National Museum of African American Music Opens

Updated: Mar 28

After two decades of planning Nashville, TN ready to host.



The Black experience has included the creation of music that dominates popular culture around the world. As early as the 1920s, writers have marveled at the insatiable appetite the United States has for African American music. The music has informed the way the country dance, speak and relate to each other. The influence of African Americans on the U.S. culture is significant. A museum has been created to illustrate and explain the influence of Black Music.


After years of preparation and planning, the National Museum of African American Music opens today in downtown Nashville. The museum located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway celebrated its opening in a midday ceremony.


Museum leaders say the idea started in 1998 as a way to honor African American cultural contributions and developed into a museum to commemorate African American music and its impact on American culture and society.



The museum highlights 50 music genres that were created or greatly influenced by African Americans, like jazz, gospel, R&B and hip hop.


Seven different galleries will also showcase a different perspective on African American music and history. Over 1,500 artifacts, including memorabilia and clothing, will also be on display.


“This museum is a beacon of hope for so many Black Nashvillians who now have a place that confirms for all the world to see, that this is not someone elses Music City, this is our Music City,” said Metro Councilmember Sharon Hunt.


“People across the country and certainly across the world will come here to recognize the role, the important role that African American music has played in the history of our nation,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.


To help the museum accomplish its mission in educating the public on the significance of African American contributions to music, Amazon donated $1 million.


Amazon made the donation last week, which the museum says will sponsor several events, including "Amazon STEAM Days," which will allow local schools to bring field trips to the museum.


Amazon is also sponsoring the "Best Of Theater" inside the museum.


Monday's ribbon cutting ceremony coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day with museum board members, elected officials and community leaders in attendance.


Curator Dina Bennett said more than 1,600 artifacts and memorabilia help tell the story of Black trailblazers and innovators, including a sweater that was owned by Nat King Cole and the bass guitar of A Taste of Honey's Janice-Marie Johnson.


"She played this bass on her hit ("Boogie Oogie Oogie"), which went on to sell 10 million copies," Bennett said.



There are also some custom diamond-studded boots "worn by Trina, one of the most influential rappers from Miami," Bennett said. "She actually wore these boots to the 2002 BET Awards where she was nominated for Best Female Rapper."


As country star Darius Rucker, a national chair of the museum and three-time Grammy winner, toured the exhibits for the first time, he stopped at a display for Al Green. "He's the reason I'm sitting here talking and walking around here. Al Green's the reason I wanted to sing music," Rucker said.


Museum members will have the opportunity to tour it on Jan. 23 and 24 during Members Preview Weekend.



You can pore over the fine print of one of Billie Holiday's performance contracts, and picture Nat King Cole donning his mustard-yellow argyle sweater that now sits behind glass, along with apparel once worn by Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Jay-Z, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.



There's also plenty for guests to actually get their hands on. You'll find touchscreen tables in each of the galleries, letting you draw lines from musicians in one genre to their influences and followers in others. There are charming high-tech spaces that invite you to be a part of the music, too.


The museum will open to the general public on Jan. 30. Because of COVID-19, the museum says it will only allow a limited number of visitors in for tours.


Tours will initially follow a weekend schedule on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.



(RSS, WSMV, CBSNEWS, TENNESEAN)

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