African Americans have a rich musical heritage. For centuries, music has been one of the expressions of their culture. During the Middle Passage, they hummed traditional African tunes as they endured the excruciating pain and abuse of this voyage. It is said that John Newton, a slave ship Captain wrote the words of “Amazing Grace” to an African tune he heard the slaves hum. As slaves were converted to Christianity, they brought their own culture to worship and used music which reflected their present circumstances to express their relationship with God. Today, Negro spirituals are still a strong component of African American worship.

Music has always been a means of expressing African American life and history. The database, African American Music Reference does an excellent job chronicling the experiences of African Americans through music.  The database provides researchers with images, lyrics, essays, book chapters, biographies, sheet music, liner notes, historical events, etc. The database can be browsed or searched by publisher, titles, genre, etc. It covers different genres of African American music: Blues, Jazz, Negro Spiritual, hip hop, Ragtime, Bebop, civil rights songs, and many more.

The database covers the period from colonial America to the present time. The database was created by Alexander Street Press and the selection of content included in the database was done under the direction of Dr. Samuel A. Floyd, the founder of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College, Chicago. New additions are still made to the database. As at present, it has more than 67,000 pages. These pages are all digitized and searchable inside. Some of the facsimile images in the database can be shared through email, downloaded, copied or embedded through a link.

Access to the database is to libraries online. A good number of universities and public libraries have a subscription to the database. They is an annual subscription fee or an option to pay a one time fee for permanent rights to the database. Prices for the database are not the same for every library. According to Alexander Press, “Prices are scaled to budget and FTE.” African American Music Reference is an excellent teaching and research resource and comes with an A+ rating from the Library Journal.

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