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Roland Hayes was born on this date in 1887. He was a Black concert singer.
A native of Georgia, and the son of ex-slaves, his family moved to Tennessee when he was thirteen. He obtained his basic music training in Chattanooga and in Nashville. Later he studied in Boston and in London. Hayes began singing in public during his student days and in 1911, he toured with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Seizing every opportunity to sing before an audience, Hayes arranged his own recitals, including Jordan Hall and Symphony Hall in Boston. He organized several coast-to-coast tours and became well known in American Black communities.
Though a success, he was not a financial success, and like many American artists before him, Roland Hayes headed for Europe. There, slowly but surely, he became known in many circles. He was invited to sing before the King and Queen of England. Upon returning to America, he performed throughout the western world and enjoyed an international reputation as a concert tenor during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
Hayes taught at Ohio State University and received numerous awards for outstanding contributions in music and the betterment of Blacks and all people. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP and he was the first Black male to win acclaim in America and Europe as a philharmonic singer. Roland Hayes died in 1977.
Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History
Volume 1, ISBN #0-02-897345-3, Pg 175
Jack Salzman, David Lionel Smith, Cornel West
Photo: Carl Van Vechten