Thoughts and Reflections – The Power of Black Music
In July of 2013 I was asked to speak at the African Meeting House. The title of my talk was “The Power of Black Music.” Thanks to Beverly Morgan-Welch, the Museum of African American History‘s chief executive officer and Lynn DuVal Luce, the Museum’s Director of Marketing and Public Programming. You can listen to the lecture in part one and part two.
The Power of Black Music – Part 1:
In 1875 Carter G. Woodson was born to ex-slave parents. Because of the difficulties of life, Woodson was only able to attend school a few months a year. In spite of that, he entered high school when he was 20 years old. He graduated in 2 years and shortly thereafter he became principal of that same high school. Eventually he received two degrees from the University of Chicago and then became the second African American to receive a doctorate from Harvard. (The first was W. E. B. DuBois).Carter felt that African American history was being ignored or misrepresented by scholars. In 1915 he created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now known as as The Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He was a faculty member at Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he became the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. In 1926, while in D.C. he promoted the first Negro History Week which later became Black History Month.
“The Museum of African American History is New England’s largest museum dedicated to preserving, conserving and accurately interpreting the contributions of people of African descent, and those with whom they found common cause in the struggle for liberty, dignity, and justice for all. Founded in 1967, its Boston and Nantucket campuses feature four historic sites — three are National Historic Landmarks — and two Black Heritage Trails®. These treasures represent the most important National Historic Landmarks related to African American history in the United States.
When Boston’s free black community began construction on the nation’s first African Meeting House in 1806, they had a vision. Free black craftsmen would build a gathering place to worship, to educate children and adults, engage in all manner of political and cultural life, and launch a strategic campaign to abolish slavery. In the decades that followed, there were historic meetings hosted by black and white abolitionists, whose steadfast commitments and gallant actions changed this nation. The Meeting House became known as the black Faneuil Hall. The oldest extant African American church building in the country served diverse communities as a Baptist church, a school, and a vital meeting place in the 1800s, then as a synagogue in the 20th century. Centuries later, it still stands majestically on the north slope of Beacon Hill.
With historic restoration complete, the African Meeting House reopened December 2011, on its 205th birthday, and once again welcomes visitors from around the world to hear challenging and remarkable stories, and walk in the footsteps of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Maria Stewart and all the giants who transformed Boston into the nexus of the abolitionist movement. The restoration
rehabilitated the building to its 1855 appearance, the height of the antislavery movement, with elegantly curved pews and pulpit, period wainscoting and wall finishes, cast-iron posts and golden chandelier. Spoken word at the Meeting House is etched on granite panels towering in the new courtyard entryway, and the elevator and stair tower additions make it accessible to all.
While the African Meeting House is the crown jewel of the Museum’s historic sites, the adjacent Abiel Smith School (1835) celebrates its own proud history. It is the first building in the nation constructed to serve as a public school for black children and, like the Meeting House, is a National Historic Landmark. The school anchors the Boston campus to its 46 Joy Street address, and houses exhibit galleries and the Museum Store. Our longstanding and valued partnership with the National Park Service, Boston African American National Historic Site, makes historically rich guided tours of the Museum and the nation’s signature Black Heritage Trail® a powerful experience six days a week.”
Museum of African American History. http://www.afroammuseum.org/