Celebrating Black Music Appreciation Month

Each June during Black Music Appreciation Month we acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of Black musicians, composers, recording artists and lyricists to the cultural landscape of the United States. The celebration informally began in 1979 and became an official annual government proclamation in 2000. The Vivian G. Harsh Collection has been celebrating Black music ever since our namesake, Vivian G. Harsh, began collecting materials and creating subject files when she became the head of the new George Cleveland Hall Branch in 1932.

Chicago Public Library’s Archives and Special Collection Division has a number of archival collections dedicated to a variety of African Americans in the music industry. Two of our most popular collections here in the Harsh Collection are the Charles Walton Papers and the Dungill Family Papers.

Charles Walton

Charles Walton was a regular visitor to the Harsh Collection and routinely met with our then senior archivist before passing away in 2005. Walton was an accomplished jazz drummer and music educator, teaching at Chicago’s Malcolm X College. He also wrote regularly for the Jazz Institute of Chicago in a column entitled “Bronzeville Conversations.” There he often relayed the history of the African American Local 208 of the American Federation of Musicians union and its eventual merger with the larger union. Walton also conducted oral history interviews with nearly 200 musicians, club owners and promoters and basically anyone associated with jazz and blues in the Bronzeville neighborhood. These interviews make up the bulk of his papers.

Dungill Family Papers

The Dungill family have a unique and remarkable story. Morgan Park residents Doyle and Evette Dungill were professionally trained musicians who decided to develop a sort of musical family. All seven of their children were musically trained as toddlers. The family played a variety of music from classical to popular to solos and instrumentals to arrangements in several languages. They began performing in churches and around the community in the 1930s, even developing their own method of instruction. In the 1940s the family began to perform as the Dungill Family Orchestra and became members of the Local 208 union. They toured and performed into the 1960s.

I hope you enjoy these images. Drop me a note and let me know what you’ve got on heavy rotation this month!