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Sun, 10.22.1854

James Bland, Composer born

James Bland

This date marks the birth of James A. Bland in 1854. He was a Black entertainer and composer, born in Flushing, New York.  Beginning with a banjo purchased by his father, he began performing professionally by age 14.   His father was among the first blacks to graduate from Oberlin College in 1845.

He was educated in Washington, D.C., where he graduated from Howard University in 1873.  He became a performer in minstrel shows, achieving his greatest success in Britain between 1882 and 1901.

He wrote more than 700 songs, mostly for minstrel shows, among them "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," chosen in 1940 as the state song of Virginia, "In the Evening by the Moonlight," and "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers." Bland spent the latter years of his life in poverty and obscurity.  Bland was one of the best-known Black composers for the theatrical entertainment called the minstrel show.   He died in 1911 in Philadelphia.

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