13 Best African American History

List Updated September 2020

Bestselling African American History in 2020


Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008

Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008
BESTSELLER NO. 1 in 2020

Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies

Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies
BESTSELLER NO. 2 in 2020

Official Guide to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Official Guide to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture
BESTSELLER NO. 3 in 2020

100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History (100 Series)

100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History (100 Series)
BESTSELLER NO. 4 in 2020
  • 100 African Americans Who Shaped American History

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
BESTSELLER NO. 5 in 2020
  • Touchstone Books

1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History

1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History
BESTSELLER NO. 6 in 2020

National Museum of African American History and Culture: A Souvenir Book

National Museum of African American History and Culture: A Souvenir Book
BESTSELLER NO. 7 in 2020
  • Smithsonian Books

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross
BESTSELLER NO. 8 in 2020
  • Smileybooks

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors
BESTSELLER NO. 9 in 2020
  • Candlewick Press MA

Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White

Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White
BESTSELLER NO. 10 in 2020
  • ISBN13: 9781932225273
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. Tracking provided on most orders. Buy with Confidence! Millions of books sold!

Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives

Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives
BESTSELLER NO. 11 in 2020

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (Vashti Harrison)

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (Vashti Harrison)
BESTSELLER NO. 12 in 2020

Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West

Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West
BESTSELLER NO. 13 in 2020

Jazz: the West African / American Sound

Unlike many other forms of music, Jazz only started at the turn of the 20th century. However, it is one of the most complicated styles of music that blends a Western technique with an African American music style.

The word jazz is a slang term that originated from the West Coast of the US in the year 1912. There have so many queries as to the origin of the word that it was actually named the Word of the Twentieth Century at some point in history. Contrary to what most people think, the word itself actually doesn't refer to music. It was only in the year 1915 that jazz became the word to describe jazz music. It was this year that Jazz became closely associated to another form of music called the Blues, thus the Jazz-Blues music that saxophone players play most of the time.

Jazz spread out in the 1920s and began to change other musical styles, transforming itself as well. Jazz music is deeply rooted in the Blues, a type of folk music that African slaves of the US South played at the time. Also, the music also has influences that go as far as Western Africa, where most of the Africans migrated from. Pioneering Jazz musicians included Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, both attributed to the growth and popularity of the music style.

Instruments used in jazz include brass (e.g. saxophone), reeds, and drums. Over the years, other instruments like the guitar and piano were incorporated into the style. Most of the African American bands that played jazz at the time started out of marching bands in schools. Others were self-taught and were mostly the people who led funeral processions in New Orleans, where jazz originated. The music spread out in the south and eventually made its way to the Northern United States as well. The ones with formal musical backgrounds helped to improvise its style and passed it on professionally.

Jazz is all about improvisation. For many, it is an African American cultural expression. However, it has taken so many different forms over the decades. From its simple call and response pattern, it evolved into Dixieland Jazz, wherein musicians would take turns in trying to improvise on the last melody that was played. With this development, the older type of jazz quickly took on the definition of being classic or purist. Over the years, it grew into swing, where big bands played it using sheet music, the only improvisation done by a soloist at some point. Then there was the bebop style which shifted the musician's attention to purely improvising and not the base melody. The base melody would only be made apparent at the beginning and end of the improvisation.

Today, Jazz is described as one of the most intelligent and progressive forms of music ever developed. It has fused with so many kinds of modern music including rock and techno. This type of fusion paved the way for many great musicians to release albums including Miles Davis and Chick Corea.

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