Without doubt, the history of American popular music is the history of Black experience in the United States. From the banjo (one of America’s earliest popular instruments) to Hip Hop, popular music has been continually informed by the cultural resilience, ingenuity, and genius of the African American community in the face of enormous injustice.
The lesson collection below highlights the intersections of music and black experience in America, from slavery to the Civil War to abolition to Reconstruction and sharecropping to the Great Migration to Southern integration. The collection also focuses on the various social movements initiated by the Black community, from Civil Rights to Black Power to Black Lives Matter. In addition, a pair of lessons explore the establishment of the Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday – both the legislative process and Stevie Wonder’s long-lasting musical contribution to the successful public campaign. Finally, several lessons focus on prominent African American writers and artists such as Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Gordon Parks.