Music History

What Is African American Music Appreciation Month?

By Hoffman Academy Team

On June 6, 2000, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Resolution 509. This officially named the month of June as African American Music Appreciation Month.

Recognizing the importance of African-American music to global culture and calling on the people of the United States to study, reflect on, and celebrate African-American music.

H. Res. 509

However, AAMAM was in the works for decades before that! In the 1960s, Philadelphia natives Dyana Williams and Kenny Gamble lobbied the White House. They believed that a month should be dedicated to the legacy of African American music. Their efforts paid off. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter set June as Black Music Month. In 2009, President Barack Obama officially renamed it African American Music Appreciation Month.

Why Celebrate African American Music?

African American music helped shape American history, influencing everything from the music we hear today to the Civil Rights movement!

America was the birthplace for many genres of music, including jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. Both have deep roots in the African American community. Throughout the 20th century, these genres also helped change the cultural landscape. When tragedies hit the nation, music brought people comfort, hope, and a way to express difficult emotions.

African Americans overcame struggle and segregation to perform music and share their voices and perspectives. Their music also changed the minds and hearts of people around them, making it an important part of the Civil Rights movement.

“I think African-American music, and jazz in particular, has done a great deal to mollify [race relations]. …I think it’s done a fair share of making people see humanity rather than skin color.”

Sonny Rollins, Grammy Award-winning saxophonist

A VERY Brief Guide to the History of Black Music

First came the Blues, rooted in African spirituals and work songs sung by enslaved persons. Through this music, people continued musical traditions from their home continent and resisted violence. Then ragtime brought recognition to musicians like Scott Joplin. The rise of jazz in the 1920s brought an art form enjoyed by people of all origins.  Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and more pushed social and cultural boundaries with their jazz music. Today beloved greats, they overcame segregationist policies to perform their music in venues where they faced discrimination.

The beats and sounds of these genres then influenced rock, soul, gospel, swing, be-bop, boogie-woogie, and so many more! Many famous rock artists, including the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, credit the Blues and jazz as major influences. Several of Elvis Presley’s songs were stolen from Black artists. In more recent decades, funk, motown, and hip-hop gained popularity, bringing with them new styles of dance and song.

A Month of Music

This June, Hoffman Academy is joining the celebration with five special blog posts! We’ll highlight a few of the many influential African Americans who shaped American music. This is by no means a complete list and we plan to add more as time goes on.

  • Classical Creators: Black musicians in the Classical realm, including Florence Price, Scott Joplin, William Grant Still, Audra McDonald–and more!
  • Blues & Jazz Geniuses: The rise of jazz. Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, and Ella Fitzgerald
  • Funk & Motown Masters: Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, and Martha & the Vandellas
  • Rock and Roll Royalty: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jimi Hendrix, Tina Turner, and Prince
  • Pop Divas: Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé

Check out our Spotify playlist featuring hits from these artists and others. Be sure to come back next week for more of African American Music Appreciation Month with Hoffman Academy!

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