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Summer Reading 2021: African American Music Appreciation

Discover new things to read this summer!

Ebooks

book cover image - illustration of a banjo with roots and branches sprouting from it, as if from a tree

Banjo Roots and Branches

The story of the banjo's journey from Africa to the western hemisphere blends music, history, and a union of cultures. In Banjo Roots and Branches, Robert B. Winans presents cutting-edge scholarship that covers the instrument's West African origins and its adaptations and circulation in the Caribbean and United States. The contributors provide detailed ethnographic and technical research on gourd lutes and ekonting in Africa and the banza in Haiti while also investigating tuning practices and regional playing styles. Other essays place the instrument within the context of slavery, tell the stories of black banjoists, and shed light on the banjo's introduction into the African- and Anglo-American folk milieus. 

book cover image - a music conductor leads a group of musicians

Blue Rhythm Fantasy

Behind the iconic jazz orchestras, vocalists, and stage productions of the Swing Era lay the talents of popular music's unsung heroes: the arrangers. John Wriggle takes you behind the scenes of New York City's vibrant entertainment industry of the 1930s and 1940s to uncover the lives and work of jazz arrangers, both black and white, who left an indelible mark on American music and culture. Blue Rhythm Fantasy traces the extraordinary career of arranger Chappie Willet--a collaborator of Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, and many others--to revisit legendary Swing Era venues and performers from Harlem to Times Square. 

book cover image - photos of churches and Gospel music performers

Downhome Gospel

Jerrilyn McGregory explores sacred music and spiritual activism in a little-known region of the South, the Wiregrass Country of Georgia, Alabama, and North Florida.  In this region African Americans maintain a social world of their own creation. Their cultural performances embrace some of the most pervasive forms of African American sacred music--spirituals, common meter, Sacred Harp, shape-note, traditional, and contemporary gospel. Moreover, the contexts in which they sing include present-day observations such as the Twentieth of May (Emancipation Day), Burial League Turnouts, and Fifth Sunday. Rather than tracing the evolution of African American sacred music, this ethnographic study focuses on contemporary cultural performances, almost all by women, which embrace all forms. 

book cover image - portrait of Duke Ellington

Dvorák to Duke Ellington

Drawing upon a remarkable mix of intensive research and the personal experience of a career devoted to the music about which Dvorak so presciently spoke, Maurice Peress's lively and convincing narrative treats readers to a rare and delightful glimpse behind the scenes of the burgeoning American school of music and beyond. In Dvorak to Duke Ellington, Peress begins by recounting the music's formative years: Dvorak's three year residency as Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York (1892-1895), and his students, in particular Will Marion Cook and Rubin Goldmark, who would in turn become the teachers of Ellington, Gershwin, and Copland. We follow Dvorak to the famed Chicago World's Fair of 1893, where he directed a concert of his music for Bohemian Honor Day.

book cover image  - photo of a musician on stage

Icons of R&B and Soul

Drawn from a mosaic of influences, including folk, gospel, and blues, R&B represents both everything that came before and nothing that was heard before. This is the music that bridged the gap between audiences and helped, at the very height of racism in America, to dismantle racial barriers. So much of today's music is derived directly from the highly influential and critically important sounds of R&B that without it we would have never known the classic soul of the late '50s and '60s, the glory days of the genre. Similarly, rock n' roll as seen through the eyes of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley would have never evolved without the foundation laid by their R&B predecessors. Through substantial entries on the chief architects and innovators, Icons of R&B and Soul offers a vibrant overview of the music's impact in American culture and how it reflected contemporary society's politics, trends, and social issues. 

book cover image - A group of Katherine Dunham Dancers shown in mid rehearsal in New York, 1946

Listening for Africa

In Listening for Africa David F. Garcia explores how a diverse group of musicians, dancers, academics, and activists engaged with the idea of black music and dance's African origins between the 1930s and 1950s. Garcia examines the work of figures ranging from Melville J. Herskovits, Katherine Dunham, and Asadata Dafora to Duke Ellington, Dámaso Pérez Prado, and others who believed that linking black music and dance with Africa and nature would help realize modernity's promises of freedom in the face of fascism and racism in Europe and the Americas, colonialism in Africa, and the nuclear threat at the start of the Cold War. In analyzing their work, Garcia traces how such attempts to link black music and dance to Africa unintentionally reinforced the binary relationships between the West and Africa, white and black, the modern and the primitive, science and magic, and rural and urban.

