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  • Writer's pictureJohn Michael Cooper

The Tombstone’s Tale (2)

This post is an update to my post of March 26, 2023.

As I noted there, in 1912, two years after the death of Dr. James H. Smith, father of Florence Price, her mother, Irene Gulliver Smith, left Arkansas for good, cutting all ties with the family and spending the rest of her life passing as White. She eventually married a White Ohio widower named John A. Bartram. Mr. Bartram died in 1945, and the new Ms. Bartram died in 1948.

A shared marker is on their grave.

When I wrote my post on March 26, the eventual Ms. Bartram’s daughter, the great African American composer Florence B. Price (1887 or 1888-1953) had no marker on her grave. That earlier post expressed my offense that Price’s mother had been able to “purchase” the dignity of having her final resting place marked by denying her race, while Price herself, who never denied her race and made her pride in it clear in many ways, was afforded no such dignity.

But her indignity is now past: there is a marker on the grave of Florence B. Price, composer. It was facilitated by Price afficionados Maria Voultsides and Brian Johnson, and was designed and approved by Florence Price’s family. Here is a screenshot of the text of the post Maria put on Facebook today after learning that the authorized marker was finally in place:

And finally, here’s the reward for your having read all this: the photo Maria posted of this marker. Price died seventy years ago, so this is seventy years too late – but it is for that reason all the more welcome, and all the more beautiful:

For those who wish to visit, the grave of Florence B. Price, composer, no longer unmarked, is in Lincoln Cemetery, Blue Island, Cook County, Illinois.

Thank you, Ms. Price, for all the beauty and strength, music and wonder you brought to your own world and to ours.

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