. Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage by Alan Schroeder
  5. She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper, Seminole Tribe Leader by Jan Godown Annino
  6. Sophisticated Ladies: The Great Women of Jazz by Leslie Gourse
  7. Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown
  8. Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm by Karen Deans
  9. Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist by Gina Capaldi
  10. Odetta, the Queen of Folk by Samantha Thornhill
  11. The Little Piano Girl: The Story of Mary Lou Williams by Ann Ingalls
  12. Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song by Gary Golio
  13. Mama Africa!: How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with Her Song by Kathryn Erskine
  14. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell
  15. Coretta Scott King by Kathleen Krull
  16. The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford
  17. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle
  18. Who Was Selena? by Max Bisantz
  19. Who Was Aretha Franklin? by Nico Medina
  20. Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs
  21. Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford
  22. Nina: Jazz Legend and Activist Nina Simone by Alice Brière-Haquet
  23. Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford

  24. Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood


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