History of African-American Music

This lesson traces the long history of how African Americans have used music as a vehicle for communicating beliefs, aspirations, observations, joys, despair, resistance, and more across U.S. history. Teachers are encouraged to think of the resources and activities included below as examples to be incorporated over the course of a school year rather than a single unit of study. For example, lessons on the slave trade and slavery can include review of factors that contributed to the development of the spiritual. By examining the 19th-century biography of Harriet Tubman, students learn how she used spirituals as a secret signal to fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad.