Skip to main content

African American Studies: Music

Primary and selected secondary sources for research in African American Studies at Princeton University.

Music databases

African American Music Reference    

Brings together text reference, biographies, chronologies, sheet music, images, lyrics, liner notes, and discographies which chronicle the history and culture of the African American experience through music. The database will expand to include coverage of blues, jazz, spirituals, civil rights songs, slave songs, minstrelsy, rhythm and blues, gospel, and other forms of black American musical expression.

African American Song  

Documents the history of African American music in an online music listening service. Contains a diverse range of genres such as jazz, blues, gospel, ragtime, folk songs, and narratives, among others.

American Song    

History database that contains 50,000 tracks that allows people to hear and feel the music from America's past. Will include songs by and about American Indians, miners, immigrants, slaves, children, pioneers, and cowboys. Included are the songs of Civil Rights, political campaigns, Prohibition, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, anti-war protests and more.

Contemporary Musicians  

Biographical information on important figures in today's musical arena, covering artists working in all genres of modern music, including rock, jazz, pop, rap, rhythm and blues, folk, New Age, country, gospel and reggae.

Music Index Online  (1973+)  

Note: Print volumes covering 1949-1972 are available in Mendel Music Library: Reference (SV) ML 118 M84.

Smithsonian Global Sound  

Smithsonian Global Sound is a virtual encyclopedia of the world's musical and aural traditions. It includes the published recordings owned by the non-profit Smithsonian Folkways Recordings label and the archival audio collections of the Folkways Records, Cook, Dyer-Bennet, Fast Folk, Monitor, Paredon and other labels. It also includes music recorded around the African continent by for the International Library of African Music (ILAM) at Rhodes University as well as material collected by recordists on the South Asian subcontinent from the Archive Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (ARCE), sponsored by the American Institute for Indian Studies.

Brown University Library Center for Digital Scholarship

African American Sheet Music

“The sheet music in this digital collection has been selected from the Sheet Music Collection at the John Hay Library at Brown University.  The full collection consists of approximately 500,000 items, of which perhaps 250,000 are currently available for use.  It is one of the largest collections of sheet music in any library in the United States.  The sheet music, primarily vocal music of American imprint dates from the 18th century to the present day, with the largest concentration of titles in the period 1840-1950. The African-American related sheet music includes songs from the heyday of antebellum blackface minstrelsy in the 1850s and from the abolitionist movement of the same period.”

Center for Black Music Research

"The Center for Black Music Research documents and preserves information and materials related to the black music experience throughout the world."  The CBMR is located on the campus of Columbia College in Chicago, Ill.

Dance in Video

Dance in Video  
Includes video dance productions and documentaries by performers and companies of the 20th century. Selections cover ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, experimental, and more.

Hip Hop sites

Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner   History, news, and commentary by journalist and hip hop scholar, Davey D.

The Hip Hop Archive  “Curates all forms of hip hop material culture including recordings, videos, web sites, films, original papers, works, references, productions, conferences, meetings, interviews, publications, research, formal proceedings, etc.”

The Hiphop Archive at The Du Bois Institute, Harvard University  “The Hiphop Archive’s mission is to facilitate and encourage the pursuit of knowledge, art, culture and responsible leadership through Hiphop.”

The Original Hip-Hop (Rap) Lyrics Archive  rap and hip hop lyrics, compilations, reviews, soundtracks, links to culture and music, and hip hop magazine web sites.

Institute of Jazz Studies

"The Institute of Jazz Studies is the world's foremost jazz archive and research facility.  The IJS is part of Rutgers University Libraries, and is located in the John Cotton Dana Library on the Newark Campus."

Songs of the SNCC Freedom Singers

Crossroads Southern routes: music of the American South.  Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Folkways, p1996.  Contents: Rising sun (Brownie McGhee with Sonny Terry) -- Statesboro blues (The Allman Brothers Band) -- Blue Monk (Dirty Dozen Brass Band) -- 15 ans (Les Quatre Vieux Garçons featuring Dewey Balfa) -- Travelin' shoes (Vera Hall Ward) -- Woke up this mornin' with my mind on freedom (The SNCC Freedom Singers) -- The mice and the bad angel ; Turtle's song to the wolf (Betty Mae Jumper) -- Brother John ; Iko iko (Neville Brothers) -- White House blues (Bill Monroe) -- Blue suede shoes (Carl Perkins) -- Anque me odies (Lydia Mendoza) -- Apartment #9 (Tammy Wynette) -- Mouths around the table (Denise LaSalle) -- Southbound (Doc Watson with Merle Watson) -- TAn old time Christian (The Kingsmen) -- There is none like Him (Mississippi Mass Choir). 

