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National African American Museum Nashville

Watch Films In The Roots Theater

Construction continues at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville

The first pages of the story of Black music in America began in Africa, where men and women were captured and brought to the country against their will. They may have come empty-handed, but in their hearts they carried the music and the rhythms of their homeland. The introductory film shown in the Roots Theater depicts this musical journey, highlighting how, once the enslaved disembarked in this new land, African traditions merged with American circumstance to produce new sounds and customs that evolved and transformed, again and again, into the styles and sonics that have shaped our culture. Film subjects range time periods, from Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, World Wars I and II, and the Harmen Renaissance.

About: National Museum Of African American Music


The National Museum of African American Music is a gateway to the past that showcases the deep impact African Americans have had on shaping American music. From southern gospel to blues, jazz, R& B, and hip-hop. Across five galleries, you can see each genre against the backdrop of history, and learn how the music was shaped by the currents of time. Expect to see artifacts like instruments, stage costumes, and sheet music. There’s also a film theatre that provides context around the birth of African American music.

Opening hours

National Museum Of African American Music Opens In Nashville

The National Museum of African American Music opened its doors to much anticipation in January 2021. The museum is the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the many music genres created, influenced, and inspired by African Americans.

Located in the heart of Nashville, the NMAAM is a perfect fit for Music City. Tennessee was critical during the Great Migration , when approximately six million African Americans left the South to relocate to large cities throughout the northeast, midwest, and western United States. Nashville also holds significance in African American music history as artists like The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, and Little Richard spent time early in their careers in Nashville. NMAAM is poised to strengthen and diversify the Music City brand with compelling connections to both local and national musical distinctions. Sharing the states spotlight with other Tennessee music institutions like Chattanoogas Bessie Smith Museum, Nashvilles Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry, and Musicians Hall of Fame, Memphis Graceland, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and Sun Studios, the NMAAM is a welcomed addition.

Initially proposed in 2002, the project evolved over the next decade from a local to a national initiative and refined its purpose from a broad focus on arts, culture, and music in the African American community to exclusively cover music.

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What To See Listen To And Do When You Visit

The legendary, 150-year-old Fisk Jubilee Singers gospel choir was just nominated for a Grammy in November 2020. A few months later, a Frito Lay Super Bowl commercial starring NFL vets Jerry Rice and Peyton Manning featured the music of Tim Gent, AB Eastwood, and Bryant Taylorrthree pillars of Nashvilles thriving hip-hop scene.

From the past to the present, the citys Black music scene has been getting its due lately, and nowhere is that on greater display than the newly opened National Museum of African American Music in downtown Nashville.

Really, American music was born in the South, says Henry Beecher Hicks, the museums president and CEO. At the end of slavery and the beginning of The Great Migration, when our grandparents began to migrate north, they very possibly went through Tennessee. Tennessee really, in so many ways, is the crucible of American music. Were just bringing it back home.

Home is now at the corner of 5th and Broadway, just steps from the famed Ryman Auditorium and right in the heart of a honky-tonk haven. At first glance, the museum may seem out of place, what with country music piping into the streets from giant outdoor speakers. But Hicks believes that the location in Nashvilles famed tourist district is the best-case scenariofor foot traffic as well as the effort of connecting past to present.

General Policies And Procedures

National Museum of African American Music sets grand ...
  • No weapons allowed this includes pepper spray, knives and stun guns.
  • Children under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Smoking is not permitted in the museum including electronic smoking and vaping devices.
  • Luggage, carry-on bags, or oversized backpacks are not permitted in the museum. There will be storage available for guests who bring these items.
  • Still photography is allowed as long as it is for private, non-commercial use. Flash photography, selfie sticks and tripods are not permitted.
  • No video recording is allowed in the museum galleries.
  • No food or drinks are allowed in the galleries.
  • No outside alcohol can be brought into the museum.
  • Media representatives are not allowed to record or photograph anything in the museum for public use without signed consent from the marketing department.

