Over the course of history there have been countless individuals whose lives intersected with activism and social justice. Most have engaged that work with a very local approach, while others have done it with a more global perspective, with one of them, being a Black composer from England.

Hi there – I’m Garrett McQueen, and on this edition of NoteWorthy I’d like to shine a light on a social justice minded composer named Samuel Coleridge Taylor.

He was born in London in 1875 to an English mother and a father from Sierra Leone. After being introduced to the violin at an early age, Samuel Coleridge Taylor’s musical talents quickly became apparent, and he’d grow up to WOW audiences across Europe, and eventually, here in the US.

While visiting America, he would become more and more interested in his African heritage, and he collaborated with Black scholars of the day to help inspire a similar sense of curiosity for Black folk not only in the United States, but around the world! This piece, titled Danse Negre, is a great example of how his unique activism manifested musically.

Samuel Coleridge Taylor was only 37 years old when he died of pneumonia in 1912, but his work as a composer AND as an activist inspired the formation of many organizations that continued his work for decades to come, earning him a spot as one of history’s most noteworthy composers.

Pictured: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor by Unknown author, restored by Adam Cuerden – United States Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs, Public Domain.