National Museum of African American Music opens in Nashville

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Posted at 6:31 AM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 07:40:41-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The National Museum of African American Music is officially opening. Monday’s ribbon-cutting marks the end of a project nearly two decades in the making.

The entire museum is dedicated to the amazing contributions that African Americans have made in the music industry.

Today’s socially distant ribbon-cutting ceremony featured elected officials, museum board members and community leaders. It will officially be open to the public the weekend of January 30.

The museum’s president and CEO Henry Hicks says the museum is a walk through the history of American music told through an African American prism.

"The American music that is the soundtrack of our lives is an African innovation, and a scan of American history tells us that the soundtrack of America as the saying goes, is made in Tennessee," Hicks said.

On Monday, we also recognized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the significance of which was not lost on Hicks. He says just as we remember MLK for his legacy, we can also find inspiration from artists who helped pave the way through music.

Hicks mentioned one of his favorite exhibits is the Rivers of Rhythm Pathways which weaves artists of the past with artists of today. You will see names on the walls you recognize and others you don't. Hicks says the purpose of the museum is to put them all under one roof.

"My hope is that multiple generations of people will experience the same thing at the same time and have a shared experience that's a little different than many museums," Hicks said.

Metro Nashville council member Sharon Hurt says it's just as important to remind African Americans that Black music has always been America's music. She believes this museum will show the world just how try that is.

"We now have a place where young Black children can see people who look like them venerated and celebrated as the icons they are," Hurt said.

Joining in the celebration was Governor Bill Lee who declared that NMAAM is the exclamation point to solidify Nashville as Music City.

"I'm proud that the state had a small role in this, but more proud of the larger role that so many had in making sure that this happened in this city and in this state," Lee said.

Everything from slave songs, to hip hop and in-between will be featured. Two-time Grammy winner H.E.R., who’s included in an exhibit video, told CBS This Morning it’s great there’s a museum now that will highlight the contributions made by African Americans on popular music.

"There would be no Elvis without Chuck Berry. There would be no Led Zeppelin, no Beatles, no country music without the blues, without the pain that we even felt in the blues. It's important to recognize that everything comes from somewhere and Black music has made such an impact on popular music,” said H.E.R.

When the museum opens to the public, they will follow a weekend schedule at first. Click here for more information.