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Get An Introduction To The Blues

Emancipation didnt bring liberation for African Americans living in the south, and many of the formerly enslaved still found themselves chained to the land and exploited for their labor. The music never stopped, though, and the songs of heartbreak and distress that rang out from mouths of sharecroppers and railroad workers alike became the basis for the blues. Later, as Black folk traveled north in search of true freedom, they carried their blues with them, ultimately swapping acoustic guitars for electric and adding piano and other instruments. In the Crossroads gallery, visitors learn the stories of blues pioneers including Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith theyll also see how the music of the Black rural south became the stylistic foundation for country and rock and roll.

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Experience Concert Footage In The Rivers Of Rhythm

The entire NMAAM exhibit is divided into five musical galleries that represent the larger musical branches from which all American musical genres ultimately sprout. Arranged chronologically, they also reveal the timeline of Black musical exploration and expression. But before you can make your way through these galleries, you must pass over the Rivers of Rhythm. On screens lining the walls of the corridor that provides entry into each of the galleries, concert footage of Prince, James Brown, and others showcases the power of Black music.

Below, an interactive table walks you through the songs that made Blackand Americanhistory one era at a time. Interested in hearing the music that provided the soundtrack to the Black experience of the 1930s and 40s, when segregation still reigned but Black folk were beginning to make a name for themselves in the world of sports and entertainment? Theres a playlist for that, featuring Count Basies King Joe, a tribute to Black boxing champion Joe Louis, sung by college football All-American and former NFL player Paul Robeson.

Deep Roots: The National Museum Of African American Music

National Museum of African American Music opens today in Nashville

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  • Deep Roots: The National Museum of African American Music

Feature Story

Nearly every genre of American music can be traced back to the creative ingenuity and artistic expression of African-American artists. With a tapestry of lived, shared experiences woven throughout different eras, African Americans originated and shaped musical styles from the blues to hip-hop, helping to spawn many other musical cross-pollinations in between. African-American Music Appreciation Month, observed in June each year, gives us an opportunity to illuminate those essential contributions and reacquaint ourselves with some of the people responsible for the music that forms the soundtrack to life in America and around the world today.

What is African-American Music Appreciation Month?

A Trip to Nashville

A Timeline of African-American Music

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A New Museum In Nashville Chronicles 400 Years Of Black Music

The culmination of two decades of planning, the National Museum of African American Music opened its doors last month

Daily Correspondent

Much of the story of the United States can be told through 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. Now, a new cultural institution is dedicated to telling that 400-year story: the National Museum of African American Music, which opened in Nashville, Tennessee, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Most music museums deal with a label, a genre or an artist, H. Beecher Hicks III, the museums president and CEO, tells the Associated Press Kristin M. Hall. So its one thing to say that Im a hip hop fan or Im 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 Fitzgeralds 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.

Friend Of The Museum $250

  • Includes all GENERAL benefits for Two adults, PLUS:
  • Member priority check in
  • Discount on select ticketed workshops and events
  • Invitation to exhibition opening receptions
  • Includes all GENERAL benefits for Two adults, PLUS:
  • Member priority check-in
  • Invitation to exhibition opening receptions
  • White glove viewing experience with the curatorial team

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Immerse Yourself In Hip

There is no denying the culture-shaping impact of hip-hop, and The Message gallery tracks the growth of the genre from niche New York art form to global phenomenon. The music is there, of course. There are journeys of male artists from Grandmaster Flash to Kendrick Lamar, and influential women like Queen Latifah and Lil Kim. But the non-musical impact of the genre is there, toofrom the fashion to the language to the ability of the art form to make gods out of mortals once relegated to the margins of society. In The Message, Jay-Z, Tupac, and so many others stand as the manifestation of their ancestors wildest dreams, the proof that musicBlack musiccan change lives and the world.

