Florence Beatrice Price was born in 1887 in Little Rock, Arkansas. A mixed-race child, her family was well respected despite the racial issues of the time. Florence was taught music by her mother, and made her piano performance debut at the age of 4.
By the age of 11, Florence had published her first composition. Three years later, she graduated high school at the top of her class and enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music to major in piano and organ. While there, she wrote her first string trio and symphony. She graduated with honors in 1906, and soon moved to Atlanta, Georgia. She became the head of Clark University’s music department at the age of 23, but soon married and moved back to Arkansas. After a series of racial incidents in her town, she moved to Chicago to study composition, orchestration, and organ. She also studied various languages and liberal arts subjects while composing and published her works.
After divorcing her husband, Florence used her musical talent to support herself and two daughters. She eventually achieved national recognition for her compositions and performances in collaboration with Margaret Bonds. In 1932, she won first prize at the Wanamaker Foundation Awards for her Symphony in E minor and third for her piano sonata. Her symphony premiered in June 1933, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and making her piece the first composition by an African-American woman to be played by a major orchestra.
Florence continued composing and publishing works, many of which were played by other symphony orchestras. In 1940, she was inducted into the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. She died in 1953.
Featured above is her Symphony in E Minor: 1.