African Americans Music History

June 22, 2021  |  Marco Frazier

African Americans in the Art of Music


African Americans have made significant contributions to the art of music in many genres. From gospel legends Shirley Ceasar, to Motown legends Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and many more. The Bay Area has also produced many legends from Oakland born artist Sheila E., to rap/hip hop artists Too Short, M.C. Hammer, Digital Underground, and R&B artist Goapele.


Seeing the need to have the accomplishments of African American music and its musicians recognized, music producer Kenny Gamble and broadcast executive Ed Wright, crafted an idea of celebrating the contributions of African Americans musicians to the art of music while also taking black music globally. Their efforts resulted in President Jimmy Carter proclaiming June as Black Music Month.


History of African American Music


The music of African Americans can be traced back to the days of slavery. In the fields as slaves were working you could hear them singing songs to pass the time. These songs were a way for them to share their life stories. Many slave owners began to forbid their workers from using their own languages to chant or use drums. Owners believed this was a form of communication, getting the message out to other slaves about impending escapes or insurrections.


One musical genre that has roots back to the days of slavery is gospel music. As slaves became Christians, a religion forced upon them, they began singing hymns later termed spirituals. These spirituals later evolved into gospel music.  With the abolition of slavery, a new form of music began to emerge.  Free blacks found themselves expressing their disappointment in a post-slavery society. This genre became known as the blues.


The African American Museum and Library at Oakland not only has numerous archival collections that include oral histories of Bay Area musicians, but also library materials relating to African Americans in the field of music.

Link Text  Diana Ross and the Supremes