Skip to Main Content

Early African-American Music: A Bibliography

The academic study of African-American music began in 1867 and continues today. Inspired by the scholarship of Dr. Samuel Floyd, this guide provides lists of selected resources that can be found in the Library of Congress.


Academic research of African-American music began substantially in 1867 with the publication of "Slave Songs of the United States" and continues today. The current guide covers the early history of African-American music scholarship, roughly through the 1970s. It also includes recent works that advance the foundational topics of that early scholarship, such as spirituals, minstrelsy, ragtime, and African-American composers of classical music. It does not cover popular music beyond the first few decades of the twentieth century. For more information about jazz music and related resources, see Jazz Research at the Library of Congress.

Jubilee Singers, Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn., circa 1875
James Wallace Black. Jubilee Singers, Fisk University, Nashville, Tenn. American Missionary Association, [between 1870 and 1880]. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

About the Performing Arts Reading Room

The Performing Arts Reading Room is the access point for the collections in the custody of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Numbering approximately 20.5 million items and spanning more than 1000 years of Western music history and practice, these holdings include the classified music and book collections, music and literary manuscripts, iconography, microforms, periodicals, musical instruments, published and unpublished copyright deposits, and close to 500 special collections in music, theater, and dance.