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African American Studies


"Music, a source of motivation, well-being, entertainment, and survival in diverse lives of African Americans, has afforded them experiences of signifying their humanity amidst horrific oppression, while engaging in creativity, worship, and rituals of celebration. Rooted within African traditions, where sacred and secular are one, some African American musical genres are more fluid, engaging a tension between how people label and use music. This music shares common traditions and attributes. Using themes of poetry, praise, power, protest, philosophy, and politics, this analysis of African American sacred and secular music: (1) introduces the socio-historical, cultural, cosmological origins and terminology of this music; (2) examines selected musical typologies, from antebellum Spirituals to hip-hop and contemporary classical African American music that foregrounds tenets of so-called sacred and secular music; (3) explores a religious/spiritual impact of these cultural artifacts; and (4) concludes with a literature review of scholarship regarding African American sacred and secular music."

From: Brown, Frank Burch, and Cheryl Kirk-Duggan. "Sacred and Secular in African American Music." The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts. : Oxford University Press,  February 03, 2014. Oxford Handbooks Online. Date Accessed 12 Feb. 2020 <>.

Finding Resources for Research

The pre-formulated searches below lead to works that are specifically about African-American music and musicians.  Many more resources can be found by changing the context--for example, searching for materials by musical categories such as gospel, spirituals, jazz, blues, hip-hop, etc.  Information about African-American music can also be found in works about social movements, politics, religion, and popular culture.

Recommended Databases

The research databases below mainly index articles in periodicals, but will contain citations for other types of literature too, such as dissertations and books.  In cases where the full text is not provided in the database where the citation is found, use the BU InfoLinks buttons to check for access elsewhere.


To find articles in periodicals that have a different or a broader scope, use OneSearch or another research database.  A general database such as Academic Search Complete (linked below) will provide broad access to both scholarly articles and the popular press.  Ask your librarian if you would like additional recommendations.

Uniquely Baylor Resources

Finding Recordings

To locate relevant audio or video recordings in any format, use OneSearch and apply your desired filters.  For searching tips, see the Crouch Library Audiovisual Materials page

To search or browse within an online database of recordings, select from one of the lists below.

Audio Recording Databases

Video Recording Databases

Selected Reference Works

University Libraries

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