early twentieth century musical era
Band leader Lt. James Reese Europe and his Harlem Hellfighters aboard the SS Stockholm.

Early 20th Century

1914 – 1945

The 'Great Migration'  Begins

Technology and the first world war both had a tremendous impact on Black music. Race records marketed towards a Black audience showcased various genres, including the blues, jazz, gospel, and locally or regionally known artists could now gain a larger fan base.

"World War I was in many ways the beginning of the 20th-century civil rights movement. The war created opportunities for African Americans to demand their civil rights, in and outside of the Army. Moreover, the war transformed the racial and political consciousness of a generation of black people, especially those who served in the military. This would shape the activism and everyday resistance of black people throughout the postwar period."
Chad Williams, author of "Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era"

Black people in all walks of life began demanding access to opportunities and recognition from a completely segregated society. Black artists and musicians were at the forefront of this movement.

Genres from this era

Blues

Blues

Born in the Mississippi Delta.

Jazz

Jazz

Born in New Orleans with roots in ragtime and the blues.

Swing

Swing

The dominant form of American dance music for over a decade.

Country & Folk

Country & Folk

Black musical tradition is a part of its core.

Gospel

Gospel

The progeny of spirituals and cousin to the blues.

Notable Events

The United States Enters World War I

The United States Enters World War I

April 6, 1917

Thousands of Black soldiers joined the fight. Their experience in Europe made them more resistant to the racism they faced back in the United States.

The Great Migration

The Great Migration

c. 1910s to the 1970s

Over 6 million African Americans relocated from the South to the Northern, Midwestern, and Western States forever transforming the country.

The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance

c. 1918 to the 1935

Also known as the New Negro Movement, this was a period of great cultural innovation in the fields of literature, dance, art, and music.

Real Steel

Real Steel

c. 1930

C.F. Martin develops the first steel-string acoustic guitar using a unique bracing system (X-bracing), resulting in increased volume and resonance.

The Frying Pan

The Frying Pan

c. 1931

The Rickenbacker Electro A-22, nicknamed the "Frying Pan" is the first electric lap steel guitar.

The King Is Recorded

The King Is Recorded

1936

Robert Johnson, the King of the Delta Blues, participates in his first recording session, one of only two in his lifetime.

V-J Day

V-J Day

August 14, 1945

Victory Over Japan Day marked the end of World War II, one of the deadliest and most destructive wars in history.

Genre Map