AboutHumanitarianLeonard Bernstein's Black America

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WQXR Features


Host Terrance McKnight takes us through Leonard Bernstein's Black America, a one-hour radio documentary about his earliest, transformative memories of the iconic American conductor-composer and Bernstein's career-spanning personal campaign for racial justice.

Leonard Bernstein's exploits as the prolific conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the composer for West Side Story, and as one of the preeminent, media-savvy cultural ambassadors of the 20th century are well documented. What is less appreciated is that he marched in Selma with Harry Belafonte, he brought black conductors to Tanglewood in the '50s and in the '60s integrated the Philharmonic by hiring violinist Sanford Allen. To raise money for civil rights organizations, he also hosted jazz in the afternoon at his house, and when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, he called for André Watts to play Beethoven at the memorial.

Leonard Bernstein's Black America explores the critical history of Bernstein's contributions to American culture and classical music, and celebrates the centennial of his birth.