*student Memberships Are Available For College Students Photo Id My Be Required To Access Museum Programs And Events Individuals Who Have Purchased A Student Membership And Do Not Show Valid Id Will Be Given A Refund

Plans for Nashville
  • Includes all GENERAL benefits for One adult, PLUS:
  • Member priority check-in
  • Includes all GENERAL benefits for One adult, PLUS:
  • Member priority check-in
  • Includes all GENERAL benefits for One adult, PLUS:
  • Member priority check-in
  • Includes all GENERAL benefits for Two adults, PLUS:
  • Member priority check-in

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From Nothing To Something

From Nothing to Something is a series of one-hour workshops that educates students in grades K-8 and Senior classes about the music innovations that early African Americans used to create by memory and with limited resources. The program includes six different workshops: Spoons, Harmonica, Lyrics, Cigar Box Guitar, Banjo, and Wash Tub Bass. Students receive their own instruments to play in each workshop. An artist leads each presentation, which explores the music history and techniques and provides knowledge about how each instrument influenced the development of music genres.

National Museum Of African American Music

Nashville is known around the globe as Music City. And tourists come from near and far to partake in its bustling music scene. Home to the historic Ryman Theatre, Grand Ole Opry, and Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville is now the epicenter of honoring the legacy of African American music. The museum welcomes visitors of all ages to engage in the history of Black music and culture in the United States. Whether youre a connoisseur of jazz, R& B enthusiast, or want to learn about the roots of gospeltheres something for everyone! If you want to appreciate African Americans contributions to music or learn about the untold histories of African American artists, youll want to include this museum on your Nashville itinerary. Heres what you need to know ahead of your visit to the NMAAM.

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Fine Tuning: A Masterclass Series

The Fine Tuning Masterclass Series is an opportunity for aspiring adult vocalists and musicians to learn from professionals who have excelled in their genre in the music industry. Class attendees will experience a blend of instructional, contextual and theory-based practices designed to help them hone their individual skills and styles as well as how to monetize their talents.

Learn About Motown Sun And Stax

National Museum of African-American music opens in Nashville

As World War II gave way to American desegregation, the sounds of Black musical tradition coalesced and evolved once again into rhythm and blues, a slick, commercial sound that would soon take the countryand the worldby storm. And as Black pop music grew in popularity, so, too, did the number of enterprising Black folk who wanted to assume financial and creative control of the new genre. The One Nation Under a Groove gallery reveals the stories of Black-owned Motown and Philadelphia International Records, along with companies like Sun Records and Stax, that were run by white owners looking to capitalize on the hot new sound. It also maps the ways in which R& B itself morphed into sub-genres including disco, house, and, ultimately, hip-hop.

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Improvise Your Own Jazz Song

If the blues is the unvarnished depiction of what was and what is, jazz is the expression of what could be, a sonic fantasy composed by some of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. In the A Love Supreme gallery, visitors are reacquainted with well-known artists including Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Ella Fitzgerald, even as they are introduced to more obscure figures like the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, the first integrated, all-female jazz band. Theres also plenty of attention paid to the racial dynamics that underscored the burgeoning genre, as Black artists like Billie Holliday faced discrimination even at their career peaks, while white artists began carving out their own space in the traditionally Black genre. The interactive experience in the gallery gives visitors the chance to live out their own Cotton Club fantasies, as they press a table embedded with notes to improvise on their own jazz song in real time.

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  • By Noelani Kirschner| Sherry L. Brukbacher

    The history of Black American music in the United States spans four centuries, and now theres a museum to honor that legacy.

    The National Museum of African American Music , which opened January 30 in Nashville, Tennessee, calls itself the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the many music genres created, influenced and inspired by African Americans.

    Divided into six sections covering four centuries, the museum educates visitors about the history and influence of Black American music in the United States, all of which can be traced to the hymns and songs enslaved Africans sang in the 1600s.

    NMAAM highlights the more than 50 genres created or influenced by Black Americans, focusing specifically on spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues , and hip-hop throughout its six galleries.

    And as the museum declares, Black music is Americas music.

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