June is African-American Music Appreciation Month: Celebrate with many titles from UM Press!

by Lauren Stachew on June 7, 2016

This month is the 37th annual African-American Music Appreciation Month. Originally called ‘Black Music Month,’ Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams developed the idea in 1979 to set aside a month dedicated to celebrating the significance of black music. The group successfully lobbied President Jimmy Carter to host a reception on June 7th, 1979 to formally recognize the month, and since then, African-American Music Appreciation Month has grown into a nationally celebrated and revered occasion, with events held annually across the country.

The University of Michigan Press has many exciting titles that celebrate the rich and inspiring history of African-American music:

Pre-order one of our forthcoming and highly-anticipated titles, John Lewis and the Challenge of “Real” Black Music by Christopher Coady, part of the Jazz Perspectives Series at the Press. Gabriel Solis of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign calls this book “a remarkable piece of jazz scholarship that is timely and fills at least two significant needs in the discipline… a deeply investigated, serious consideration of the work of one of the music’s great masters, John Lewis… this is a rich meditation on questions about race, nation, and authenticity in the music that scholars of jazz and many other kinds of music will find useful.” Coady explores the work of one of the form’s most vital practitioners, following Lewis from his role as an arranger for Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool sessions to his leadership of the Modern Jazz Quartet, his tours of Europe, and his stewardship of the Lenox School of Jazz.


Learn more about the later years of Miles Davis in The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991 by George Cole. This is the story of the final recordings of one of the greatest jazz musicians of the twentieth century. The Last Miles is the first book to center exclusively on the music Miles Davis made in the last decade of his life. Cole spotlights the final period of Davis’s career, when Davis emerged from a five-year hiatus. Thousands of new facts are uncovered, including a lost Miles Davis album, how Miles got into hip-hop, and how he worked in the studio and on stage. Cole devotes at least one chapter to each album Davis recorded during this period, and the full track-by-track descriptions contain the stories behind the songs.


The blues are an intrinsic part of African-American music, and Christian O’Connell explores this genre in a context outside of the U.S. in Blues, How Do You Do? This work examines the role of black American music abroad in the post–WWII era through the lens of one of the period’s most prolific and influential blues scholars, Paul Oliver. Recent revisionist scholarship has argued that representations by white “outsider” observers of black American music have distorted historical truths about how the blues came to be. While these scholarly arguments have generated an interesting debate concerning how the music has been framed and disseminated, they have so far only told an American story, failing to acknowledge that in the post-war era the blues had spread far beyond the borders of the United States. As Christian O’Connell shows, Paul Oliver’s largely neglected scholarship—and the unique transatlantic cultural context it provides—is vital to understanding the blues.


Explore the history of African- American musicians in Chicago during the mid-20th century in The Black Musician and the White City: Race and Music in Chicago, 1900-1967 by Amy Absher. Absher’s work diverges from existing studies, in that she takes the history beyond the study of jazz and blues by examining the significant role that classically-trained black musicians played in building the Chicago South Side community. Absher utilizes maps to illustrate the relationship between Chicago’s physical lines of segregation and the geography of black music in the city over the years. Her use of archival sources is both extensive and original, drawing on manuscript and oral history collections at the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago, Columbia University, Rutgers’s Institute of Jazz Studies, and Tulane’s Hogan Jazz Archive.


Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist, from Café Society to Hollywood to HUAC by Karen Chilton is the first biography of an important but overlooked African-American pianist, singer, actor, and civil-rights activist. JazzTimes writes that “…perhaps the highest compliment one can pay to this fine biography is that during the first 150 pages the reader is wondering why Scott isn’t better known, at least in the jazz world. But by the story’s end . . . the same reader knows exactly why, but is still likely to be singing her praises as a true trailblazer in African-American culture.” In a career spanning over four decades, Scott became known not only for her accomplishments on stage and screen, but for her outspoken advocacy of civil rights and her refusal to play before segregated audiences. Her relentless crusade on behalf of African Americans, women, and artists made her the target of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the McCarthy Era, eventually forcing her to join the black expatriate community in Paris. By age twenty-five, Hazel Scott was an international star.


Order from press.umich.edu and receive a 30% discount off these titles by entering in the promotional code UMAAMUS.

Check out these titles and more by visiting University of Michigan Press’s Jazz Perspectives series and Tracking Pop series on our website.

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