Award Date

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Committee Member

Alfonse Anderson

Second Committee Member

Linda Lister

Third Committee Member

David Weiller

Fourth Committee Member

Jennifer Grim

Fifth Committee Member

Nate Bynum

Number of Pages



The book Unsung Americans Sung was first published in 1944 by the Handy Brothers Publishing Company. With over 30 contributors and edited by William C. Handy, this book explores the great abolitionists of the eighteenth century and the climate of Negro culture during that moment in time. The book includes poetry, illustrations, children’s songs, choral works, scenes from major works, and art songs. Handy was not only offering his opinion of the Negro of the time, but he was creating a book that would add these freedom fighters and generational torchbearers into the archives of every American. Sadly, this glimpse in time and culture was recorded but not illuminated to the masses in a manner for its importance to be truly felt. With this in mind, the context of discovery should be that of a musical and cultural exploration of Unsung Americans Sung, specifically highlighting the art songs that have been collected in the book. Although other music (specifically children’s pieces and choral works) exist in the book, it is the art songs that give an idea of the struggle and triumph that exist for people of color.

The purpose of this paper is to introduce and highlight the stand-alone art songs that exist in the book Unsung Americans Sung. The focus on this document will be on the works composed by W.C. Handy and collaborators of Unsung Americans Sung. This document will present the art song, some musical and vocal aspects, along with commentary about overall mood and style within each piece. Although W.C. Handy is popularly referred to as the ‘Father of the Blues’ this book holds some of Handy’s classical compositions and works. There are other composers such as Margaret Bonds and Ismay Andrews both who have works in this book and will be highlighted in this document.

Unsung Americans Sung is a comprehensive book full of topics for discussion and exploration. And although this paper will not cover all of the aspects of this important book, it offers a glimpse into the continued study of W.C. Handy’s works and the different dimensions of musical development that exist within the African-American culture.


African American; Art Song; Classical; Voice; W.C. Handy


Education | Music

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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