Black Music Month

June is Black Music Month, a time dedicated to honoring and celebrating the rich legacy and profound influence of Black musicians across all genres.

This month, our library is thrilled to present a special display that highlights the contributions of Black artists to the world of music. Our display offers a curated collection of books and visual materials that pay homage to the pioneers, legends, and contemporary stars who have shaped the soundscape of modern music in South Carolina - from pioneering artists like Pink Anderson, Peg Leg Sam, Eartha Kitt, Linda Martell, Bill Pinkney, Maurice Williams, James Brown, Chubby Checker, Brook Benton, and Dizzy Gillespie to more modern artists like Teddy Pendergrass, Peabo Bryson, Mario Winans, and Darius Rucker.

You can learn about these artists and more Black South Carolina musicians on our website, StudySC.

Black Music Month display shelves.


The origins of Black Music Month date back to 1979 when President Jimmy Carter decreed June as Black Music Month, recognizing the pivotal role Black musicians have played in the nation’s cultural heritage. From the soulful rhythms of jazz and blues to the groundbreaking innovations of hip-hop and R&B, Black artists have continually pushed the boundaries of music, creating timeless sounds that resonate globally.

Black Music Month Books

Cover of Black Music Is

Black Music Is

Marcus Amaker

Follow Bebop the cat on a journey through American music history. Every record takes Bebop to a different colorful sonic world. An award-wining Poet Laureate wrote a unique visual poem, Black Music Is. It is a celebration of vinyl, African-American icons, and modern-day musicians.

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Cover of Conjuring Freedom

Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War’s “Gospel Army”

Johari Jabir

Conjuring Freedom: Music and Masculinity in the Civil War's "Gospel Army" analyzes the songs of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, a regiment of Black soldiers who met nightly in the performance of the ring shout. In this study, acknowledging the importance of conjure as a religious, political, and epistemological practice, Johari Jabir demonstrates how the musical performance allowed troop members to embody new identities in relation to national citizenship, militarism, and masculinity in more inclusive ways.

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Cover of Encyclopedia of the Black Arts Movement

Encyclopedia of the Black Arts Movement

Maryland Lanham

The Black Arts Movement (BAM) encompassed a group of artists, musicians, novelists, and playwrights whose work combined innovative approaches to literature, film, music, visual arts, and theatre. With a heightened consciousness of black agency and autonomy--along with the radical politics of the civil rights movement, the Black Muslims, and the Black Panthers--these figures represented a collective effort to defy the status quo of American life and culture. Between the late 1950s and the end of the 1970s, the movement produced some of America's most original and controversial artists and intellectuals. In Encyclopedia of the Blacks Arts Movement, Verner D. Mitchell and Cynthia Davis have collected essays on the key figures of the movement, including Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Larry Neal, Sun Ra, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, and Archie Shepp. Additional entries focus on Black Theatre magazine, the Negro Ensemble Company, lesser known individuals--including Kathleen Collins, Tom Dent, Bill Gunn, June Jordan, and Barbara Ann Teer--and groups, such as AfriCOBRA and the New York Umbra Poetry Workshop. The Black Arts Movement represented the most prolific expression of African American literature since the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

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Cover of Fly Away

Fly Away: the Great African American Cultural Migrations

Peter M. Rutkoff

The Great Migration, the mass exodus of blacks from the rural South to the urban North and West in the twentieth century, shaped American culture and life in ways still evident today. The authors trace the ideas that inspired African Americans to abandon the South for freedom and opportunity elsewhere. Black Southerners fled the Low Country of South Carolina, the mines and mills of Birmingham, Alabama, the farms of the Mississippi Delta, and the urban wards of Houston, Texas, for new opportunities in New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Los Angeles. They took with them the South's rich tradition of religion, language, music, and art, recreating and preserving their Southern identity in the churches, newspapers, jazz clubs, and neighborhoods of America's largest cities. This study explores the development and adaptation of African American culture, from its West African roots to its profound and lasting impact on mainstream America. It illuminates the origins, development, and transformation of national culture during an important chapter in twentieth-century American history.

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Cover of Say it Loud

Say It Loud: My Memories of James Brown, Soul Brother No. 1

Don Rhodes

A longtime friend of James Brown offers a poignant tribute to the Godfather of Soul and a close-up look at the life and storied career of the legendary singer, examining the evolution of his musical style, his social activism, often turbulent personal life, and seminal influence on the development of modern pop music.

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Cover of Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie

Tony Gentry

A biography of the Afro-American musician and "ambassador of jazz" who introduced the world to "bebop."

