Thursday, July 26, 2012

Justin Holland, African American Guitarist, Arranger & Composer Born July 26, 1819

[Justin Holland (Photo Courtesy Douglas Back)]

On April 7, 2012 AfriClassical posted:
Virginia approves historical marker for Justin Holland (1819-1887), African American Classical Guitarist & Composer. That must be the most important development in the latest year of the history of Justin Holland. Dr. Barbara Clemenson and Dr. Kim Perlak made favorable comments by email. During the year we also posted, on February 24, 2012: Donald Sauter: “Final batch of 'Scraps From The Operas For Two Guitars By Justin Holland' on YouTube”.
“Justin Holland was born to free black parents in Norfolk County, Virginia on July 26, 1819," Barbara Clemenson writes in her article Justin Holland: Black Guitarist in the Western Reserve. Guitarist Douglas Back has made a recording which includes five works of the composer, American Pioneers of the Classic Guitar, Mento Music Press SMM 3023 (1994). It can be ordered at his website,

The CD liner notes by Douglas Back tell us of two separate periods during which Justin Holland was a student at Oberlin College in Ohio, first for a year in 1841, when he was 22, and later for a shorter time in 1845. Douglas Back writes: “After returning to Oberlin in 1845, Holland married and soon moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he established himself as a teacher of guitar, mandolin, piano and flute, becoming the city's first black professional.” “Between the years 1848 and 1854 Holland participated as an assistant secretary and member of council at National and State Negro Conventions, where he worked alongside such noted activists as Frederick Douglass. He is known to have worked with the Underground Railroad...”

The liner notes continue: “Although Holland seldom performed in public, he developed a national reputation as a composer and arranger for the guitar. To the average amateur guitarist of the day, his numerous arrangements made his a household name. Of his approximately 350 published works for the guitar, which include two acclaimed methods, only about one-third are extant.” “Justin Holland died at his son's home in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 24, 1887. His son, Justin Minor Holland and daughter, Claire Monteith Holland were also accomplished guitarists...” [Justin Holland is profiled at]

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