William Grant Still

Symphony No. 1 (“Afro-American”)

            Still was a pioneer for African-Americans in “classical” music composition; he was the first American Black man in practically everything having to do with conducting and composing for symphony orchestras and opera companies.  The scion of a distinguished family, he was a descendent of the famous 19th-century abolitionist, William Still.  While more fortunate members of the family bought their freedom or escaped north, his immediate family was left behind in slavery in the southernmost isolated county in Mississippi (south of Natchez).  He was born in Woodville, Mississippi in 1895 to a remarkable woman, who took him out of that agrarian obscurity to Little Rock, Arkansas, where she went on to teach high school for many decades.  She and his stepfather gave him great encoura