Undine Smith Moore, a granddaughter of slaves, had a musical childhood in Virginia. She began piano lessons at age 7 and later in life recalled memories of community singing and praying at Morningside Baptist Church. She attended Fisk University and was the first Fisk graduate to receive a scholarship to The Juilliard School in New York City.
Called the “Dean of Black Women Composers, Moore was both a composer and renown professor of music. Her compositions, many of which were choral music, were inspired by Black spirituals and folk music.
Moore was a professor music at Virginia State University for over 40 years. She was a strong advocate for the promotion of Black music and art and said they could be used as “a powerful agent for social change.” To increase her students’ knowledge of the history of Black music she established the Black Music Center at Virginia State.