book cover image - musician Curtis Mayfield on stage with a guitar

Move on Up

In Move On Up, Aaron Cohen tells the remarkable story of the explosion of soul music in Chicago. Together, soul music and black-owned businesses thrived. Record producers and song-writers broadcast optimism for black America's future through their sophisticated, jazz-inspired productions for the Dells and many others. Curtis Mayfield boldly sang of uplift with unmistakable grooves like "We're a Winner" and "I Plan to Stay a Believer." Musicians like Phil Cohran and the Pharaohs used their music to voice Afrocentric philosophies that challenged racism and segregation, while Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chaka Khan created music that inspired black consciousness.

book cover image - photos of a piano keyboard, drum, and guitar

Music

This series traces the influence of African traditions on various African-American art forms. This volume discusses the evolution of African-American music from its roots in the rhythms and instruments from Africa through the development of the blues, gospel, and soul to modern rock and rap.

book cover image - a red/orange sun peeks out from dark clouds

Music of the Common Tongue

In clear and elegant prose, Music of the Common Tongue, first published in 1987, argues that by any reasonable reckoning of the function of music in human life the African American tradition, that which stems from the collision between African and European ways of doing music which occurred in the Americas and the Caribbean during and after slavery, is the major western music of the twentieth century. In showing why this is so, the author presents not only an account of African American music from its origins but also a more general consideration of the nature of the music act and of its function in human life. The author offers also an answer to what the Musical Times called the "seldom posed though glaringly obtrusive" question: "Why is it that the music of an alienated, oppressed, often persecuted black minority should have made so powerful an impact on the entire industrialized world, whatever the color of its skin or economic status?"

book cover image - decorative

The Race of Sound

In The Race of Sound Nina Sun Eidsheim traces the ways in which sonic attributes that might seem natural, such as the voice and its qualities, are socially produced. Eidsheim illustrates how listeners measure race through sound and locate racial subjectivities in vocal timbre--the color or tone of a voice. Eidsheim examines singers Marian Anderson, Billie Holiday, and Jimmy Scott as well as the vocal synthesis technology Vocaloid to show how listeners carry a series of assumptions about the nature of the voice and to whom it belongs. Outlining how the voice is linked to ideas of racial essentialism and authenticity, Eidsheim untangles the relationship between race, gender, vocal technique, and timbre while addressing an undertheorized space of racial and ethnic performance. 

book cover image - decorative

Spirituals and the Birth of a Black Entertainment Industry

Spirituals performed by jubilee troupes became a sensation in post-Civil War America. First brought to the stage by choral ensembles like the Fisk Jubilee Singers, spirituals anchored a wide range of late nineteenth-century entertainments, including minstrelsy, variety, and plays by both black and white companies. In the first book-length treatment of postbellum spirituals in theatrical entertainments, Sandra Jean Graham mines a trove of resources to chart the spiritual's journey from the private lives of slaves to the concert stage. Graham navigates the conflicting agendas of those who, in adapting spirituals for their own ends, sold conceptions of racial identity to their patrons.  

book cover image - photo collage of jazz musicians and instruments

What Is This Thing Called Jazz?

Despite the plethora of writing about jazz, little attention has been paid to what musicians themselves wrote and said about their practice. An implicit division of labor has emerged where, for the most part, black artists invent and play music while white writers provide the commentary. Eric Porter overturns this tendency in his creative intellectual history of African American musicians. He foregrounds the often-ignored ideas of these artists, analyzing them in the context of meanings circulating around jazz, as well as in relationship to broader currents in African American thought. What Is This Thing Called Jazz? challenges interpretive orthodoxies by showing how much black jazz musicians have struggled against both the racism of the dominant culture and the prescriptive definitions of racial authenticity propagated by the music's supporters, both white and black.

book cover image - photos of Gospel singers

When Sunday Comes

Gospel music evolved in often surprising directions during the post-Civil Rights era. Claudrena N. Harold's in-depth look at late-century gospel focuses on musicians like Yolanda Adams, Andraé Crouch, the Clark Sisters, Al Green, Take 6, and the Winans, and on the network of black record shops, churches, and businesses that nurtured the music. Harold details the creative shifts, sonic innovations, theological tensions, and political assertions that transformed the music, and revisits the debates within the community over groundbreaking recordings and gospel's incorporation of rhythm and blues, funk, hip-hop, and other popular forms. At the same time, she details how sociopolitical and cultural developments like the Black Power Movement and the emergence of the Christian Right shaped both the art and attitudes of African American performers. 

