On Martin Luther King Day on January 18, 2021, The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) officially opened to the public in Nashville, Tennessee.
NMAAM President and CEO H. Beecher Hicks III said via press release before the opening, “We have been preparing for this day for more than 20 years, but this museum has actually been more than 400 years in the making. We look forward to welcoming music lovers from around the world to this magnificent cultural experience. We also want to thank the thousands of people who have supported us along the way, as we prepare to celebrate the history of African American music, which truly is the soundtrack of our nation.”
The museum is built anchoring the new Nashville downtown mixed-use development Fifth + Broadway, the 56,000-square-foot museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to preserving and celebrating more than 50 music genres and styles that were created, influenced or inspired by African Americans, including spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B, and hip hop.
The museum has more than 1,500 artifacts, objects, memorabilia and clothing, along with state-of-the-art technology. Each of the museum’s seven galleries is designed to share a different narrative and a unique perspective on African American music and history.
NMAAM is the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the many music genres created, influenced, and inspired by African Americans. The museum’s collections share the story of the American soundtrack by integrating history and interactive technology to bring the musical heroes of the past into the present.
The museum’s goal is to educate the world, preserve the legacy, and celebrate the central role African Americans play in creating the American soundtrack. Some of the current galleries are dedicated to jazz, the music of the Civil Rights era and hip-hop.
So why did the museum choose Nashville? According to a quote on the NMAAM website, “We’re placing America’s beloved music and musicians in their historical place, right here in the heart of Music City – Nashville, Tennessee. Historically, Tennessee was the center of the Great Migration, when approximately 6 million African Americans left the South–with their musical traditions in tow–to relocate to large cities and other areas of the Northeast, Mid-West and Western states.”
They continued, “With Nashville known as Music City, the museum will be the final jewel in the city’s crown. We’re preserving the history of America’s soundtrack in a place where music is truly celebrated on a daily basis.”
As the only museum in the nation with a dedicated focus on the impact African American music, NMAAM will strengthen and diversify the “Music City” brand with compelling connections to both local and national musical distinctions. Additionally, Nashville is a place where significant African American music events and artists thrived. The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, and Little Richard are just a few of the pioneering artists who were a part of Nashville music scene in the early stages of their career.
The National Museum of African American Music joins other music museums and institutions in Tennessee, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, Graceland, The Grand Ole’ Opry, The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, and The Bessie Smith Museum among several others. The museum’s interactive galleries will play along with the American soundtrack, illuminate Nashville’s significant influence, and share how African American music inspires others around the world.