James Alan Bland (also known as Jimmy Bland) (12 October 1854 ? 6 May 1911) was an African American musician and song writer. He was one of 8 children born in Flushing, New York to a free family before the abolition of slavery in the United States. Beginning with an eight-dollar banjo purchased by his father, he was performing professionally by age 14.
Bland was educated in Washington, DC and graduated from Howard University in 1873. He wrote over 700 songs, including "In the Evening by the Moonlight," O Dem Golden Slippers and "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny", published in 1878, which, in a slightly modified form, was the official State Song of Virginia from 1940-1997.
Often called 'The World's Greatest Minstrel Man', Bland toured the United States, as well as Europe. Beginning in 1881, he spent 20 years in London before returning to the United States.
James A. Bland spent his later years in obscurity and poverty and died of tuberculosis in 1911. James A. Bland is buried at Merion Memorial Park, Bala Cynwyd, Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County Pennsylvania. The Lions Clubs of Virginia erected a marker on his previously unmarked grave in 1946.
The Lions Clubs of Virginia sponsor a music contest for school students called the 'Bland Contest' in honor of James A. Bland. The Annual Bland Music Scholarships Program was established in 1948 to assist and promote cultural and educational opportunities for the musically talented youth of Virginia.
James Bland was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. A housing project in Flushing is named after him. It is called Bland Houses
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