This Nashville Museum Is Dedicated to African American Music

The museum covers the history of African American music, from blues to R&B, and is the first of its kind.

Rendering of National Museum of African American Music
Photo: Courtesy of NMAAM

You'll have to head to America's country music capital to experience the rich history of a less-explored — until now — genre. The one-and-only National Museum of African American Music opened its doors in Nashville in 2021.

According to the museum's website, "the 56,000-square-foot institution is the only museum dedicated to educating, preserving, and celebrating more than 50 music genres and styles that were created, influenced, and/or inspired by African Americans, including spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, and hip hop."

Rendering of National Museum of African American Music
Courtesy of NMAAM

It includes artifacts, objects, memorabilia, clothing, and state-of-the-art technology to walk guests through the history of African American music, from the early 1600s to present day. "More than 50 genres and sub-genres of American music are explored," according to a press release.

The experience starts with a short film that introduces guests to the evolution of African American music and its origins in West and Central African cultures in the museum's Roots Theater. Then visitors are welcome to move through the museum's six galleries at their own pace.

"We [prepared] for this day for more than 20 years, but this museum has actually been more than 400 years in the making," H. Beecher Hicks III, museum president and CEO, told Matador Network.

Rendering of exhibition space in National Museum of African American Music in Nashville
Courtesy of NMAAM

The different galleries cover everything from religious music and the blues, to the origins of jazz in New Orleans and hip hop in New York City.

The Rivers of Rhythm corridor includes an interactive timeline of American music history.

Learn about spirituals in the Wade in The Water gallery before moving to The Love Supreme gallery which begins with an explanation of African indigenous musical traditions in New Orleans' Congo Square.

The Crossroads gallery traces blues from the work songs of sharecroppers and workers throughout the post-slavery period in the Deep South and the Mississippi Delta in the 19th century.

End your trip in the South Bronx in the 1970s at The Message, which covers hip hop and rap.

The museum also sponsors a series of local educational opportunities and community events that appeal to all kinds of music lovers — from fans of B.B. King to Beyoncé.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $14 for youths (children under seven get in free) and are available on the museum's official website.

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