100 Years of Black Music

In honor of Black Music Month, Oxford University Press and the African American Studies Center presents to you a timeline of 100 years in music.

From Ma Rainey to Frankie Lymon to RuPaul, African American musicians have achieved several firsts in the past one hundred years. Celebrate over a century of historical accomplishments with iconic musicians who continue to musically inspire current and future generations.

1901-01-01 11:28:40

"Easy Winners"

Easy Winners by Scott Joplin

1901-11-13 10:35:49

"I’ll Overcome Someday"

Charles Tindley publishes the gospel song "I’ll Overcome Someday."

1902-01-01 11:28:40

Ma Rainey

First black to sing the blues in a professional show.

1912-01-01 11:28:40

Scott Joplin

First black composer to write a black folk opera.

1921-01-01 11:28:40

Shuffle Along

Shuffle Along opens on Broadway.

1921-01-01 11:28:40

Pace Phonograph Corporation

First record company owned and operated by a black person. Later known as Black Swan Records, they were the first widely distributed label to be owned and operated by, and marketed to, African Americans.

1923-01-01 11:28:40

"Downhearted Blues"

"Downhearted Blues" by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake.

1923-01-01 11:28:40

Harlem Renaissance

The Vogue of the New Negro.

1923-01-01 11:28:40

Bessie Smith

First record made by a black person that has sold over a million copies.

1925-09-05 23:03:07

Révue Nègre

Josephine Baker’s Révue Nègre takes Paris by storm.

1929-01-01 11:28:40

"St. Louis Blues"

"St. Louis Blues" by Louis Amrstrong

1934-01-01 11:28:40

"Honeysuckle Rose"

"Honeysuckle Rose" by Fats Waller.

1934-01-01 11:28:40

The Apollo Theater

The Apollo Theater opens in Harlem, New York.

1937-05-19 13:30:43

Billie Holliday

First time a black woman and a white band share the same stage.

1939-11-13 10:35:49

Marian Anderson

First black to sing before a reigning British Monarch at the White House.

1949-02-14 06:53:38

Lionel Hampton

First black musician to perform for a presidential inauguration.

1952-01-01 11:28:40

Vee Jay Records

Vee Jay Records is founded in Chicago, IL by husband and wife, James and Vivian Bracken

1954-06-30 05:05:05


Sh-boom was the first rock 'n' roll record.

1955-06-30 05:05:05


"Maybellene" by Chuck Berry

1955-06-30 05:05:05

Robert McFerrin

First black man to join the Metropolitan Opera.

1956-06-30 05:05:05

Dizzy Gillespie

First black to make an overseas tour sponsored by the United States Department of State.

1956-06-30 05:05:05

Frankie Lymon

First black American teen heartthrob.

1959-09-05 23:03:07

Motown Records

Motown Records was founded by Berry Gordy.

1959-09-05 23:03:07

Ella Fitzgerald

First black woman to win a Grammy.

1959-09-05 23:03:07

Count Basie

First black man to win a Grammy.

1960-06-30 05:05:05

"At Last"

"At Last" by Etta James.

1961-09-05 23:03:07

Quincy Jones Jr.

First black president of a white record company.

1964-06-30 05:05:05

"How Sweet It Is"

"How Sweet It Is" by Marvin Gaye.

1964-09-05 23:03:07

"Baby Love"

"Baby Love" by The Supremes.

1964-09-05 23:03:07

T-Neck Records

The Isley Brothers found T-Neck Records.

1965-09-05 23:03:07


"Respect" by Aretha Franklin.

1971-09-05 23:03:07

"I Wanna Be Where You Are"

"I Wanna Be Where You Are" by Michael Jackson.

1971-09-05 23:03:07

Philadelphia International Records

Renowned writing duo Gamble and Huff establish Philadelphia International Records, developing the “Philly Sound.”

1977-09-05 23:03:07


"Jammin" by Bob Marley.

1977-09-05 23:03:07

Chuck Berry

First songs sung by a black person to be sent out of the solar system.

1979-09-05 23:03:07

Ray Charles

First person of any race to perform before the Georgia Assembly.

1980-09-05 23:03:07

Off the Wall

Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall album becomes the first to produce four top ten hits.

1981-02-14 06:53:38

Wheels of Steel

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five release Wheels of Steel, the first recorded album to use sampling and scratch techniques.

1982-06-30 05:05:05

"A Night to Remember"

"A Night to Remember" by Shalamar

1983-01-01 11:28:40

Def Jam Records

Russell Simmons founded Def Jam Records.

1983-09-05 23:03:07

Michael Jackson

The album "Thriller" was the first to produce five top singles.

1984-09-05 23:03:07

Wynton Marsalis

First black instrumentalist to simultaneously receive Grammy awards as best classical and jazz soloist.

1986-05-30 01:26:53

Aretha Franklin

First black woman selected for the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

1987-05-30 01:26:53

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody"

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston.

1988-05-30 01:26:53

DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince

First rap group to win a Grammy award.

1988-11-08 04:39:42

Queen Latifah

First woman to make a breakthrough in the male-dominated field of rap music.

1992-05-30 01:26:53

Boyz II Men

First black group to have a record at the top of Billboard's Hot One Hundred chart.

1992-05-30 01:26:53


First drag queen recording star.

1994-12-07 21:28:46


"Juicy" by the Notorious B.I.G.

1998-05-30 01:26:53

"Doo-Wop (That Thing)"

"Doo-Wop (That Thing)" by Lauryn Hill

100 Years of Black Music

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