This website and the companion guidebook, African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, introduce visitors to a region alive with a musical heritage that enriches our state and region. African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina builds on the North Carolina Arts Council’s nationally recognized cultural tourism guides to traditional Appalachian music, Cherokee heritage, and literary heritage across the state.
The North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, partnered with regional musicians, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, local regional arts councils, tourism agencies, and arts and folklife organizations to plan and implement this special initiative. Visit the Plan Your Trip pages for additional information.
Thornton Canady, a Kinston musician and retired band director, advocated for recognition of the long and rich heritage of African American music in the area. Staff of the North Carolina Arts Council began the process of identifying the musicians and venues important to this legacy. Interviews with more than 90 musicians opened doors to a world of jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, gospel, hymns, blues, rap, marching bands, and beach music. The interviews revealed long and deep connections between music and community and shaped the creation of a cultural tourism trail. As a companion project to Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina this initiative shares the state’s African American music heritage in ways that benefit residents and visitors alike and that encourage the continuation and recognition of African American music across the state.
African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina is the first publication designed to help travelers explore African American music in eastern North Carolina. In an area that includes Edgecombe, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Wayne, Wilson, Nash, and Pitt counties, researchers, writers, and photographers have worked with local residents and arts organizations to provide in-depth insiders’ views of music and musicians. In addition to musicians’ personal stories, you will find musician portraits and dynamic photographic documentation of music events by Titus Brooks Heagins and by Cedric N. Chatterley, as well as historic photographs contributed by the musicians themselves from their personal collections.
In addition to the guidebook and companion CD, the project includes a website, commissioned works of public art, and the Kinston Music Park. Regional communities celebrate their local music in a growing number of venues.
Funding by the North Carolina Department of Transportation with generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council, enabled the North Carolina Arts Council to build on its nationally recognized cultural tourism program that showcases the state’s acclaimed cultural assets. Other guidebooks in the series explore Cherokee arts and culture, North Carolina’s regional literary heritage, Historic Happy Valley, and North Carolina craft. African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina is a companion project to the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina, a celebration of traditional music in 30 mountain and foothill counties.
About the Authors
Folklorist and oral historian Sarah Bryan is the editor of the Old-Time Herald, a magazine about traditional string band music, and has written numerous guidebooks on N.C. for Moon Travel Guides. Project director and co-author Beverly Patterson is the author of Sound of the Dove: Singing in Appalachian Primitive Baptist Churches, and former Director of the N.C. Folklife Institute.
Michelle Lanier uses her background in folklore and oral history to direct the N.C. African American Heritage Commission and to serve as the senior program director for the African American Heritage Cultural Tourism program at the N.C. Arts Council.
Photographs are by Titus Brooks Heagins, a documentary and fine art photographer whose work is included in the collections of several state, national, and international museums, and by Cedric N. Chatterley, a documentary photographer, whose work captures images of labor, community identity, and religious traditions.