Timeline of African American Music

Cultural Resources

The immense contribution of African American musicians to the global music scene is undeniable. This list of resources offers additional information to expand awareness, appreciation, and knowledge.

Digital Resources

Founded in 1997, this is the home of interchange between performers and scholars interested in art song by African-American composers. Here you will find information and links to assist with your discovery of our contribution to song.


A companion to africlassical.com, a website on African heritage in classical music.


The African Diaspora Music Project was founded as a research tool to help singers find art songs for performance and The George Shirley Vocal Competition. It was released in its vocal format with nearly 4,000 titles in 2019. In 2021, a new version was released that added more than 1,000 orchestral scores in a format usable by conductors and players. The latest iteration that includes recordings, perusal scores, instrumental and chamber music, and curated lists by trusted orchestral conductors was released in 2022.  


AM Publishers and the Performing Arts Exchange are a unique source for a variety of works, including conductor scores, orchestra parts, miniature scores, MP3s and CDs available for rent or purchase. AM Publishers is a non-profit member of the Intercultural Music Initiative.


The mission of the Black Opera Alliance is to empower Black classical artists and administrators by exposing systems of racial inequity and under-representation of the African diaspora in all facets of the industry and challenging institutions to implement drastic reform.


BlackPast.org is dedicated to providing the inquisitive public with comprehensive, reliable, and accurate information concerning the history of African Americans in the United States and people of African ancestry in other regions of the world. It is the aim of the founders and sponsors to foster understanding through knowledge in order to generate constructive change in our society.


​Castle of our Skins is a Black arts institution dedicated to fostering cultural curiosity and celebrating Black artistry through music. In classrooms, concert halls, and beyond, Castle of our Skins invites Black heritage and culture exploration, spotlighting both unsung and celebrated figures of past and present.


CelloBello.org is free, accessible to everyone, providing world-class lessons, masterclasses, interviews, and interactive live-streamed chats with renowned artist-teachers from the solo, chamber music, orchestral, and teaching professions.


The Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) highlights the role of black music in world culture with materials originating or representing black music from the United States, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Latin America, in a variety of formats: personal papers, scores, sheet music, audio-visual materials, photographs, oral histories, books, periodicals, and commercial recordings.


Classically Black Podcast shows listeners the world of classical music through the eyes of Dalanie and Katie: two Black classical musicians on the rise looking to share their perspective with a new and interesting twist. Classically Black Podcast centers Black voices and challenges ideas of what the field of classical music looks like. Additionally, by including humor and references to popular culture, the hosts aim to make classical music more approachable to listeners who are not classically trained.


The International Society for Black Musicians (ISBM) is an organization for Black musicians. ISBM is dedicated to the advocacy of Black musicians and their work in the scholarship of music. ISBM strives to be the connective tissue between musical artists throughout the diaspora in their multifaceted forms.


The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, films and video, audio recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Library preserves and provides access to a rich, diverse and enduring source of knowledge to inform, inspire and engage you in your intellectual and creative endeavors. 


Music by Black Composers (MBC) was born from the realization that young musicians learning classical music seldom, if ever, have the opportunity to study and perform music written by Black composers. MBC aims to make the music of Black composers available to all people regardless of background or ethnicity.


The National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. is this country’s oldest organization dedicated to the preservation, encouragement, and advocacy of all genres of the music of Black Americans. NANM had its beginning on May 3, 1919 in Washington, D.C. at a temporary initial conference of “Negro” musicians under the leadership of Henry Grant and Nora Holt. Its first national convention was held in Chicago, Illinois in the same year.


The Spirituals Database offers searchable access to recorded track information for concert Negro Spiritual settings performed by solo Classical vocalists. The resource contains a selection from a century of historic and contemporary concert spiritual recordings produced on compact discs, long-playing (33 1/3 rpm) albums, 78 rpm records, 45 rpm discs, audio cassettes and streamed audio files, as well as demonstration recordings from musical score collections.



