Those Volunteer Voices

The Florence-Lauderdale Public Library is excited to host a special exhibit called, I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage. The exhibit is located on the 2nd floor of the library.

FLORENCE – The Florence-Lauderdale Public Library is excited to host a special exhibit called, I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage. The exhibit is located on the 2nd floor of the library.

The Volunteer State has been the birthplace of some of the most influential music in the world, from the Beale Street blues clubs in Memphis, to the R&B scene on Nashville’s Jefferson Street and Knoxville’s Gem Theatre. Much of that music has close ties to the Shoals, with W.C. Handy having played and composed in Memphis for several years and with Sun Records having a close connection with Florence.

The history of African American music follows the hardship of slavery through today. American slaves adapted their African ancestors’ music to hand clapping, singing, the fiddle, and the African–derived banjo. Expressing their sorrows from bondage, and joy for their ultimate deliverance, these enslaved persons found an original, musical voice sung in their spirituals and folk music. This voice has left a monumental cultural stamp on American music, including blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and soul music. In turn, this music has influenced and enriched music around the world.

I Have a Voice is organized by the Tennessee State Museum. It explores the music of legends such as Bessie Smith, B.B. King, DeFord Bailey, and Tina Turner.