Why June is African-American Music Appreciation Month

Dollita Okine June 13, 2023
Jazz musicians performing on the French Quarter, New Orleans at Mardis Gras Photo Credit: LA - Shutterstock -269107886

When President Jimmy Carter made the declaration for Black music month back in 1979, his aim was to set aside a month to honor the great impact of Black music in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

According to NCTE, although the President made the proclamation, it did not take effect until years later, as he had not yet signed a unique presidential proclamation that would approve the celebration. However, through the intervention of popular journalist and community activist, Daya Williams, it was officially authorized and brought into effect.

She submitted a petition to President Bill Clinton in 1998, to hold a Black Music Month event in the White House, but was notified that the absence of a presidential proclamation would make it impossible for the program to be organized.

Williams did not flinch or back down from her cause; with the help of Congressman, Chaka Fattah, she lobbied for legislation to approve the commemoration. Two years later, the duo emerged victorious and June was officially declared as Black Music Month.

Since 2000, each and every subsequent president after Clinton signed a presidential proclamation, annually recognizing June as Black Music Month.

Nine years later, President Barack Obama renamed the occasion African-American Music Appreciation Month, according to National Today.

Many years after its inception, the month of June has been marked to honor the contributions of African American artists, composers, and musicians in American culture.

During this month, the rich African and American customs that ushered in genres like hip-hop, jazz, rhythm and blues, rap, swing, and barbershop are brought to light and given the honor they deserve.

Black music has significantly impacted America’s cultural background, bringing generations together and playing a significant role in crucial events such as the Civil Rights Movement.

This year, President Biden’s Proclamation on African-American Music Appreciation Month paid homage to “Legends of American music who have composed the soundtrack of American life.” According to him, their creativity has given rise to distinctly American art forms that influence contemporary music worldwide and sing to the soul of the American experience.

The president added that much of Black music is rooted in African rhythms, together with the experience of slavery and struggle in America. He further explained that Black people were banned from expressing themselves in their native tongues, which caused the enslaved people to invent a language to express their hopes, dreams, sense of loss, and persistence to overcome the distressing nature of their lives.

“This month, we celebrate the songs and artists that challenge us to think critically, stand up to justice, and believe in ourselves. We recommit to expanding the promise of dignity and opportunity for all Americans. And we revel in the sounds, spirit, and soul of some of the very best music ever created,” he said.

National Day Calendar suggests that during the month of June, one should immerse in Black music, make new discoveries, and revisit forgotten ones.

Here is how Black Music has evolved over the years:

The Blues (the foundation of almost all Black music) came about in the late 1800s, and was birthed from the racial oppression and difficulties Black people faced in those times.  Pioneers of the blues include Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith.

Rhythm and Blues (R&B) emerged between 1916-1960; according to the Music Forward Foundation. R&B is a combination of blues, jazz, boogie-woogie, as well as gospel. The songs reflected urban environments through amplified sounds, social concerns, and cultural pride.  This also introduced rock ‘n’ roll.

Soul Music emerged in the 1960s, and is a combination of some elements of blues and gospel. The genre was popular during the time of the Civil Rights Movement. Aretha Franklin “Queen of Soul” was deeply involved in the Movement and used her voice to impact the nation. Funk music appeared to bring back energy and inspired hope in American society.

Rap came about later in the late 70s and early 80s and was born from combinations of the blues, R&B, soul, jazz, and funk. Most early-day rappers focused their music on the harsh realities of life in the inner cities. Through this, street or hip-hop was born.

Today, Black music genres continue to significantly influence cultures even outside America. It has indeed proven itself to be an integral part of our world today.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: June 13, 2023


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