Black Women in Jazz & the Arts

Lady Day. [Photographer]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

Alice Coltrane. Aretha Franklin. Nina Simone. Ella Fitzgerald. Etta James. Billie Holiday (Lady Day). Millie Jackson. Lauryn Hill. Sade Adu. Minnie Riperton. Ann Peebles. Erykah Badu. The Supremes. Roberta Flack. Candi Staton. Sharon Jones. Sarah Vaughan. Nancy Wilson. Abbey Lincoln. Dinah Washington. Jeanne Lee. Elis Regina. Cassandra Wilson. Dorothy Ashby.

Each a legend in their own right, yet I’d bet that most of us are probably only passingly familiar with six of the above artists at most–and for most of us, it’d be the first six. What do they have in common? You’ve probably guessed from the title, but each is a pioneering black woman in the music industry from the worlds of jazz, soul, and R&B who had a major impact on music in the 20th and 21st centuries. Today is National Black Women In Jazz & The Arts Day, a very new day of celebration begun by the organization Black Women In Jazz (warning: the site will play music upon loading), who hold regular concerts and workshops and an annual awards ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia. While most of us will be unable to directly participate, we can indirectly celebrate by simply listening to the music of the women above (and hundreds more that I did not name) and by reading about their lives. Much of their music can be found on popular streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and Rhapsody.

And if you’re looking for reading material you’ve come to the right place–simply searching the names of many of the women above from the Library homepage‘s built-in search functionality will result in thousands of results, which can be helpfully narrowed down by applying content, discipline, publication date, subject term, and location filters. And if you need a primer on jazz in general (and no one will blame you), there might be no better starting place than Geoffrey Ward’s and Ken Burns’s Jazz: A History of America’s Music, or if you’d rather watch than read, Ken Burns’s documentary series Jazz, available for streaming in its entirety.

Photo Credit:

Lady Day. [Photographer]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.<br />

One thought on “Black Women in Jazz & the Arts

  1. Sha Battle

    Thank you for this recognition. I am the founder and creator of National Black Women in Jazz & The Arts Day and Black Women In Jazz & The Arts Awards. Awesome article!


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