Mary Violet Leontyne Price was born on February 10, 1927, in Laurel, Mississippi, to James Anthony Price, a carpenter, and Kate Baker Price, a midwife with a beautiful singing voice. Price showed an interest in music from a young age and was encouraged by her parents. After beginning formal music training at age 5, she spent much of her time singing in the choir at St. Paul Methodist Church in her hometown.
Renowned for her early stage and television work, Price made her opera stage debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1957, and her debut at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House in 1961. One of the first African-American singers to earn international acclaim in the field, Price became known for her roles in Il Trovatore, Antony and Cleopatra and Aida, before retiring from the opera in 1985.
Soprano Leontyne Price became one of the first internationally recognized African-American opera stars. Price became one of the first African-American singers to gain an international reputation in opera, and as such she enjoyed the luxury of being selective with her roles throughout the 1970s. She chose to perform in opera productions less frequently during that period, focusing mainly on recitals.
In September 1964, the then 37-year-old Price was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Lyndon B. Johnson. Two decades later, in 1985, she became a National Medal of Arts recipient. Throughout her career, Price's recordings earned her numerous honors, including more than a dozen Grammy Awards.
Leontyne Price established an impressive legacy, achieving stardom as a woman of color during a time of segregation in America and in a profession where limited opportunities existed for someone with her background.