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African American Music Trails of North Carolina

African American Music Trails of North Carolina

Welcome to the vibrant world of the African American Music Trails of North Carolina! In this post, we will embark on a journey through the rich cultural heritage and diverse musical traditions that have shaped the region. From soul-stirring melodies to foot-tapping rhythms, Eastern North Carolina offers an enchanting experience for music enthusiasts seeking to explore the roots of African American musical heritage. 

So, grab your headphones, put on your dancing shoes, and let's delve into the captivating African American Music Trails of NC!

Travel Guide Review

African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina - A Travel Guide
By Sarah Bryan, Beverly Patterson, Michelle Lanier

In the pages of "The African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina," a remarkable collection of musical legends awaits exploration. Esteemed figures like Thelonius Monk, Billy Taylor, and Maceo Parker offer a mere glimpse into the vibrant world of African American artists who have shared North Carolina's distinctive sounds with a global audience. This pioneering travel guide presents an unparalleled expedition, guiding you to music venues, events, and museums that shed light on the lives of these gifted musicians while illuminating the profound bond between music and community. 

Through personal interviews with over 90 artists, readers are granted access to a vast spectrum of musical genres, including jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, gospel, church music, blues, rap, marching band music, and beach music. Enhanced by a captivating blend of both contemporary and historical photographs, along with maps and travel information to assist in trip planning, this guide serves as an invaluable and comprehensive resource. 

As an added treat, a CD featuring 17 enchanting recordings performed by exceptional artists from the region is included, ensuring that the vibrant sounds of Eastern North Carolina resonate with you at every step of your journey.

The Origins of African American Music in Eastern North Carolina

The African American Music Trails of NC trace their origins back to the early days of slavery when the enslaved people brought with them their unique musical traditions from Africa. Despite the hardships they faced, music became an integral part of their identity, serving as a source of solace, resistance, and celebration. The trails pay homage to these ancestral rhythms and showcase their evolution through time.

John D. on Google Maps: 

"The African American Music Trails provided a captivating journey into the rich musical heritage of Eastern NC. I was moved by the soulful performances and the historical context provided at each location."

Exploring the African American Music Trails

The African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina offer a captivating journey through the rich and vibrant musical heritage of the region. Let's dive right into some of the trail's more notable stops:

1. The Birthplace of Jazz: 

  • Experience the birthplace of jazz at the historic Johnson House in Fayetteville. Immerse yourself in the melodic rhythms that have shaped this iconic genre and learn about the influential African American musicians who laid the foundation for jazz

2. Gospel Haven:

  • Head over to the lively town of Wilson and visit Gospel Haven. This vibrant venue showcases the power and soul-stirring energy of gospel music. Feel the uplifting melodies and let the harmonies transport you to a place of spiritual connection
  •  Experience the moving performances at St. John's AME Church in Wilmington, where the choir's harmonies transport you to another realm of spiritual ecstasy
  • Immerse yourself in the soulful hymns at First Baptist Church in Durham, and witness the incredible vocal talents that have mesmerized audiences for years

3. Rhythm & Blues Revival: 

  • Make your way to Greenville's Rhythm & Blues Revival, where you'll be swept away by the smooth sounds of rhythm and blues. Delve into the history of this genre and groove to the irresistible beats that have defined its legacy

4. Rhythms of Jazz and Blues

These genres emerged from the African American communities of Eastern North Carolina and have left an indelible mark on the music world.

  • Wilmington's Thalian Hall hosts vibrant jazz performances throughout the year, bringing together renowned artists and fostering the city's jazz culture
  • The historic town of New Bern welcomes you to the North Carolina History Center, where you can explore the rich legacy of African American jazz musicians through interactive exhibits and live performances

5. Funk Junction: 

  • Journey to the energetic town of New Bern and step into Funk Junction, a vibrant hub celebrating the funk music scene. Get ready to move and groove to the infectious rhythms of funk, as this genre's playful and infectious spirit fills the air

6. Unforgettable Jazz Joints: 

Explore the charming city of Wilmington and discover its hidden gems – the unforgettable jazz joints. 

  • From cozy lounges to lively clubs, these venues offer the perfect setting to immerse yourself in the enchanting world of jazz. Feel the smooth melodies and improvisational genius that define this timeless genre

7. Soulful Church Hymns: 

No exploration of African American music would be complete without a visit to the soulful churches along the trail. 

  • In cities like Raleigh and Greensboro, experience the power of gospel and church music firsthand. Let the uplifting harmonies and impassioned vocals touch your spirit and fill the air with reverence

8. Historical Landmarks: 

As you journey through Eastern North Carolina, take time to appreciate the historical landmarks that played a significant role in African American music history. 

  • Stop by the Nina Simone Childhood Home in Tryon or the Fayetteville State University, known for its influential music programs
  • These landmarks serve as poignant reminders of the legacy and resilience of African American musicians

9. Community Jam Sessions: 

Engage in the vibrant local music community by attending dynamic jam sessions in towns like Rocky Mount and Kinston. 

  • These gatherings bring together talented musicians from various genres, fostering a sense of camaraderie and artistic collaboration that is truly infectious.

Sarah Thompson on Facebook: 

"Visiting the African American Music Trails was a remarkable experience. It was both educational and entertaining, giving me a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural contributions of African Americans in North Carolina."

Other Places of Interest Along the Trail

While immersing yourself in the African American Music Trails of NC, take some time to explore other captivating sites nearby that offer a glimpse into the region's history and culture:

  1. The International Civil Rights Center & Museum (Greensboro): Discover the pivotal role that North Carolina played in the civil rights movement and gain a deeper understanding of the struggles and triumphs of African Americans in the fight for equality
  1. Tryon Palace (New Bern): Step back in time and visit this majestic colonial governor's mansion, which offers a fascinating window into North Carolina's past. Explore the beautiful gardens, and historic buildings, and gain insights into the lives of enslaved individuals who played a significant role in the palace's history

Mark Johnson on Google Maps: 

"The gospel music performances along the trail were nothing short of breathtaking. I was deeply moved by the powerful voices and heartfelt messages conveyed through the music."


As we conclude our journey along the African American Music Trails of NC, we have delved into the captivating history and diverse musical traditions that have shaped Eastern North Carolina. From the soul-stirring melodies of gospel to the mesmerizing rhythms of jazz and blues, this trail offers an immersive and enlightening experience for music lovers and cultural enthusiasts alike.

While exploring the African American Music Trails, don't miss the opportunity to visit other significant sites in the area that shed light on North Carolina's history and culture. From the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro to the majestic Tryon Palace in New Bern, each destination offers unique insights into the region's past.

So, lace up your shoes and get ready to embark on a remarkable journey through the African American Music Trails of NC. Let the powerful melodies and rich history guide you as you discover the enduring legacy of African American music in this captivating region of North Carolina.

ENC Explorer
Author: ENC Explorer

After getting accepted to ECU, I started looking for things to do in and around Greenville, NC. However, my searches kept taking me to places in South Carolina! There must be things to do around ECU, so I started asking other students. They kept telling me to graduate and move away! This inspired me to begin exploring eastern North Carolina and build this website as a showcase of the places to go, sights to see, and things to do all over eastern NC. I have fallen in love with this region and started taking up roots here. After graduating, I didn't move away - I bought a house here and continue to explore eastern North Carolina.

This place is for Publicity

This place is for Publicity

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