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Robert Cole

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Detail from "Pliney come out in the moonlight" (New York : J.H. Remick and Co., c1910. ). African-American Sheet Music, 1850-1920, American Memory, Library of Congress.

This post is abridged from a biography written by James Wolf, Digital Conversion Specialist, Music Division, for African-American Band Music & Recordings, 1883-1923 in the Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Read the entire article here.

Robert Allen Cole was born on July 1, 1868, in Athens, Georgia, the son of former slaves. Like Will Marion Cook and James Reese Europe, he became one of the most important composers of his generation, creating a model for other African-American musicians and composers. By 1891 Cole was a member of Jack’s Creoles, a black minstrel company based in Chicago. Within two or three years, however, Cole began to hammer out his own vision of black theater. Cole has been referred to as  ”the single greatest force in the middle period of the development of black theatricals in America.” Although he is still not well known today, history bears out much of Johnson’s claim. Cole was one of the handful of truly pioneering black composers and performers of his time.

Comments (3)

  1. Is Nat King Cole related to him?


  2. Thank you Pat for these articles in your blog. They give us a place to start for a wonderous journey of learning, without which we may have never heard of these wonderful composers.

  3. Gloriak, I’m not aware of any relation to Nat “King” Cole. John, thanks for the comment!

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