Friday, August 11, 2017

Trailblazers in Black History: Francis "Frank" Johnson

Francis Johnson was a celebrated Philadelphia composer and bandleader.  Primarily known as a bugler, Johnson also performed on the violin. Born in Martinique, West Indies, Johnson moved to Philadelphia around 1809. Abolitionists in that city had created an atmosphere where many Black people lived in relative freedom.  

The publication of Johnson's Collection of New Cottillions, about 1818, brought widespread notice. He developed a school of Black musicians, and was the first to give formal band concerts.  

By the 1820s, Johnson was a successful leader of bands, and dance orchestras for which his musicians substituted string instruments. He toured the nation with his band, and was the first American to take an ensemble to Europe. He is often cited as the first African American to have his music published, and the first to participate in integrated concerts. 

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