• Burleigh Week 2022

    EPortrait of Harry T. Burleighrie Mayor Joe Schember and Erie City Council in 2019 declared December 2 as Harry T. Burleigh Day in the City of Erie in perpetuity. Every year since, the has made it a priority to engage the 5th-grade students of Pfeiffer-Burleigh Elementary School as we celebrate the legacy of Erie native and Father of Spirituals, Harry T. Burleigh through a range of educational opportunities.

    This year, Burleigh Week will be celebrated from November 29th – December 2nd with a short program scheduled at Pfeiffer-Burleigh on Wednesday, November 30th, that includes a presentation about Harry T. Burleigh; the impact of Charles Kennedy Jr.; and the distribution of Burleigh Week T-shirts to all students.

    Read below to learn more about the fascinating man whose name graces one of our schools. 


    Harry T. Burleigh was born in Erie, PA, on December 2, 1866, and launched a career that impacted the musical world and influenced civil rights.  He was recognized around the world as a soloist and composer. He spent the rest of his life based in New York City and performed around the globe. Burleigh was one of the first to write down and preserve the spirituals of his ancestors, including his grandfather.  In doing so, he was part of the development of pride and awareness of the rich history of African Americans. He also made contributions to the musical world of the early 1900s through his work with a genre known as “art songs. He famously worked with composer Antonin Dvo?ák and influenced his works. Burleigh was very active during the Harlem Renaissance.  He transcribed Negro Spirituals and recognized that they represented a point of pride from the time of slavery. The Spirituals as explained by Burleigh:

        “These melodies are our prized possessions”, he exclaimed. “They are the only legacy of slavery days of which we can be proud –our one priceless contribution to the vast musical product of the United States. Into this making was poured the aspiration of a race in bondage, whose religion, intensely felt was their whole hope and comfort. They rank with the great folk music of the world and are among the loveliest chant prayers”.  

    -Erie Dispatch Herald