The Atlanta Music Festival has significant historical roots in its namesake city as part of an effort by First Congregational Church a century ago to unite all Atlantans through music with what was then known as the “Atlanta Colored Music Festival.” In the wake of Atlanta’s race riots in 1906, First Congregational Church, led by Pastor Henry Hugh Proctor, the congregation’s first African American Pastor, instituted programs to improve the prospects of black communities and to encourage racial harmony.
In 1910, they established the festival to celebrate African American music and, though blacks had been refused admittance to Atlanta’s opera week, to invite the white community to experience the high cultural attainments of African Americans. Concert planners brought in performers of international stature, including singer-composer Harry T. Burleigh, soprano Anita Patti Brown, concert violinist Joseph Douglas, and the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Proctor and First Church’s initiatives, together with those of other black and white leaders, were the first steps in creating avenues for discourse that five decades later would help Atlanta shed the legacy of Jim Crow.
More than a century later, the mission of the Atlanta Music Festival still fulfills Proctor’s vision—affirming contributions of African Americans to arts and culture and deepening understanding of what it means to be American.
First Congregational Church UCC is sponsoring this event and invite others from the UCC to attend. This year’s festival will present music performed by two Atlanta University Center Choirs, the Meridian Chorale, and the First Church Chancel Choir at First Congregational Church’s 150th Anniversary Celebration.