In 1911 Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha, the first black folk opera written by a black composer, was first performed in private. A talented musical composer, Joplin (c. 1868–1917) was born in northeastern Texas. Around 1875 the family relocated to Texarkana, Texas. By the late 1880s Joplin had settled in St. Louis and later in Sedalia, Missouri. He studied at George R. Smith College in Sedalia. Joplin established himself as a composer of instrumental rags. His first major success was “Maple Leaf Rag,” which earned him the title “King of Ragtime.” He worked with several publishers but changed frequently in search of better terms. In 1913 he established his own publishing company. After his first major success, Joplin continued to compose. His works included the full-length ragtime opera, A Guest of Honor (1903), and Treemonisha (written in 1910 and published a year later), and Magnetic Rag (1914). He moved from St. Louis, where he had settled again, to New York City in July 1907, and earned his living as a composer and teacher. After he died, he was remembered for little more than “Maple Leaf Rag” until the 1960s, when he was rediscovered, and his work became the score for the movie The Sting. On January 28, 1972, Treemonisha premiered in Atlanta and was well-received. For his contribution to American music, in 1976 Joplin received a special Bicentennial Pulitzer Prize.
Scott Joplin, the “King of Ragtime,” also wrote the first black folk opera, Treemonisha.