Van Hollen and Booker introduce resolution recognizing African-American contributions to music

June 28, 2022

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.) in introducing a resolution celebrating the contributions of African Americans to America’s musical heritage and designating June 2022 as the Month appreciation of African-American music. Additionally, the resolution further recognizes the lack of access to arts education and training for African American students and calls for greater access to music education.

The resolution was co-sponsored in addition to Senator Van Hollen by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bob Menendez (DN.J.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.).

The full text of the resolution is available here.

While spirituals, ragtime, blues, jazz, gospel, classical composition, and countless other categories of music were created or enhanced by African Americans and are etched in the history and culture of the states -United ;

While the first Africans transported to the United States came from various ethnic groups with a long history of distinct and cultivated musical traditions, brought musical instruments with them and built new musical instruments in the United States;

While the spirituals were a distinct response to the conditions of African slavery in the United States and expressed the enslaved people’s desire for spiritual and bodily freedom, security from evil and harm, and relief from the hardships of slavery;

While jazz, arguably the most creative and complex music the United States has produced, combines the musical traditions of African Americans in New Orleans with the creative flexibility of blues music;

While masterful trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis achieved national and international recognition with the hits of Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” in the 1920s and Miles Davis’ “So What” in the late 1950s;

While Thomas Dorsey, the father of gospel music, used his songwriting skills to merge sacred and secular styles that created a revolution in music;

While talented jazz pianist and singer Nathaniel Adams Coles has recorded over 150 singles and sold over 50,000,000 records;

While the talent of 13-time Grammy winner Ella Fitzgerald is embodied in a rendition of “Summertime,” a bluesy record accompanied by melodic vocals;

While Natalie Cole, the daughter of Nathaniel Adams Coles, achieved musical success in the mid-1970s as a rhythm and blues artist with the hits “This Will Be” and “Unforgettable”;

While in the 1940s, bebop evolved through jam sessions, which included trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, which took place at clubs in Harlem, New York, such as Minton’s Playhouse;

While earlier classical singers such as Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, one of the first widely known African-American singers, and other pioneers of African-American singing including Nellie Mitchell Brown, Marie Selika Williams, Rachel Walker Turner, Marian Anderson and Flora Batson Bergen, paved the way for African-American female concert singers who have achieved great popularity over the past 50 years;

While the term “rhythm and blues” originated in the late 1940s to describe recordings marketed to African Americans and replaced the term “race music”;

While the lyrical themes of rhythm and blues often encapsulate the African American experience of pain, the quest for freedom, joy, triumphs and failures, relationships, economics and aspiration and have been popularized by artists such as Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Etta James, and Otis Redding;

While soul music originated in the African-American community in the late 1950s and early 1960s, combines elements of African-American gospel music, rhythm and blues, and jazz, and was popularized by artists such as Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Bill Withers and Jackie Wilson;

While Motown, founded as a record label in 1959, has evolved into a distinctive style known for “Motown Sound”, a blend of pop and soul musical styles made popular by prominent black artists such as Marvin Gaye, James Mason and Mary Wells;

While in the early 1970s the disco musical style emerged and was popularized by programs such as Soul Train and by artists such as Donna Summer;

While reggae is a genre of music that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s and incorporates some of the musical elements of rhythm and blues, jazz, mento, calypso and African music, and has been popularized by artists such as Bob Marley;

While rock and roll was developed from African American musical styles such as gospel and rhythm and blues and was popularized by artists such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix;

While rap, arguably the most complex and influential form of hip-hop culture, combines blues, jazz, soul and elements of the African-American musical tradition with calypso, dub and Caribbean dancehall reggae;

While the development and popularity of old-school rap combined confident beats with puns and stories, highlighting the struggle of young African Americans growing up in inner-city neighborhoods;

While contemporary rhythm and blues, which originated in the late 1970s and combines elements of pop, rhythm and blues, soul, funk, hip hop, gospel and electronic dance music, were popularized by artists such as Whitney Houston and Aaliyah;

While Prince Rogers Nelson, known for his electric performances and wide vocal range, pioneered music incorporating a wide variety of styles including contemporary funk, rock, rhythm and blues, new wave, soul, psychedelia and pop;

While the incredible Billie Holiday created a cultural reset by recording “Strange Fruit”, originally a poem that depicted lynching in the American South, which became the first protest song of the era of civil rights ;

While talented jazz artist Duke Ellington pushed the boundaries with his hits ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing’ and ‘Sophisticated Lady’ and received 13 Grammys as well as the Gold Medal presidential;

While Sister Rosetta Tharpe, known as the Godmother of Rock ‘N Roll, combined her distinctive guitar style with melodic blues and traditional gospel music that influenced Aretha Franklin and Chuck Berry;

While pioneer Florence Price is the first African-American female composer to achieve national status and the first African-American woman to have her composed work performed by a major national symphony orchestra;

While classical singer Marian Anderson broke racial barriers by performing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 after being refused to sing before an integrated audience at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC;

While country music singer Charley Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and has over 40 country No. 1 hits;

While Nina Simone, one of soul’s most important and extraordinary singers, has music that spans over 4 decades and has impacted generations with her detailed storytelling;

While musician Bobby McFerrin brought joy to audiences everywhere with his hit “Don’t Worry Be Happy”;

While renowned saxophonist John Coltrane has impacted genres like bebop, jazz, and rhythm and blues through his works such as “A Love Supreme”;

While musical force Marvin Gaye used his versatility as an artist to produce hits like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”;

While a recent study by the Department of Education revealed that only 28% of African-American students receive an arts education;

While African-American students scored the lowest of all ethnicities in the most recent National Assessment for Educational Advancement arts assessment;

While students who are eligible for the school lunch program established under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 USC 1751 et seq.) have significantly lower scores on the music portion of the Arts Assessment National Assessment for Educational Progress that students who are ineligible for this program, suggesting that students from low-income families are disadvantaged in the music field;

While a recent study found that…

(1) nearly 2/3 of students in musical ensembles were white and middle class, and only 15% of those students were African American; and

(2) only 7% of music teacher license applicants were African American; and

While students of color face many barriers to accessing music education and training, especially students in large urban public schools: Now, therefore, let it be

Resolved, that the Senate—

(1) acknowledges—

(A) the contributions of African Americans to the musical heritage of the United States;

(B) the wide range of talented and popular African-American musical artists, composers, songwriters, and musicians who are under-recognized for their contributions to music;

(C) the achievements, talent, and hard work of pioneering African-American artists and the obstacles these artists overcame to gain recognition;

(D) the need for African American students to have greater access to and participation in music education in schools across the United States; and

(E) Black History Month and African American Music Appreciation Month as a significant time—

(i) celebrate the impact of African American musical heritage on the musical heritage of the United States; and

(ii) encourage greater access to music education so that the next generation can continue to contribute greatly to the musical heritage of the United States; and

(2) designates June 2022 as “African American Music Appreciation Month”.

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