3 Stories About Black Music History in 6 Minutes (or So)

Black-music-history

Music has been a part of Robert F. Smith’s life since he was a child. Smith’s father William attended college on a music scholarship and made sure music was a part of their family’s everyday life. Smith once recalled that his family often gathered around the piano at night, and at night when they went to bed, Leontyne Price — an internationally renowned African American operatic soprano — sang arias on the stereo.

Smith continues to be a music lover, and his philanthropic work reflects that. The Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is founding director and President, seeks to both preserve the African American experience and expand access to music education in schools across the country. Part of the Foundation’s mission is to use music education to “nourish both talent and the soul.”

One of Smith’s initiatives to expand access to education about music, specifically Black music history, is the video podcast Black History in Two Minutes (or so). The web series recently received its second year of accolades, earning two 2020 Webby Awards in the People’s Choice category as well as the Education and Discovery category. The brainchild of Smith, who serves as Executive Director of the project, Black History in Two Minutes creates video histories focused on African Americans that are narrated by co-executive producer, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. To date, the series has produced more than 50 videos on Black history along with educational materials. 

Black History Told Through Music 

The following videos from Black History in Two Minutes, focus on the history of Black music. They help tell the story of how certain beloved music genres and icons of Black entertainment came into being and why they are so important.

The Birth of Hip Hop

The origins of the hip-hop genre bring us to a South Bronx house party in the year 1973. DJ Kool Herc started using new turntable techniques, like switching rapidly from record to record, that led to the discovery of the hip hop genre. Over the years, the hip-hop genre has been used as a platform for activism to fight for justice and equality for Black Americans.

To learn more about the history of hip hop, watch the full episode on Black History in Two Minutes.

The Birth of Jazz

Jazz traces its origins back to New Orleans, Louisiana. Early jazz music was played by Black artists, and talented musicians like Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith popularized the genre. Because jazz was often played by African American artists in so-called red-light districts, it was deemed “immoral music,” and steps were even taken to limit its rise and influence.

To learn more about the history of jazz, watch the full episode on Black History in Two Minutes.

Soul Train

Jazz traces its origins back to New Orleans, Louisiana. Early jazz music was played by Black artists, and talented musicians like Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith popularized the genre. Because jazz was often played by African American artists in so-called red-light districts, it was deemed “immoral music,” and steps were even taken to limit its rise and influence.

To learn more about Soul Train, watch the full episode on Black History in Two Minutes.