The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has released a new book spotlighting objects in its music collection to show how Black music has shaped American identity since the 19th century.
The book, “Musical Crossroads: Stories Behind the Objects of African American Music,” was researched by museum scholars and contains more than 200 images of objects in the music and performing arts collection. Objects include Thelonious Monk’s piano, Whitney Houston’s Soul Train Award, Marian Anderson’s outfit from her 1939 Lincoln Memorial concert, Little Richard’s Bible, a poem from James Baldwin, a clock worn by Flavor Flav and Hall Johnson’s camera.
Dwandalyn R. Reece, the museum’s associate director for curatorial affairs and the curator of the “Musical Crossroads” exhibition, edited the book, which features a foreword by Kevin Young, the museum’s Andrew W. Mellon director.
“Harriet Tubman’s hymnal, Charlie Parker’s saxophone, Chuck Berry’s Cadillac Eldorado, Sammy Davis Jr.’s childhood tap shoes, the Parliament Funkadelic Mothership — these are among the nearly 4,000 items that make up the music collection stewarded by the [museum],” Young said. “These musical materials tell a story of Black innovation, survival, and ingenuity. For the enslaved, their bodies could become an instrument in an oppressive system where much of their music was outlawed, their spirits undaunted, they achieved, as Harriett Tubman’s hymnal testifies, a higher calling of faith and freedom.”
“Musical Crossroads” is published in collaboration with United Kingdom-based Giles.