This is a condensed version of an in-house exhibit at NOPL's Main Library. If you're in town, or planning to visit between now and the end of May, 1997, please come by and see the original. There are more images than we are able to show here and, of course, the originals are much clearer.

Thousands of black New Orleanians have made music in their hometown--and "abroad"--over the past 200-plus years. A number of them became real stars, some even on an international level. Many more are well-remembered through their compositions and recordings, and through the recorded observations of themselves, their compatriots, and music historians, critics, and other informants. Still more taught, wrote and performed in relative obscurity, known, perhaps, only to limited audiences in their own neighborhoods, churches, and families. All of these players, however, helped to produce--and to keep alive--the incredibly rich tradition of New Orleans music.

African American New Orleanians played in a variety of musical traditions--ragtime, jazz, the blues, gospel, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, funk, rap, and beyond. Local black musicians also composed and played classical music during the 19th century and their musical descendants continue to produce beautiful sounds today. The crossover from one musical form to another is one of the forces that has made African American music in the Crescent City not only a vital force locally, but also such a powerful influence on music in the United States and around the globe.

This exhibit, which is drawn from materials in the City Archives, the Louisiana Photograph Collection, and the Louisiana Division's book and periodical collections, only begins an exploration of the brilliant and complex fabric of African American music in New Orleans. Its obvious overemphasis on jazz is due in part to the fact that the Division's jazz-related materials are considerably more extensive than its materials on other forms of musical expression. But the emphasis is also due to the generally accepted view that jazz, "the United States' most widely recognized indigenous music and art form," was born in New Orleans out of the black musical experience that had gone before it.

"African Americans in New Orleans: The Music" was designed and mounted by Wayne Everard and Irene Wainwright of the Library's Louisiana Division/City Archives staff. They thank Ridgway's, Inc. for the reproduction of original materials. Thanks as well go to Robert Baxter and Charles DeLong of the Library's Duplications staff. This exhibit will remain on view through the end of May.

Advertisement from Woods Directory, Being a Colored Business, Professional and Trade Directory of New Orleans, Louisiana (1914).

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Go to NOPL's Black History Month Calendar.

January 30, 1997--wme