Jester Joseph Hairston

HAIRSTON, Jester Joseph. b. Belews Creek, North Carolina, 9 July 1901; d. Los Angeles, California, 19 January 2000. A composer, arranger, singer, conductor, and actor, Hairston was one of a few African Americans whose compositions, conducting, and teaching transformed African American spirituals into a prominent genre of American music. He composed more than 300 choral spirituals.  Hairston, the grandson of enslaved Africans, was born in the South, but moved to Pittsburgh as a child where his extended family worked in steel mills for several generations. Through a scholarship from his Baptist church, he enrolled as a student in landscape design at Massachusetts Agricultural College (now...

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