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Cover of Eartha Kitt

Eartha & Kitt: a Daughter’s Love Story in Black and White

Kitt Shapiro

A biography of the Afro-American musician and "ambassador of jazz" who introduced the world to "bebop." In this unique combination of memoir and cultural history, we come to know one of the greatest stars the world has ever seen--Eartha Kitt--as revealed by the person who knew her best: her daughter.

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Cover of Outkast

An Outkast Reader: Essays on Race, Gender, and the Postmodern South

Regina N. Bradley

"OutKast, the Atlanta-based hip-hop duo formed in 1992, is one of the most influential musical groups within American popular culture of the past twenty-five years. Through Grammy-winning albums, music videos, feature films, theatrical performances, and fashion, André "André 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton have articulated a vision of postmodern, post-civil rights southern identity that combines the roots of funk, psychedelia, haute couture, R&B, faith and spirituality, and Afrofuturism into a style all its own. This postmodern southern aesthetic, largely promulgated and disseminated by OutKast and its collaborators, is now so prevalent in mainstream American culture (neither Beyoncé Knowles's "Formation" nor Joss Whedon's sci-fi /western mashup Firefly could exist without OutKast's collage aesthetic) that we rarely consider how challenging and experimental it actually is to create a new southern aesthetic.

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Cover of Swimming with the Blowfish

Swimming with the Blowfish: Hootie, Healing, and the Ride of a Lifetime

Jim Sonefeld

The ultimate front-row seat to the rise, fall, and rebirth of a band that was--for a time--the biggest in the world, Hootie & the Blowfish, and Jim Sonefeld's shattering and redeeming spiritual path from addiction to recovery and a more fruitful life. For a time, there was no bigger band in the world than Hootie & the Blowfish--rock & roll's unexpected foil to the grunge music that dominated the early 90s airwaves. In Swimming with the Blowfish, Jim Sonefeld, drummer and one of the band's principal songwriters, reveals the inside story of the band's humble beginnings, meteoric rise, sudden fall, and ultimate rebirth--and in the telling he opens his heart to readers about addiction, recovery, and faith. Hootie became ubiquitous in the 90s--their debut album Cracked Rear View was one of the best-selling in the history of rock music; they won two Grammy Awards; their live performances were played alongside the Dave Matthews Band, R.E.M., and even Willie Nelson and Neil Young; and they appeared at the biggest venues in the world. Though Jim enjoyed the perks that came with fame--the parties, the relationships, the money, the drugs and alcohol--eventually it all became a camouflage that hid a deeper spiritual malady.

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Cover of Shout Because You're Free

Shout Because You’re Free: the African American Ring Shout Tradition in Coastal Georgia

Art Rosenbaum

The ring shout is the oldest known African American performance tradition survivng on the North American continent. Performed for the purpose of religious worship, this fusion of dance, song, and percussion survives today in the Boldon community of McIntosh County, Georgia.

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Cover of An Encyclopedia of South Carolina & Jazz Blues Musicians

An Encyclopedia of South Carolina & Jazz Blues Musicians

Benjamin Franklin V

A comprehensive guide to the men and women who contributed to and defined the musical roots of South Carolina.

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Cover of Well of Souls

Well of Souls: Uncovering the Banjo’s Hidden History

Kristina R. Gaddy

An illuminating history of the banjo, revealing its origins at the crossroads of slavery, religion, and music. In an extraordinary story unfolding across two hundred years, Kristina Gaddy uncovers the banjo's key role in Black spirituality, ritual, and rebellion. Through meticulous research in diaries, letters, archives, and art, she traces the banjo's beginnings from the seventeenth century, when enslaved people of African descent created it from gourds or calabashes and wood. Gaddy shows how the enslaved carried this unique instrument as they were transported and sold by slaveowners throughout the Americas, to Suriname, the Caribbean, and the colonies that became U.S. states, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Maryland, and New York. African Americans came together at rituals where the banjo played an essential part. White governments, rightfully afraid that the gatherings could instigate revolt, outlawed them without success. In the mid-nineteenth century, Blackface minstrels appropriated the instrument for their bands, spawning a craze. Eventually the banjo became part of jazz, bluegrass, and country, its deepest history forgotten.

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Upcoming Event

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Freedom of Information Act Roundtable

July 18, 2024, 1:00 PM

Join leaders of the South Carolina Press Association for an in-depth conversation about how the Freedom of Information Act affects the news you hear every day. The panelists of veteran journalists will discuss how FOIA helps them keep the public informed and how you can do the same.  Q&A session to follow!

This Week