Child prodigy and famed pianist
Philippa Duke Schuyler photographed by Carl Van Vechten.
August 2, 1931
in New York, her father, George S. Schuyler, was a well-known Black American writer. Her mother, Josephine Cogdell, came from a wealthy white Texas ranching and finance family. Schuyler was raised in a strict environment that stressed the importance of intelligence, education,
artistic expression and a diet of raw food. In her early years, newspaper and other articles wrote about her prodigal development as she crawled at four weeks, walked at eight months, read at two years, and played the piano at age three. At age four, Schuyler could spell four-letter words and was playing piano (her own compositions) on radio. She had a measured IQ of 180 at age seven, graduated from elementary school at age ten, had written over 100 compositions by thirteen, and for that birthday, completed “Manhattan Nocturne,” her first orchestra work, scored for 100 instruments. The New York Philharmonic performed this piece during the last performance of the Young People’s Concert season (1944-45). After graduating
high school at age fifteen, Schuyler wrote “The Rhapsody of Youth” in honor of the inauguration of Haitian president Paul Magloire. She was knighted for this and gave command performances for the
Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. She was a devoted Catholic, fluent in several languages, and a writer of several books. She began a career in journalism as a news correspondent just before her death. Philippa died on May 9, 1967 in a helicopter accident in Vietnam, where she had gone as a reporter.