Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

African American Music Appreciation Month: Blues and Jazz

June is the month dedicated to the appreciation of African American music. It was first created by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 as Black Music Month and renamed by President Barak Obama to African American Music Appreciation Month in 2009.

African American Music

There is no denying that Blues and Jazz has had an enduring influence on America's music and culture. They inspired expression, improvisation, and interaction. Blues and Jazz had a significant social impact as well. The Blues were an expression of the human experience and gave a voice to those in society who needed it. It affirmed the identity of African Americans. Blues and Jazz have inspired other genres like rock 'n' roll, R&B (rhythm and blues) and hip-hop. 

Below is some history on the origins of Blues and Jazz and some performances from big names in both genres. 

Check out MPLs Spotify Playlist of influential Blues and Jazz artists!

The Blues

"Originating on plantations in the 19th Century, the Blues is deeply rooted in various African American songs such as work songs, spirituals, and country string ballads. From the Blues, we get many of the elements of jazz, such as the wide use of seventh chords and the Blues scale." -- Hoffman Academy


"Jazz rose from New Orleans as "Dixieland," blending together the uniquely African American sounds of the Blues, Ragtime, and Afro-Caribbean music. The Jazz Age (1920s-30s) was an important period in America's music history due to the significant cultural shift taking place in a post- World War I society. Jazz was about celebration, joy, rebellion, and dancing! It brought an element of freedom  back into people's lives after the hard times of war." -- Hoffman Academy 

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

"As the most accessible of all jazz performers and a universally beloved figure, Louis Armstrong introduced jazz to a countless number of listeners while symbolizing the music for millions. His importance to jazz, whether through his solos, singing or ability to win over listeners, cannot be measured. The history of jazz, American music and music in general would be much different if there had not been a Louis Armstrong." -- Scott Yanow, Biography

B.B. King (1925- 2015)

"He was the great exponent of the blues. The man who made his guitar express every imaginable blues emotion. The blues legend everyone admired. The man who played for Presidents and a musician so well known that his guitar, which he named Lucille, was known to every lover of the blues." -- Bruce Elder, The Sydney Morning Herald

Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)

"Fiercely career focused from her teens through her 70s, she maintained an exhausting tour schedule and amassed a discography than runs to more than four-dozen studio releases, hundreds of singles and one of jazz’s widest, richest arrays of live albums. Never, even long past reaching the pinnacle, did she cease honing her preternatural technical, interpretive and improvisational skills. It is an extraordinary legacy—one that has affected pretty much every jazz singer who’s followed in her wake and still resonates strongly among today’s foremost practitioners." -- Christopher Loudon, Jazz Times