African Americans Montclair
George Walker, seen here at a special reception held in his honor at MPL in 1971, was a celebrated classical composer and pianist. Mr. Walker was the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for music, winning the award in 1996 for “Lilacs.” In addition to composing, Walker taught at Rutgers University–Newark; his appointment as music professor was what initially brought him to Montclair in 1969. COURTESY MONTCLAIR PUBLIC LIBRARY

For Montclair Local

“History & Heritage” is a series on Montclair history, written by representatives of the Montclair History Center and the Montclair Public Library. Molly Hone is head of adult services at the Montclair Public Library. She enjoys helping library customers with the many different questions and research needs they have every day. When not at the library,


she likes to read mystery novels and spend time with her dog, Penny.

As we celebrate Black History Month this February, we can look no further than our own backyard for inspiration. Montclair has been, and still is, home to countless African Americans who have made indelible contributions in the areas of art, politics, religion, science, and more on a local, national, and international level.

Our historic image collection contains thousands of photographs of Montclair people,

places, and events. Here are just a few images that we have of notable African American Montclair residents, but there are many more, and I encourage readers to take some time to explore the photograph collection yourself as well as our African American Resource Guide.




All except one of these photographs, and additional biographical information, appear in the book “Legendary Locals of Montclair” by Elizabeth Shepard and Mike Farrelly, a volume of brief biographies of important Montclair residents. The book was published in 2013 by Arcadia Publishing (ISBN: 978-1-4671-0053-3). There are copies available for review on the second floor.   

To see more historic photographs, visit Montclair History Online at To see more archival material, contact the library to make a local history appointment at or 973-744-0500 x2235. The Montclair Public Library is at 50 South Fullerton Ave.; the Bellevue Brance is at 185 Bellevue Ave. They are open 24/7 online at