The Hidden Brookline History of Roland Hayes

Roland Hayes Concert March 15

You’ve probably the heard of the great Marian Anderson and the great Paul Robeson but do you know who was the first African American concert performer of international fame that paved their way? Do you know that this ground-breaking musician was also a courageous champion against segregation and racism? Do you know that he lived on Allerton Street on Pill Hill for almost 50 years?

Roland Hayes, who grew up poor in Georgia, became one of the premier tenors of all time and was an inspired composer. He performed classical music at the highest level but he is best known for elevating Negro spirituals and what he called “Aframerican” religious music to the concert stage.

Throughout his life he used his fame to break barriers in our country and abroad. He was the first African American soloist with the Boston Symphony, gave a command performance at Buckingham Palace and even won over an overtly racist audience in prewar Germany by the sheer force of his voice. At a time when racial oppression was rampant he demanded that his audiences be desegregated. In 1924 the NAACP awarded him their highest honor, the Springarn medal.

Despite his stellar achievements and long dignified career this amazing man has not achieved the long-lasting recognition that he deserves. If you could hear his music, performed as he did so many times around the world, you would feel its power to move people to change.

The Hidden Brookline Committee, an ad hoc committee of the town’s Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations Department, wants to bring the music of Mr. Hayes and the story of his inspiring life to those who have not heard.

At 3 pm on Sunday, March 15, “A Tribute to Roland Hayes” will commemorate the art and legacy of this extraordinary force in American music history with a concert at historic Christ’s Church Longwood in Brookline. Presented by Hammond Real Estate and emceed by the always-engaging Reverend Liz Walker, this event promises to deliver a memorable afternoon of music and storytelling. Featuring the BSO’s eminent vocalist Robert Honeysucker, the program will also include the Joyful Voices of Inspiration Choir, the Brookline High School Camerata, Wenc Bogdanoff and a short film.

Admission is free but reservations are required because seating is limited. For more info contact Rob Daves or Betsy Shure Gross at

Go to to make a reservation. Seats are going fast.