The National Museum of African American Music officially opens its doors

It took two decades of meticulous planning

Smithsonian Magazine reports on the opening of The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville. It took two decades of meticulous planning to set up this institution which is dedicated to telling the 400-year story: the story that can speak a lot about the Unites States though, as the magazine puts it, “black music, from the instruments, brought to the country by enslaved Africans to the development of jazz and the blues in the Jim Crow era and the rock and hip-hop artists who continue to shape culture today.” The formal opening of the museum took place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021.

“Most music museums deal with a label, a genre, or an artist,” H. Beecher Hicks III, the museum’s president, and CEO tells the Associated Press. “So it’s one thing to say that I’m a hip-hop fan or I’m a blues fan, but why? What was going on in our country and our lived experience and our political environment that made that music so moving, so inspirational, such the soundtrack for that part of our lives?”

Exhibitions will draw on a collection of 1,600 artifacts, including one of Ella Fitzgerald’s Grammy Awards and a guitar owned by B.B. King. Visitors can also take part in interactive activities like learning dance moves from a virtual instructor, singing “Oh Happy Day” with a gospel choir, and making hip-hop beats. Guests receive wristbands that allow them to record and take home their creations.

“For non-African Americans,” Hicks tells CNN, “I hope that they would realize that African Americans are at the center of American culture in a way that they maybe never considered.”

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.


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