Re-Drawing the Map of American Music History

Like so many other aspects of the history and culture of the United States, its music has been profoundly shaped by racism and racialized discourse. But unlike those other aspects, music’s role in reflecting and informing racialized identity and experience in the United States often goes unnoticed. In an effort to expose the ways in which music we compose, perform, teach, and hear everyday bears subtle traces of this complicated, problematic history, this page addresses the history of music’s intersections with race from the 16th century through the present.

Who gets to define “American music,” and how have changing definitions of that phrase related to changing ideas about race? When has music making in America participated in the construction of sexist, racist, and nationalist identities? When has music been a venue for racial and cultural hybridity, productive appropriation, and outright theft? As composers, performers, listeners, and historians, how should we respond to the glorious and checkered past of American music?