Harry T. Burleigh

Monday Feb 1st, 2021

Born and raised in Erie, Harry T. Burleigh graduated from Erie High School in 1887. While working at the Colby Piano Company in Erie as a stenographer, he practiced the piano in his off hours. In 1892, he traveled to New York City where he auditioned for the Conservatory of Music and made the acquaintance with famed composed Anton Dvorak. Burleigh is remembered for his work performing and reworking traditional spirituals such as “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and others born of the slave experience. Burleigh is considered as a savior of most of the spirituals we know today, and is one of the most influential figures in American music. Enjoying a national and international performance career, he remained the soloist at New York’s St. George’s Episcopal church. In spite of his many achievements in his musical career, and an impressive funeral service, he has buried in and unmarked grave in White Plains, New York in 1949. In 1994, Burleigh was “reinterred with appropriate ceremony in the Erie Cemetery.” (Snyder, Jean. Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance)