What is The Music of Black Americans?

Eileen Southern’s book The Music of Black Americans: A History represents a monumental achievement for its author. Prior to its publication in 1971, American musicology had focused on European music, and studies of American music had not considered Black composers and performers. The book's research was the work of a lifetime for Professor Southern, who had scarcely any existing bibliography to draw on and thus conducted most of her research from primary sources. It is important, deeply appreciated and rich in detail. But it was intended for a wide readership, and so offers few direct citations for its many musical excerpts. It obliges replication of Professor Southern's research process, following titles or composers to library catalogs or search engines.

This site is a project of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard University. It offers the first organized, openly accessible inventory of the musical examples in the first edition of The Music of Black Americans, and provides full-text open access to the complete scores of almost all of these examples, from sources in the collections of Harvard Library and other institutions.

Its goal is to bridge the gap between the music in The Music of Black Americans as it appears in the book, and as it could appear in the hands of a composer, on the music stand of a conductor, or on the screen of a musicologist. Much of this music was available in a digital format when we embarked on our project; the content of this site represents research completed in late 2022.

Do you have information about a composer, creator, or contributor listed in The Music of Black Americans? We invite comments and suggestions for additional sources; please contact us at muslib@fas.harvard.edu.

You will encounter offensive language and disturbing imagery in this website. For more information, see our Harmful Content Statement.

How To Navigate the Site

Explore the Book

Explore the Pieces


Use Explore the Book to be guided through each part of Southern's text. Here, you can navigate to each musical example while learning more about the organization of the book as a whole.

Use Explore the Pieces to see a list of all the musical examples in Southern's text. Here, you can browse or search through all the examples at once.

Use the Index to see a list of all the parts Southern outlines in her book. Clicking on any link within the index will allow you to explore the musical examples in that section of the book.