Margaret Bonds was an American composer and pianist. One of the first black composers and performers to gain recognition in the United States, she is best remembered today for her frequent collaborations with Langston Hughes.
Bonds worked as an accompanist for dances and singers in various shows and supper clubs around Chicago; she also copied music parts for other composers, and became involved with the National Association of Negro Musicians.
Among Bonds’ works from the 1950s is The Ballad of the Brown King, a large-scale work originally for voice and piano, but later revised for chorus, soloists, and orchestra.
As an outgrowth of her compositions for voice, Bonds later became active in the theater, serving as music director for numerous productions and writing two ballets. She also wrote several music-theater works, including Shakespeare in Harlem to a libretto by Hughes; this premiered in 1959. In 1965, at the time of the Freedom March on Montgomery, Alabama, Bonds wrote Montgomery Variations for orchestra, dedicating it to Martin Luther King, Jr..