Print Book List

These books are available NOW for checkout via curbside/front door pickup! Click on a book cover or title for more information.

book cover image - a man in a suit and hat sits on a bench playing a guitar

The Art of the Blues

This stunning book charts the rich history of the blues, through the dazzling array of posters, album covers, and advertisements that have shaped its identity over the past hundred years. The blues have been one of the most ubiquitous but diverse elements of American popular music at large, and the visual art associated with this unique sound has been just as varied and dynamic. There is no better guide to this fascinating graphical world than Bill Dahl--a longtime music journalist and historian who has written liner notes for countless reissues of classic blues, soul, R&B, and rock albums. With his deep knowledge and incisive commentary--complementing more than three hundred and fifty lavishly reproduced images--the history of the blues comes musically and visually to life.  

book cover image - decorative

Black Bottom Stomp

Black Bottom Stomp tells the compelling stories of the lives and times of nine seminal figures in American music history, including Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton.

book cover image - a man wearing a black shirt with arms crossed is seen from the back

Can't Stop Won't Stop

Can't Stop Won't Stop is a powerful cultural and social history of the end of the American century, and a provocative look into the new world that the hip-hop generation created. Forged in the fires of the Bronx and Kingston, Jamaica, hip-hop became the Esperanto of youth rebellion and a generation-defining movement. In a post-civil rights era defined by deindustrialization and globalization, hip-hop crystallized a multiracial, polycultural generation's worldview, and transformed American politics and culture. But that epic story has never been told with this kind of breadth, insight, and style. Based on original interviews with DJs, b-boys, rappers, graffiti writers, activists, and gang members, with unforgettable portraits of many of hip-hop's forebears, founders, and mavericks.

book cover image - photograph of turntable setup above a photo of a crowd at a concert

The Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music

In 1973, the music scene was forever changed by the emergence of hip-hop. Masterfully blending the rhythmic grooves of funk and soul with layered beats and chanted rhymes, artists such as DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash paved the way for an entire new genre and generation of musicians. In this comprehensive, accessible guide, Paul Edwards breaks down the difference between old school and new school, recaps the biggest influencers of the genre, and sets straight the myths and misconceptions of the artists and their music. Fans old and new alike will all learn something new about the history and development of hip-hop, from its inception up through the current day, in The Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music.

book cover image - people are standing on stairs outside of a building entrance

Digging

For almost half a century, Amiri Baraka has ranked among the most important commentators on African American music and culture. In this brilliant assemblage of his writings on music, the first such collection in nearly twenty years, Baraka blends autobiography, history, musical analysis, and political commentary to recall the sounds, people, times, and places he's encountered. As in his earlier classics, Blues People and Black Music, Baraka offers essays on the famous--Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane--and on those whose names are known mainly by jazz aficionados--Alan Shorter, Jon Jang, and Malachi Thompson. Baraka's literary style, with its deep roots in poetry, makes palpable his love and respect for his jazz musician friends. 

book cover image - a man with a guitar stands on a stage in front of a crowd

Encyclopedia of the Blues

The popular Encyclopedia of the Blues, first published by the University of Arkansas Press in 1992 and reprinted six times, has become an indispensable reference source for all involved with or intrigued by the music. The work alphabetizes hundreds of biographical entries, presenting detailed examinations of the performers and of the instruments, trends, recordings, and producers who have created and popularized this truly American art form.

book cover image - silhouette-style illustration of person singing with their raised

Go down, Moses

Go Down, Moses is an extraordinary celebration of the most uniquely American form of music, the spiritual. Reflecting the joys and sorrows, hopes and fears of black slaves, these songs are some of the most powerful poetry ever created in America. In Go Down, Moses, the noted Harvard scholar Richard Newman has collected the lyrics to 200 spirituals, along with the music to 25 of the most popular. His thoughtful introduction and commentary place these songs within their historical context. There are folk hymns of worship; songs of social protest; songs with hidden messages about resistance and escape; and deeply personal, poignant songs about the struggles and dreams of countless slave poets. Go Down, Moses also has a provocative foreword by Cornel West, and is richly illustrated by Terrance Cummings.

book cover image - portrait of a man wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses

Hidden in the Mix

Country music's debt to African American music has long been recognized. Black musicians have helped to shape the styles of many of the most important performers in the country canon. The partnership between Lesley Riddle and A. P. Carter produced much of the Carter Family's repertoire; the street musician Tee Tot Payne taught a young Hank Williams Sr.; the guitar playing of Arnold Schultz influenced western Kentuckians, including Bill Monroe and Ike Everly. Yet attention to how these and other African Americans enriched the music played by whites has obscured the achievements of black country-music performers and the enjoyment of black listeners. The contributors to Hidden in the Mix examine how country music became "white," how that fictive racialization has been maintained, and how African American artists and fans have used country music to elaborate their own identities. 

