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Black History Month – Scott Joplin

February 19, 2024

Scott Joplin (1868–1917), renowned as the “King of Ragtime,” stands as a seminal figure in American music.


Born into a musical family in Texarkana, Texas, Joplin displayed prodigious talent from an early age. By the age of 16, he was playing piano, performing in a vocal quartet, and teaching guitar and mandolin. He received formal music training, studying at George R. Smith College for Negroes and honing his skills as a composer and pianist. 

Joplin blended syncopated rhythms with classical structures. Joplin’s groundbreaking compositions include “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer.” These compositions played a pivotal role in popularizing ragtime music during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, breaking down racial barriers in the process. At a time when racial segregation was pervasive, Joplin’s success as a black composer and performer challenged stereotypes and opened doors for future generations. His commitment to elevating ragtime as a legitimate and respected genre laid the foundation for the development of jazz and other forms of American music.

Despite facing financial challenges and struggling to gain widespread recognition during his lifetime, Joplin’s legacy endured and grew exponentially after his death. His impact on music and culture is celebrated annually during Black History Month, an acknowledgment of his profound influence on American music.