Leontyne Price came from humble, but promising beginnings. She’d been surrounded by music since her mother’s stroller lullabies in her hometown of Laurel, Mississippi. By age five, she’d already begun musical training – but somehow many still doubted her greatness.
After a field trip to see singer and civil rights activist Marian Anderson perform, a teenage Price knew she had to carry the baton. Jim Crow segregation was at its peak, and she was a Black woman in the white-washed opera world, so it wouldn’t be easy.
She had to sing for segregated audiences, but refused to compromise who she was. When she sang spirituals, it was always in her Southern accent. Price once explained that her Blackness gave her a natural flavor and something unique that no one else had.
When she took the Metropolitan Opera stage in 1961, she brought down the house with velvety vocals. Her debut night was a success. She helped shatter the remaining racial barriers in opera and received a 40-minute standing ovation!
The Opera world never expected a Black woman would come and shake things up. Like Price, when navigating white spaces, we must never shrink ourselves to appease them. We can remain true to our Blackness and still come out on top!