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Celebrate Black History Month with Music Research Guides

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For the last couple of years, the Library has been producing topic-specific online guides to our unique holdings and collection strengths. These guides are available to browse on the Library’s Research Guides database. The Music Division has published 17 research guides thus far, with many more to come; these guides are tagged and found under the Performing Arts subject guides.

Photograph portrait of Harry Thacker Burleigh by Thomas Coke Knight in 1927.
Portrait of Harry Thacker Burleigh by photographer Thomas Coke Knight, 1927. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As we close out Black History Month, we are thrilled to announce three recent guides that highlight Black history in our collections. The first is about African-American composer, arranger, and singer Harry Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949), who wrote over 200 art songs and was the first African-American composer acclaimed for his concert songs as well as his adaptations of African-American spirituals. The H.T. Burleigh guide brings together valuable resources such as bibliographies of literature, links to digitized solo vocal and choral scores, recordings of Marian Anderson and others performing his songs and arrangements, and streaming video lectures.

The second recently-published guide is called Early African-American Music: A Bibliography. The guide is inspired by the scholarship of Dr. Samuel Floyd (1937-2016), founder of the Institute for Research in Black American Music and the Black Music Research Journal at Fisk University in Nashville, as well as founder of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College in Chicago. As Dr. Floyd indicates in his article, “Ruminations on the Center for Black Music Research: The 2008 Trotter Lecture External (College Music Symposium, vol. 49/50 [2009-2010], p. 9-17), academic research of African-American music began substantially in 1867 with the publication of Slave Songs of the United States and continues today. This research guide covers the early history of that scholarship, roughly through the 1970s, and includes recent works that advance the foundational topics of that early scholarship, such as spirituals, minstrelsy, ragtime, and African-American composers of classical music. It does not cover popular music beyond the first few decades of the twentieth century. Those researchers interested in jazz music will be eager to explore another of the Music Division’s research guides: Jazz Research at the Library of Congress.

Portrait of William Grant Still. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten. Created March 12, 1949.
Portrait of William Grant Still photographed by Carl Van Vechten, MArch 12, 1949. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

And third, researchers can find guidance in locating concert music by Black composers with our new guide, Black Composers in Music Division Collections. The Music Division holds first edition scores by the composer and conductor Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), son of a wealthy planter in Guadeloupe and his wife’s African slave; Francis Johnson’s (1792-1844) A Collection of New Cotillions, the first piece of music printed in the United States by an African American composer; holograph manuscripts for William Grant Still’s (1895-1978) Afro-American Symphony, and a myriad other scores and unique materials for the researcher looking to program or study music by Black composers.

In addition to these resources, our newest research guide, Dance Research at the Library Congress, features information about and digital content related to Black dancers and choreographers found in the Alvin Ailey Collection, Katherine Dunham Collection, and others. The Lester Horton Dance Theater Collection documents the history of the first racially integrated dance company in the United States.

Search the Research Guides database on the Library’s website to find other guides of interest and keep checking back for new ones!

Comments (2)

    • Hi Amber, thanks for your note! The link should work fine now. Enjoy!

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