On this day February 15, 1968
Henry Lewis became the first African American to lead a symphony orchestra in the United States.
He gained national recognition in 1961 when he was appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta, a post he held from 1961-1965. In 1968 he became the conductor and musical director of the New Jersey Symphony, transforming the group from a small community ensemble into a nationally recognized orchestra. He was the first African-American to lead a major symphony orchestra.