A Guide to the African American Sheet Music Collection, 1879-1940.
The term African American music is given to the range of music and musical genres that evolved from or were influenced by African American culture. The polyrhythmic songs of enslaved Africans merged with multiple cultural traditions, including polka, waltzes, classical music, and religious works. The influence of African American music began in the 19th century. During the 1830s Second Great Awakening, the slaves began to develop Spirituals and other Christian music, often serving to conceal messages of subversion or signals to escape. After the Civil War, the migration of freed slaves and African Americans spread the evolving African American music across the nation.
By the 20th century, the United States had established several symphony orchestras and major opera companies. American composers had developed a new style that separated them from their European counterparts, and the field of music education started taking shape. Although barred from participating in the newly established orchestras and companies, black musicians could attend music schools and conservatories, some created in the 1910s to cater to aspiring black musicians. Major cities witnessed the formation of black symphony orchestras, opera and musical companies. The four decades following the turn of the century gave rise to ragtime, blues, and jazz as popular musical styles, led by masters such as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington. The decades following World War II would move these musical styles into mainstream culture.
Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History, 3rd edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.
The African American Sheet Music Collection, 1879-1940, contains music composed by African Americans or about African American themes. There are several examples of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) music. Many of the items feature full-color artistic covers. Notable persons include: Louis “Satchmo” “Pops” Armstrong, Count Basie, Bo Diddly Bates, Duke Ellington, Jimmy Johnson, Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fats Waller.
This collection is open for research use.
African American Sheet Music Collection, 1879-1940, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers