African Americans have weaved together musical tapestries from various genres as a contribution to America’s soundtrack. This month, the National Museum of African American Music joins the rest of the country in celebrating Black Music Month.
Since the end of the 70s, the United States has celebrated and appreciated contributions from Black musicians, singers, composers, and songwriters. Historically rooted in rich African traditions, music has transformed through the decades in genres including gospel, blues, jazz, swing, rhythm and blues, to hip-hop.
Inspired to celebrate music and a growing art form, Grammy winner Kenny Gamble of the infamous Gamble & Huff producing team, Cleveland radio DJ Ed Wright, and artist development/media strategist, and NMAAM board member Dyana Williams, are the founders of what is now known as Black Music Month. In an interview with Billboard, Gamble explained why it was so important to have a month designated to celebrate music. “It was time for something new and more inclusive of all black music industry professionals. The Country Music Association (CMA), which established October as Country Music Month, was a model we looked at. Under the Black Music Association (BMA) banner, we created four divisions: marketing/merchandising, record company executives, communications (DJs, TV executives/personalities and journalists) and entertainers/artists). The independent industry was collapsing into the major companies and they [Columbia, Warner, RCA] and others saw the viability of black music, “Gamble said. “Initially, Black Music Month started as an economic program more than anything else. We picked June as the time when we could concentrate on recognizing and celebrating the economic and cultural power of black music as well as those who made and promoted it.”
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter designated June as Black Music Month, but moving forward, the designation did not become official until 2000. Dyana Williams explained what happened in her interview with Billboard. “After writing President Bill Clinton in 1998 to invite him to host a Black Music Month event at the White House, I was informed that while President Carter had declared June as Black Music Month, he did not sign a presidential proclamation. The White House suggested that I lobby Congress to obtain that legislation. Congressman Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia became my primary champion in introducing the African American Music Bill to the House of Representatives. I contributed to the draft language and ultimately we were victorious in securing the passage of House Resolution 509,” Williams said.
Black Music Month quickly became the stage to celebrate the huge imprint of African Americans on music across the country and the world. The National Museum of African American Music is doing its part by being the only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of the many music genres created, influenced, and inspired by African Americans. NMAAM also took a look back at the state of Black music in this video: