Florence Library Celebrates African American Music with Programs, Exhibit

By  | August 24, 2019 | Filed under: News

FLORENCE-Celebrate African American music with an exhibit and a series of free lectures and performances at Florence-Lauderdale Public Library. The library is hosting an exhibit, ​I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage​, through September 20. In early September, there will be a talk about the history of hip hop with local rapper GMANE, a lecture about African American music in the U.S. military by Professor Willie Ruff, and a debut performance by the University of North Alabama School of the Arts.


The Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state partner with the National Endowment for the Humanities, cosponsors this project.


Image result for I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage from the Tennessee State Museum I Have a Voice: Tennessee’s African American Musical Heritage from the Tennessee State Museum

On Display Through September 20 on the library’s 2nd floor

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. And 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 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.


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


Image result for History of Shoals-Area Hip Hop with GMANE History of Shoals-Area Hip Hop with GMANE

Thursday, September 5, 6:00 pm

Learn about the genre of hip hop and its evolution in the Shoals in this talk and performance by rapper GMANE, known as “The Godfather of Shoals-Area Hip Hop.” GMANE will talk about local pioneers of the genre, share photos from performances and world tours, and perform a selection of songs.


GMANE is an underground rapper who owns and operates Alabama Hustle Unlimited. Born Geoffrey Keith Robinson in Florence, Alabama, he has recorded over 30 albums and mixtapes. He was recently included in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s first hip hop exhibit. He’s been featured in online publications ​Forbes.com​ and ​SPIN​ and has toured and recorded internationally.


Image result for African American Music in U. S. Military Life: willie ruffAfrican American Music in U. S. Military Life:

From 19th-Century Buffalo Soldiers, through two World Wars and Beyond  with Professor Willie Ruff Sunday, September 8, 2:00 pm

Willie Ruff, ​retired music professor from Yale School of Music, will present a lecture about

African American music in the U.S. military and lead a Q&A. His talk will be based on both his research on African American music history and his personal experience of beginning his music career in the military during the 1940s. This​ program features archival film, sound, and images.


Willie Ruff was born in Sheffield, Alabama, and at age 14, he forged a parental permission signature to enlist in the U.S. Army, where he learned to play French horn and bass. He went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale School of Music and to ​become one of the country’s most prominent jazz musicians and music scholars. He traveled the world as part of the Mitchell-Ruff Duo and played alongside legends such as Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gillespie. He recently returned to his native Shoals area upon retiring from Yale School of Music after 46 years as a faculty member.


Image result for dream with me Dream With Me

A new Lecture Recital with the University of North Alabama School of the Arts and the

Walk With Me Foundation

Tuesday, September 10, 7:00 pm

Dr. Tiffany Bostic-Brown (soprano), Dr. Terrance Brown (baritone), and Karen Cantrell (pianist) will perform this debut presentation of ​Dream With Me​, a new lecture recital based on the book Dream With Me-Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win​ by John M. Perkins.​ ​The presentation will narrate Dr. Perkins’ text with songs by Black-American composers and will include short lectures about those composers and their works. Dr. Bostic-Brown and Dr. Brown will sing selections, discuss the compositions and composers, and lead discussion during the



Dr. Tiffany Bostic-Brown​ is an Assistant Professor of Voice, Director of Vocal Studies, and

Co-Director of Opera at UNA. Dr. Terrance Brown​ ​ is the Founding Executive Director of the

School of the Arts, Director of Opera, and Associate Professor of Voice at UNA. ​Karen

Cantrell​ is an accompanist for the Department of Music and Theatre at UNA and is pianist at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Shoals Chamber Singers, and UNA Opera/Musical Theatre.


All events are free and open to the public.


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