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Updated: Jun 16, 2022

Originally coined Black Music Month, the commemoration was conceived by Black music moguls Kenny Gamble, Dyana Williams and Ed Wright in the 1970s. It was decreed by President Jimmy Carter on June 7, 1979 that June would be Black Music Month.

In 2009, the commemoration was given its current name African-American Music Appreciation Month by President Barack Obama. In his 2016 proclamation, President Obama noted that African-American music and musicians have helped the country “to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Further, “African-American music exemplifies the creative spirit…and is among the most innovative and powerful art the world has ever known…Songs by African American musicians span the breadth of human experience and resonate in every corner…animating our bodies, stimulating our imaginations and nourishing our souls.” —Wikipedia / Allegheny Library Association/Green Tree Borough

14 Times Black Women in Music Broke Boundaries and Made History

Essence "Black Women in Music" / 2016

  1. Beyonce The most Grammys

  2. Mamie Smith – First Black Blues Singer Recorded

  3. Lauryn Hill – Best New Artist for her 1998 album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

  4. Ethel Waters Considered one of the world’s first Black Superstars

  5. Monica Is the youngest Black Grammy Winner, taking home her first award at the age of 18

  6. Natalie Cole Highest Honors for Unforgettable…with Love most awarded album by a female artist of color in 1992. The album won 6 Grammys

  7. Whitney Houston – All the Awards / most decorated musician of all time. The late-great Whitney Houston is one of the most decorated musicians of all time

  8. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – The Pioneer / Considered the “Godmother of Rock & Roll” / Gospel singer and also a guitar virtuoso

  9. TLC Best-Selling girl group of all time

  10. Gloria Gaynor / Disco Fever – Gaynor is the first and only winner of the Best Disco Recording Grammy Award

  11. Rihanna - Record Breaker – Most number one pop songs by a woman on the Billboard Charts

  12. Aretha Franklin - Hall of Fame Honoree The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987

  13. Marian Anderson - History-Maker – In 1955, legendary opera singer Marian Anderson broke the color barrier by becoming the first African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera

  14. Nicki Minaj – Became the female artist with the most Hot 100 hits at 76, beating Aretha Franklin’s record of 73

Photos available under Creative Common 2.0 License

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