The Life and Music of Florence B. Price (1887–1953)

This is the inspiring story of a gifted woman’s triumph over prejudice and preconceptions | (Photo courtesy of U of Arkansas Libraries – Special Collections Department).

Born in 1887 in Little Rock, Arkansas to extraordinary parents, Florence Beatrice Smith Price became the first African-American woman whose music was performed by major symphony orchestras. In 1933 the famous Chicago Symphony performed her ‘Symphony in E minor‘ at the World’s Fair. There are over 200 Price’s compositions, photos and a commentary that are recently discovered which are now part of the Florence Price collection at the University of Arkansas. She composed songs for the great singer Marian Anderson who sang Price’s music at the Lincoln Memorial performance in 1939 – a watershed moment in civil rights history.


The poet Paul Laurence Dunbar used the metaphor of a “caged bird” for the oppression of black Americans [excerpt] by Er-Gene Kahng.

Her father, James H. Smith, was the first black dentist in Chicago – but after the great Chicago fire he relocated to Arkansas. He was more than a great dentist, he also held many patents, had a painting exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and was the author of two novels. After an appalling lynching in Little Rock near her home, the Price family moved to Chicago and here she met and collaborated with important figures in the ‘Black Renaissance‘ including Langston Hughes and Katherine Dunham.