2024 African American Music Appreciation Month Reading List

Created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, this month celebrates the African American musical influences that comprise an essential part of our nation’s treasured cultural heritage. Let’s dig in with some of our newest and well-loved books and journal articles!

South Side Impresarios: How Race Women Transformed Chicago’s Classical Music Scene

Samantha Ege

The women who put Chicago’s Black classical music on a cultural map of their own making.

Jazz and Culture 

“‘We Dem Folks . . . To Be Continued’: Disrupting the Negative Social Imagery of African American Youth Through a Close Study of the To Be Continued Brass Band Across Screen Media” by Marvin McNeill 

In this article, McNeill attempts to disrupt the stereotypical “negative social imagery” of African American male youth projected in mainstream culture through a critical study of mass-mediated images of TBC, one of the prominent brass bands in New Orleans. He engages four pieces of film, all recorded in New Orleans in 2010, which amplify the voices of young African American brass band musicians and their plight in keeping their culture alive. How can screen media highlighting a Black cultural history rooted in a strong tradition and legacy work as a powerful disruptive force?

Dancing the Politics of Pleasure at the New Orleans Second Line

Rachel Carrico

An inside look at second lining’s importance to community, spirit, freedom, and home.

American Music 

“The Art of the Black Feminist Scholar-Performer” by Samantha Ege 

In the anniversary issue of American Music, Ege discusses her scholarship on African American women’s contributions to classical music in the era of the Black Chicago Renaissance, as well as her recent recording project Black Renaissance Woman: Piano Music by Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Nora Holt, Betty Jackson King, and Helen Hagan. As Ege writes, “The art of the Black feminist scholar-performer encompasses the conviction that there is a history of classical music (i.e., Western art music) to be told both from a Black woman’s vantage point and the subsequent dialogue between research and repertoire.” 

William L. Dawson

Gwynne Kuhner Brown

The musical world of a pioneering Black composer.

The Journal of Aesthetic Education  

“Signifying the Sound: Criteria for Black Art Movements” by Corey Reed 

Reed proposes the following questions: (1) What were the conditions that created a signifiable Black art movement? (2) Do we have an art movement happening currently? (3) What might be the underlying purpose behind having such a movement? He identifies current musicians such as Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, Rapsody, and Jidenna, as well as major movies and television shows, that are confronting current, Africana issues while pushing aesthetic boundaries. With the magnitude of artifacts being produced with this intention, Reed asserts that there is, arguably, a Black art movement developing. 

Union Divided: Black Musicians’ Fight for Labor Equality

Leta E. Miller

An in-depth account of racial segregation within the American Federation of Musicians.

Ink: The Indelible J. Mayo Williams

Clifford R. Murphy

The first-ever biography of an overlooked but epic life.

Journal of American Folklore 

Bernice Johnson Reagon—In Celebration of Her Eightieth Birthday (October 4, 1942): A Preliminary Inquiry and Invitation to New Generations of Activist Scholars for Further Research by James Counts Early and Amy Horowitz  

Early and Horowitz discuss the work of Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, historian, folklorist, ethnomusicologist, composer, song leader, and more. Be sure to check out the response essays as well, a few of which specifically focus on her own music and her work promoting Black music heritage and scholarship: 

Playing the Changes: Jazz at an African University and on the Road

Darius Brubeck and Catherine Brubeck

The transformative power of jazz.

About Kristina Stonehill