book cover image - photo of people in a crowd with fists raised

Keep on Pushing

The marriage of music and social change didn't originate with the movements for civil rights and Black Power in the 1950s and 1960s, but never before and never again was the relationship between the two so dynamic. In Keep On Pushing, author Denise Sullivan presents the voices of musician-activists from this pivotal era and the artists who followed in their footsteps to become the force behind contemporary liberation music. Joining authentic voices with a bittersweet narrative covering more than fifty years of fighting oppression through song, Keep On Pushing defines the soundtrack to revolution and the price the artists paid to create it. 

book cover image - photograph of musicians with their instruments

Lift Every Voice

Since their enslavement in West Africa and transport to plantations of the New World, black people have made music that has been deeply entwined with their religious, community, and individual identities. It also continued to play this role in blacks' post-emancipation odyssey from second-class citizenship to full equality. Lift Every Voice traces the roots of black music in Africa and slavery and its evolution in the United States from the end of slavery to the present day. The music's creators, consumers, and distributors are all part of the story. Musical genres such as spirituals, ragtime, the blues, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock, soul, and hip-hop--as well as black contributions to classical, country, and other American music forms--depict the continuities and innovations that mark both the music and the history of African Americans. 

book cover image - collage of photographs of African American musicians

Lost Sounds

A groundbreaking history of African Americans in the early recording industry, Lost Sounds examines the first three decades of sound recording in the United States, charting the surprising roles black artists played in the period leading up to the Jazz Age and the remarkably wide range of black music and culture they preserved. Drawing on more than thirty years of scholarship, Tim Brooks identifies key black recording artists and profiles forty audio pioneers. Brooks assesses the careers and recordings of George W. Johnson, Bert Williams, George Walker, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, W. C. Handy, James Reese Europe, Wilbur Sweatman, Harry T. Burleigh, Roland Hayes, Booker T. Washington, and boxing champion Jack Johnson, plus a host of lesser-known voices. Many of these pioneers struggled to be heard in an era of rampant discrimination. 

book cover image - photograph of a youth choir dressed in white shirts and dark pants

May We Forever Stand

The twin acts of singing and fighting for freedom have been inseparable in African American history. May We Forever Stand tells an essential part of that story. With lyrics penned by James Weldon Johnson and music composed by his brother Rosamond, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was embraced almost immediately as an anthem that captured the story and the aspirations of black Americans. Since the song's creation, it has been adopted by the NAACP and performed by countless artists in times of both crisis and celebration, cementing its place in African American life up through the present day. In this rich, poignant, and readable work, Imani Perry tells the story of the Black National Anthem as it traveled from South to North, from civil rights to black power, and from countless family reunions to Carnegie Hall and the Oval Office. 

book cover image - portraits of African American musicians

Music of Black Americans

This text provides comprehensive coverage of black American music, from the arrival of the first Africans in the English colonies to contemporary developments in African-American history. The book draws on authentic documents, from colonial times to the present, to illuminate the history of black music.

book cover image - Out of Sight by Lynn Abbott

Out of Sight

A landmark study, based on thousands of music-related references mined by the authors from a variety of contemporaneous sources, especially African American community newspapers, Out of Sight examines musical personalities, issues, and events in context. It confronts the inescapable marketplace concessions musicians made to the period's prevailing racist sentiment. It describes the worldwide travels of jubilee singing companies, the plight of the great black prima donnas, and the evolution of "authentic" African American minstrels. Generously reproducing newspapers and photographs, Out of Sight puts a face on musical activity in the tightly knit black communities of the day. 

book cover image - illustration of a woman wearing a head scarf and sunglasses signing into a microphone

Rhythm Ride

From award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney comes the story of the music that defined a generation and a movement that changed the world. Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood-like Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross-to sing for his new label. Meanwhile, the country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit. From Berry Gordy and his remarkable vision to the Civil Rights movement, from the behind-the-scenes musicians, choreographers, and song writers to the most famous recording artists of the century, Andrea Davis Pinkney takes readers on a Rhythm Ride through the story of Motown.

book cover image - art deco-style illustration of two people dancing

The Visual Blues

The Visual Blues explores the enormous impact that blues and jazz music emanating from the Deep South and moving north had on artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance. The Visual Blues shows how the artists and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance blurred artistic boundaries, drawing inspiration from each other and contributing to each other's art forms. The art scene in Harlem from 1919 to approximately 1940 encouraged a melding of art, music, literature, and poetry, providing a creative haven and outlet for transcending hardships and shattering racial stereotypes. The Visual Blues features a wide range of artists, some of whom already have established reputations and art markets, and others who are under-recognized and are rarely seen publicly. The Visual Blues comprises sixty-four paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures by some of the most recognized and celebrated African-American artists of the Harlem Renaissance.