Margaret Allison Bonds was an American composer and pianist born in Chicago, Illinois. Her father, Monroe Alpheus Majors, was a civil rights activist, writer, campaigner and one of the first Black physicians in the American southwest. The Bonds’ family home was frequently visited by America’s leading black artists, musicians and intellectuals so Margaret developed a political consciousness early on in her life. She began composing and playing the piano at the age of 5, and later studied at Northwestern University and the Julliard School of Music.

Whilst living in New York, Bonds maintained an active career as a concert pianist and teacher, and set up and took part in initiatives to showcase the work of other black musicians. She achieved commercial success in 1939 when her adaption of “Peach Tree Street” appeared in the classic Hollywood movie, Gone With the Wind, but her most important works were composed in the 1950s, often setting to music the work of her friend, the poet Langston Hughes.

In her works, Bonds sought to challenge negative perceptions of African American identity in favour of celebrating the beauty in blackness. As a cultural ambassador for racial uplift, she strongly believed that art should be for and of all people: “Music has to be human, and people have to like it; it has to move them spiritually and intellectually.”

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BMH #5, Back to School #8, GRC4 #10

Minutes by Margaret Bonds