From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Barbour, James Bernie

(born: 1881  -  died: April 11, 1936) 

J. Bernie Barbour was born in Danville, KY, and it was thought that he died in New York. Barbour actually died in Chicago, IL, on April 11, 1936 [his name is misspelled as "Bernie Barfour" on the death certificate ref# rn11543], and his burial is noted with Central Plant Ill. Dem. Assn. Barbour was an 1896 music education graduate of Simmons University (KY), and he graduated from the Schmoll School of Music (Chicago) in 1899. Both he and N. Clark Smith founded a music publishing house in Chicago in 1903; it may have been the first to be owned by African Americans. Barbour also worked with other music publishing companies, including the W. C. Handy Music Company. He was a music director, and he played piano and sang in vaudeville performances and in nightclubs and toured with several groups. He composed operas such as Ethiopia, and spirituals such as Don't Let Satan Git You On De Judgment Day. He assisted in writing music for productions such as I'm Ready To Go and wrote the Broadway production, Arabian Knights Review. Barbour also organized the African American staff of Show Boat. J. Bernie Barbour was the son of Morris and Nicey Snead Barbour. He was the husband of Anna Maria Powers, they married May 29, 1909 in Seattle, WA [source: Washington Marriage Record Return #15629]. According to the marriage record, Anna M. Powers was a white or colored musician from New York.

For more see Profiles of African American Stage Performers and Theatre People, 1816-1960, by B. L. Peterson; Who's Who in Colored America, 1928-1929; and "J. Berni Barbour" in Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians, by E. Southern.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Boyle County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Danville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Barbour, James Bernie,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 18, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-09 13:47:37