Every tone a testimony an African American aural history.  Compiled, annotated and produced by Robert H. Cataliotti. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways, 2001.  Contents: Struggle / L. Hughes (0:22) -- Field call / A.G.H. Dodson (1:15) -- Complaint call / E. Brown (0:40) -- Intro and Kneebone Bend / L. McKiver, D. Skipper (2:51) -- Brother Terrapin, Slow train to Arkansas / R. Amerson (1:56) -- Jack and Mary and three dogs / J. Hunter (5:53) -- Buck dance / J. Tucker (1:19) -- I'm goin' up north / Children of East York School (1:22) -- Pharaoh's host got lost / L. McKiver (1:32) -- Bars fight / L. Terry, read by A. Bontemps (1:23) -- Earl of Dartmouth / P. Wheatley, read by D.F. Washington (0:49) -- I wonder where my brother gone / A.G.H. Dodson (1:17) -- Narrative / H. Tubman, read by D.F. Washington (0:59) -- Speech at Akron Convention / S. Truth, read by R. Dee (2:05) -- Singing slaves / F. Douglass, read by O. Davis (1:03) -- Steal away to Jesus / K. West (1:50) -- What to the slave is the fourth of July? / F. Douglass, read by O. Davis (2:36) -- Why slavery is still rampant / S. Parker, read by R. Dee (1:47) -- Free at last / D. Reed ad V.H. Ward (1:33) -- When Malindy sings / P.L. Dunbar, read by M. Walker (3:48) -- There's a great camp meeting / Fisk Jubilee Singers (2:01) -- Atlanta Exposition Address / B.T. Washington (1:16) -- John Henry / B. McGhee and S. Terry (4:03) -- Banjo player / F. Johnson, read by A. Bontemps (0:44) -- Boatman dance / E. Cotten (1:42) -- Shine / P. Randolph (1:03) -- Chopping in the new ground / Inmates of Ramsay or Retrieve State Farms, TX (1:37) -- Lynching, our national crime / I.B. Wells-Barnett, read by R. Dee (3:43) -- Recorded autobiography / W.E.B. Du Bois (2:33) -- Listen Lord, a prayer / J.W. Johnson, read by M. Walker (2:55) -- My heart is fixed / G. Davis (2:04) -- Titanic / Lead Belly (4:04) -- Heritage / C. Cullen (2:58) -- Jungle drums / J.P. Johnson (2:32) -- No more auction block / P. Robeson (2:09) -- Negro speaks of rivers / L. Hughes (0:43) -- If we must die / C. McKay (0:57) -- Ma Rainey / S. Brown (2:06) -- Backwater blues / B.B. Broonzy (2:47) -- Married man blues / B. and D.D. Pierce (5:11) -- For my people / M. Walker (5:41) -- Children of the poor, sonnet 2 / G. Brooks (0:47) -- Body and soul / G. Nicholas (3:48) -- How He delivered me / J. Johnson & the Gospel Tones (2:39) -- Long distance call / M. Waters (6:58) -- Cry to me / S. Burke (2:13) -- Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around / SNCC Freedom Singers (2:31) -- Birmingham 1963 - Keep moving / M.L. King, Jr. (3:42) -- Black Panther Party platform / B. Seale (2:59) -- Interview (excerpt) / A. Davis (1:05) -- Together to the tune of Coltrane's "Equinox" / S.W. Fabio (1:40) -- Nikki-Rosa / N. Giovanni (1:12) -- Liberation/poem / S. Sanchez (0:34) -- Dope / A. Baraka (4:48) -- Village of Brooklyn, Illinois / H. Bluiett (3:30) -- For the poets / J. Cortez (3:56) -- Shotgun Joe / Golden Eagles (5:19) -- St. Louis woman / I. Reed (1:26) -- People everyday / Arrested Development (3:27). 

Songs of the freedom riders & documentary of the Albany struggle.  [El Cerrito, CA]: Pewburner Records, [2007?]  Contents: Certainly, Lord -- I woke up this morning -- Do you want your freedom -- Get your rights Jack -- I know we'll meet again -- We went down to Mississippi -- How did you feel? -- We shall overcome -- Freedom in the air: a documentary on Albany, Ga. (MUS) CD- 30401

The story of Greenwood, Mississippi.  New York City: Folkways, [1965] Notes: Documentary; recorded and produced by Guy Carawan for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Contents: This little light of mine -- Church: Preacher & congregation -- I'm a citizen of Greenwood -- This is Clarence Jordan -- Mass meetings: Preacher & congregation -- The Greenwood voter registration -- Congregation: The coming of the New Year -- For the first time -- If you can imagine it -- Congregation: Let it shine -- The second stage -- Congregation: We want more faith -- First, I would just like -- Congregation: Walk, walk -- We worked all of March -- Cong: Get on board -- We sang -- I never thought that Greenwood -- We left City Hall -- Dick Gregory ; Mr Medgar Evers -- For us, the events ; It's is something -- Congregation: Ain't no danger -- Since I went down ; Congregation. 

Smithsonian Folkways American roots collection.  Washington, DC: Smithsonian Folkways, 1996. Contents: Penitentiary blues (Lightnin' Hopkins) -- Sweet old Chicago (Roosevelt Sykes) -- Blue moon of Kentucky (Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys) -- If I had a hammer (Pete Seeger) -- Lafayette (Lucinda Williams) -- Bosco stomp (Allie Young, Bessyl Duhon, Rodney Balfa) - - Better day (Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry) -- Long road to travel (Lonnie Johnson) -- The coo-coo bird (Doc Watson, Clarence Ashley) -- Pretty Saro (Doug and Jack Wallin) -- Freight train (Elizabeth Cotten) -- Old Joe Bone (the New Lost City Ramblers) -- Have a feast here tonight (Bill Monroe, Doc Watson) -- Freedom road (Josh White) -- This land is your land ; Two good men (Woody Guthrie) -- In the pines ; Irene (Leadbelly) -- Somebody's been fooling #1 (Big Joe Williams) -- Hesitation blues (Dave Van Ronk) -- Gonna be an engineer (Peggy Seeger) -- Delgadina (Mercedez López) - - I was standing by the bedside of a neighbor (If you see my Saviour) (Michele Lanchester with Sweet Honey in the Rock) -- Virgo ; Syl-o-gism (Mary Lou Williams) -- We shall overcome (the SNCC Freedom Singers, Dorothy Cotton, Pete Seeger).

Theatre in Video

Theatre in Video 
Includes more than 250 performances of the world's leading plays, together with more than 100 film documentaries, online in streaming video.

Librarian for History and African American Studies