Melanated Moments in Classical Music, the award-winning podcast from Classical Music Indy, shines a spotlight on musical works composed by, for, and about Black people. Melanated Moments is hosted by international opera soprano Angela Brown and music sociologist Joshua Thompson. Angela and Joshua’s chemistry is electric, balancing fun, lively commentary with no-nonsense straight talk. Telling history like it is, Angela and Joshua share a deep commitment to being a voice for Black artists as Black artists.


Vintage House on WNUR is the premiere on-air radio show and podcast dedicated to illuminating and preserving the lives, music, and careers of #HouseMusic legends. Hosted by House Music Pioneers DJ Lori Branch and Kevin “Mega” McFall. Lori Branch is one of Chicago’s first woman DJ’s and Kevin McFall was the first PR professional dedicated solely to Chicago’s House Music Pioneers!


College Archives & Special Collections

Ball State University Libraries supports the university’s mission and enduring values by creating transformative experiences for diverse communities of learners through excellent resources, expert research assistance, dedicated study and learning spaces, and innovative services and technologies for knowledge discovery and dissemination, lifetime learning, and community engagement.


Carnegie Mellon University Libraries empower faculty and student scholars with the resources they need to succeed in today’s information-driven society, such as access to high-quality data and the expertise to curate and share their research.


College Archives & Special Collections (CASPC) serves as the designated repository for records of Columbia College Chicago and collections of select rare books, publications, and manuscripts which support College curricula in a student-centered environment, document and disseminate the narrative legacy of the College and weaves Columbia College Chicago into the culture of the city and the world


The Sibley Music Library of the Eastman School of Music is the largest music library affiliated with any college or university in the United States. With holdings of nearly three-quarters of a million items, the Library offers vast resources for performance and research.


Established in 1991, the Archives of African American Music and Culture (AAAMC) is a repository of materials covering a range of African American musical idioms and cultural expressions from the post-World War II era. The collections highlight popular, religious, and classical music, with genres ranging from blues and gospel to R&B and contemporary hip hop. The AAAMC also houses extensive materials related to the documentation of Black radio.


Temple University Libraries & the University Press nourish and sustain the academic enterprise through instructional and service engagement with the learning environment to aid students in the exploration and discovery of new ideas and the development of informed critical thinking and the dissemination of ideas and culture through publishing, events, outreach, and collaborative programming with academic and community partners.


The Juilliard School is a world leader in performing arts education. The school’s mission is to provide the highest caliber of artistic education for gifted musicians, dancers, and actors, composers, choreographers, and playwrights from around the world so that they may achieve their fullest potential as artists, leaders, and global citizens. A dedicated group of studio faculty chairs and other leaders in the Music Division joined together to create Music by Black Composers: An Introductory Resource, a document that seeks to expand knowledge and build a more inclusive approach to repertoire.


The Harrison Libraries provide services and resources that support teaching, learning, research, and creativity at the University of Hartford. We foster intellectual curiosity, scholarly integrity, and critical inquiry. We incorporate principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, belonging, and justice into the work we do.


For more than 125 years, the University of Texas Libraries have committed to building one of the greatest library collections in the world. Maintaining more than 10 million volumes and providing access to the latest digital journals, databases and web resources, the Libraries collects and preserves the finest achievements of human knowledge in support of not only research and instruction needs, but also the exploration of ideas and intellectual innovation.


Music Festivals

The mission of Gateways Music Festival is to connect and support professional classical musicians of African descent and enlighten and inspire communities through the power of performance. Approximately 125 musicians–players in major symphony orchestras, faculty from renowned music schools and conservatories, and active freelance artists–participate in each Festival.


Cultural Institutions

The American Jazz Museum is dedicated to public service and collaborative efforts to expand the influence, awareness, and appreciation of jazz among the widest demographic of people across the Kansas City region, as well as among those based in various locations worldwide.


The Delta Blues Museum is dedicated to creating a welcoming place where visitors find meaning, value, and perspective by exploring the history and heritage of the unique American musical art form of the blues.


