Aspects of Negro Life: Song of the Towers. (1934) Painting by Aaron Douglas

 “African-American Music in World Culture: Art as Refuge
and Strength in the Struggle for Freedom”

The Boston University African American Studies Program is hosting an international scholarly conference on “African-American Music in World Culture: Art as Refuge and Strength in the Struggle for Freedom” from March 20th to 22nd, 2014, preceded by film screenings on March 17th and 18th and a curator talk at the BU Art Gallery on the 19th.

Keynote Speakers for the event are Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Professor Joshua Rifkin and Mr. George Wein. The conference is in part a tribute to the musical legacy of Mr. Wein and his late wife Joyce Wein. Highlights include an evening concert by Grammy Award wining jazz vocalist, Dee Dee Bridgewater.

The conference will cover a wide range of topics including, but not limited to:

  • The Negro Spiritual, blues, jazz and its international appeal
  • African-American folk songs, work songs, prison songs
  • Hip hop – its interdisciplinary nature and universality
  • African-American music in civil rights movements
  • African-American classical composers and conductors
  • African-American music’s influence on literature, graphic arts and dance
  • African-American music’s impact on communication media

The designation ‘African American music’ here refers to the distinctive forms that emerged from Afro-descendant people and cultures in North America, borrowing from African traditions, but inspired mainly by the Black experience in the United States. The myriad interactions of African American music with other music genres, as well as other art forms, both in the Americas and in other parts of the world are of course of vital interest for this conference.

Thanks to our BU Co-sponsors and Collaborators: BU Arts Initiative, College of Arts and Sciences, BU Center for the Humanities, College of Fine Arts, African Studies Center, African American Studies, Office of the Provost, Department of History, New England and American Studies Program, the School of Music, College of Communication, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

-Allison Blakely

We also will be joining Boston University’s African Studies Center as they celebrate sixty years of work, research and promotion of African Studies across the disciplines, at their anniversary celebration dinner on Friday, March 21, 2014 along with the Africana Librarians Council. The evening highlight will be a keynote address by Professor James Pritchett of Michigan State University, current President of the African Studies Association and former BU African Studies Center Director. Their celebration continues on Saturday, March 22, beginning at noon with two consecutive panels discussing “Africa Rising? The Role of African Studies in the 21st Century.” Panelists will include esteemed alumni and current faculty representing wide-ranging disciplinary approaches. The full program and information on attendance can be seen at