Rewriting Rock: New Takes on Black Women in Rock and Pop History
Free Virtual Event
An award-winning Black feminist music critic takes us on an epic journey through radical sound from Bessie Smith to Beyoncé.
Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a century of music archives to examine the critics, collectors, and listeners who have determined perceptions of Black women on stage and in the recording studio. How is it possible, she asks, that iconic artists such as Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé exist simultaneously at the center and on the fringe of the culture industry?
Liner Notes for the Revolution offers a startling new perspective on these acclaimed figures—a perspective informed by the overlooked contributions of other Black women concerned with the work of their musical peers. Zora Neale Hurston appears as a sound archivist and a performer, Lorraine Hansberry as a queer Black feminist critic of modern culture, and Pauline Hopkins as America’s first Black female cultural commentator. Brooks tackles the complicated racial politics of blues music recording, song collecting, and rock and roll criticism. She makes lyrical forays into the blues pioneers Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith, as well as fans who became critics, like the record-label entrepreneur and writer Rosetta Reitz. In the twenty-first century, pop superstar Janelle Monae’s liner notes are recognized for their innovations, while celebrated singers Cécile McLorin Salvant, Rhiannon Giddens, and Valerie June take their place as cultural historians.
With an innovative perspective on the story of Black women in popular music—and who should rightly tell it—Liner Notes for the Revolution pioneers a long overdue recognition and celebration of Black woman musicians as radical intellectuals.
Daphne A. Brooks is author of Jeff Buckley’s Grace and Bodies in Dissent, winner of the Errol Hill Award for outstanding scholarship in African American performance studies. A professor at Yale University, she has written liner notes to accompany the recordings of Aretha Franklin, Tammi Terrell, and Prince, as well as stories for the New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, and Pitchfork.
Maureen Mahon, a cultural anthropologist, teaches in the Department of Music at New York University. She is the author of Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (2020) and Right To Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race (2004). Her articles on African-American music have appeared in academic journals and on the websites of National Public Radio and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was the Chief Academic Advisor for “Soundtrack of America,” the five-night concert series created by filmmaker Steve McQueen that opened the inaugural season of The Shed in New York City.
Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll
African American women have played a pivotal part in rock and roll—from laying its foundations and singing chart-topping hits to influencing some of the genre's most iconic acts. Despite this, black women's importance to the music's history has been diminished by narratives of rock as a mostly white male enterprise. In Black Diamond Queens, Maureen Mahon draws on recordings, press coverage, archival materials, and interviews to document the history of African American women in rock and roll between the 1950s and the 1980s. Mahon details the musical contributions and cultural impact of Big Mama Thornton, LaVern Baker, Betty Davis, Tina Turner, Merry Clayton, Labelle, the Shirelles, and others, demonstrating how dominant views of gender, race, sexuality, and genre affected their careers. By uncovering this hidden history of black women in rock and roll, Mahon reveals a powerful sonic legacy that continues to reverberate into the twenty-first century.
It’s Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope & Empowerment invites you to listen and amplify. Divided into three sections, Voices of Rage, Hope & Empowerment mirrors the museum's physical exhibition, and allows visitors to go deeper into the stories, artifacts, and music that promote real change.EXPLORE
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is celebrating Black History Month with a series of virtual events and programs honoring the extraordinary contributions that African Americans have made to rock & roll music. Fans can also head to the museum, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A cornerstone to its programming and outreach, the Rock Hall’s Black History Month celebration highlights stories, provides opportunities for dialogue, and reflects on the contributions and legacies of African American artists.
New episodes every Friday in February
Throughout February, enjoy new podcast episodes honoring the legacies of African American Inductees with unfiltered access to iconic Induction speeches. Episodes include Gladys Knight and the Pips inducted by Mariah Carey (Feb. 5), Public Enemy inducted by Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte (Feb. 12), The Miracles inducted by Smokey Robinson (Feb. 19), and Buddy Guy inducted by B.B. King and Eric Clapton (Feb. 26).
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Teachers and parents, we're here to help you engage with students as schools move to at home, online instruction. Rock Hall EDU, our free digital learning platform, is full of resources and activities that use the power of rock & roll to engage students of all ages.
Bring the spirit of the Rock Hall’s “It’s Been Said All Along” exhibit to your students with a special Black History Month collection, bookended with playlists that spotlight the sounds African American artists used then and now to speak out against racism. You’ll also find presentations on individual artists from Mahalia Jackson to Tupac, essays on soul legends Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke, and an activity that digs into the complexities of segregation.
Plus, enjoy a selection of videos featured on the Rock Hall’s YouTube channel, including the Rock Hall’s recent 90-minute special celebrating the life & legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.
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