The DuSable Museum is proud of its diverse holdings that number more than 15,000 pieces and include paintings, sculpture, print works, and historical memorabilia. Special exhibitions, workshops, and lectures are featured to highlight works by particular artists, historical events, or collections on loan from individuals or institutions.


Founded in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards—former Motown Records executive and sister to Motown founder, Berry Gordy—Motown Museum is home to iconic Hitsville USA, Studio A, and an extensive array of Motown artifacts, photographs, apparel, and memorabilia.


Noted as one of the nation's premier heritage and cultural museums, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, is steadfast in its mission to share the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement and explore how this significant era continues to shape equality and freedom globally.


The mission of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem is to preserve, promote, and present jazz by inspiring knowledge, appreciation, and the celebration of jazz locally, nationally, and internationally. We tell the truth about jazz and fuel our mission through four core programs: Education; Jazz &… (Community Engagement and Performance); Exhibits and Collections; and Partnerships and Collaborations.


The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture. It was established by an Act of Congress in 2003, following decades of efforts to promote and highlight the contributions of African Americans. To date, the Museum has collected more than 40,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 individuals have become members. The Museum opened to the public on September 24, 2016, as the 19th museum of the Smithsonian Institution.


The National Museum of African American Music is the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the many music genres created, influenced, and inspired by African Americans. The museum’s expertly curated collections share the story of the American soundtrack by integrating history and interactive technology to bring the musical heroes of the past into the present. 


The New Orleans Jazz Museum celebrates jazz in the city where it was born. Through dynamic interactive exhibits, multigenerational educational programming, research facilities, and engaging musical performances, the music New Orleans made famous is explored in all its forms. Through partnerships with local, national, and international educational institutions, the New Orleans Jazz Museum promotes the global understanding of jazz as one of the most innovative, historically pivotal musical art forms in world history. 


The Northwest African American Museum is an anti-racist, pro-equity, affirming gathering place of hope, help, and healing for the entire Northwest region that is building intergenerational cultural wealth. At the heart of the African American experience in the Northwest is the story of our journey to this region, the establishment of our vibrant community, and the ways in which we have survived. To tell this ever-unfolding story, the Museum’s exhibitions and programs feature the visual arts, music, crafts, literature, and history of African Americans in the Northwest. The Museum has its own choir, the African American Cultural Ensemble (ACE), created during the racial reckoning of 2020 and early 2021.


The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem is one of the world’s leading cultural institutions devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. As a research division of The New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center features diverse programming and collections spanning over 11 million items that illuminate the richness of global Black history, arts, and culture.


The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is the world’s only museum dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of Stax Records and American soul music. Located on the original site of the Stax Records studio in Memphis, Tennessee, the Stax Museum pays special tribute to the artists who recorded there, as well as other American soul legends, with interactive exhibits, films, stage costumes, musical instruments, vintage recording equipment used at Stax, records, photographs, permanent and changing galleries, and a rare and amazing collection of more than 2,000 items of memorabilia and artifacts.


The Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx celebrates and preserves the history of local and global hip hop music and culture to inspire, empower, and promote understanding. Anchored in the birthplace of the culture, the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx will provide a space for audiences, artists, and technology to converge, creating unparalleled educational and entertainment experiences around the hip hop culture of the past, present, and future. 


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The Timeline of African American Music by Portia K. Maultsby, Ph.D. presents the remarkable diversity of African American music, revealing the unique characteristics of each genre and style, from the earliest folk traditions to present-day popular music.

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Jessye Norman

Carnegie Hall’s interactive Timeline of African American Music is dedicated to the loving memory of the late soprano and recitalist Jessye Norman.

© 2008 Richard Termine

Special thanks to Dr. Portia K. Maultsby and to the Advisory Scholars for their commitment and thought-provoking contributions to this resource.

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The Timeline of African American Music has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. The project is also supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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