Saturday, January 12, 2008

Defining Moments in Black History

CAPT George N. Thompson Commanding Officer/Leader

In 1990, Captain Thompson became the first African-American to be commissioned Bandmaster in the history of the United States Navy.


"The Pittsburgh Courier" (8/25/34, page5, section1) says that Alton Augustus Adams "has the distinction of being the first... and only...colored bandmaster in the US...having served in that capacity for over 17 years...Born at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, forty-five years ago...under the sign of Scorpio...Began the study of music at the age of nine...had private teachers...and took a correspondence course in harmony from the University of Pennsylvania under Dr. Hugh A. Clarke."


Augustus Granville Dill, sociologist, musician and Business Manager of The Crisis, was born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1881. Dill received his B. A. from Atlanta University in 1906, and a second B. A. from Harvard University in 1908. Dill returned to Atlanta to receive his M. A. in 1908. It was during this second period in Atlanta that Dill became a student of W. E. B. DuBois. In 1910, Dill became an Associate Professor of Sociology after DuBois resigned his position to establish The Crisis, the NAACP's monthly magazine. In 1913, DuBois convinced Dill to join him as Business Manager for The Crisis. Dill worked for DuBois for 15 years, until 1928. After Dill's resignation, he never returned to teaching; his love for music and performing took precedence in his life.

Augustus Granville Dill's most important professional activity was his early involvement in the NAACP and The Crisis. Dill died in Louisville, Kentucky on March 10, 1956. Source:

DIXON, DEAN (1915-1976)

According to the African American Registry, Dean Dixon (b. New York City) "led the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra as their first African American in 1941. In the following years, he was also guest conductor of the Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Symphony Orchestras"


Other references:


....Conducts his first opera, "Tales of Hoffman" (by Jacques Offenbach), Chicago Defender, 2/6/43

.....Interview. 2/16/43. LWO 5833 GR13 5A4 (see: Broadcasts)



According to an article published in "The Black Perspective in Music" (Autumn 1981), W. Rudolph Dunbar (1907- ?) was the first black man to conduct the London Philharmonic (1942), the Berlin Philharmonic (1945), the Festival of American Music in Paris (1945), orchestras in Poland (1959), and in Russia (1964), and the first to promote in Europe the compositions of black composers, particularly those of William Grant Still.

Other references -so far- from my own clippings file:

.....British Guianan musician, conductor of top rank, Chicago Defender, 1/30/43
.....Invited to lead the London Symphony, Chicago Defender, 1/30/43
.....See also:

Joseph H. Dickinson

Joseph H. Dickinson was born on June 22, 1855.

He attended school in Detroit MI, and began working for the Internal Revenue Service at the age of fifteen. By the time he was seventeen years old, he obtained a position with Clough & Warren Organ Company. In 1880, he married Eva Gould of Lexington, and two years later formed the Dickinson-Gould Organ Company with his father-in-law.

This new company manufactured parlor and chapel organs. It also sent a large chapel organ to a New Orleans exhibition in order to demonstrate the progress African Americans in manufacturing. In addition, an organ he designed was awarded a prize at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Source: Richings, G.F. Evidence of Progress Among Colored People. Chicago: AFRO-AM PRESS, 1969.