Celebrating Generations of Black Music Excellence

COD Library pays homage to the evolution of African American creativity for Black History Month.


Cody Wagner, Staff Writer

“When I sing, I don’t want them to see that my face is black; I don’t want them to see that my face is white — I want them to see my soul. And that is colorless.” – Marian Anderson (1897-1993)

In celebration of Black History Month, the COD Library has displayed timeless catalogs of material from black musicians who paved the way for music excellence. Titled “The Evolution of Black Music in America” the display centers around the various categories of prestigious and mesmerizing music that have been offered through generations of talented Black artists that created a gateway to musical excellence. The display acts as a timeline in highlighting periods of Black music from the roots of Western African American that aimed to preserve the rich and vibrant African culture, to spirituals that cemented an awareness of slavery, to the rise of ragtime that created the very foundation of celebrated popular African American music. Efforts further extended with soul, bebop, folk, and even funk, eventually leading into the early 20th century with migration of African American to the north. From there came the rise of Jazz and blues that ignited avant-garde production, utilizing methods of improvisation excelling Black artists within the popular American music scene. The generations that followed allowed for new and creative heights for black performers as the rise of technology cemented new and innovative heights for black music works to evolve as Hip-Hop and Rap expanded efforts of Black creativity into the modernist era. 

Artist’s creative works of display range from classical instrumentalists and vocalists such as John Coletrane, William Grant Stills, Black Swans and Florence Beatrice. Alongside Bebop and Opera artists such as Charlie Parker and Porgy and Bess. Followed by Jazz and Blues artists Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, BB King, Marian Anderson. Eventually leading into the modern era with Hip-Hop and Rap icons Public Enemy, Notorious BIG, 2Pac to Kendrick Lamar. 

The display features CD’s, pictures, posters, books, audio tapes, and a model of an old-fashioned acoustic blues guitar resembling the musically diverse ventures from various black artists that shaped and shifted the hearts and minds of both older and younger generations. Alongside artist works are footnotes of historically accurate data with short bios and Inspirational quotes from names such as the aforementioned blues icon Marian Anderson, composer Scott Joplin, and other esteemed black artists as their own accounts of historical storytelling highlight the intensified eras of racism that fueled the fire in presenting creative pursuits through personal hardship and experience. 

“The Evolution of Black Music in America” offers a dazzling visual experience into the crucial evolution of African American creativity as it aimed to shape and present an idealized and diverse outlook into combating the subjection and persecution of an entire race that was enacted throughout centuries of American history. The various musical works of black-influenced artists resemble preservations of greatness amongst inspiring African American forces that utilized the many sounds, beats, chords, and harmonies in coping with racism. In offering this visually historical display of musical recognition, it allows both younger and older generations to remember and appreciate the influence of black music as we continue to celebrate Black History Month and the individuals who are a result of its impact.

COD is also offering other event opportunities in celebrating Black History Month such as guest speakers, discussion panels, and even a special performance by The Matt Schevitz Quartet: performing a tribute to Tina Brooks in the McAninch Arts Center room 140 on Feb.18 as celebration of Black History Month continues throughout campus. 

“The Evolution of Black Music” table is displayed on the lower level of the library near the media lab in the Student Resource Center. 

Additional info for upcoming Black History Month campus events listed here: https://www.cod.edu/student_life/resources/csdi/black-history-month/index.aspx