African American Music Instruments Used by African American Musicians

Many of the instruments in the Smithsonian collections associated with African American musicians were owned by someone famous and have that person's name associated with them: Louis Armstrong's trumpet, for example, or Prince's tambourine. These objects can be experienced and understood through the stories of the person or persons who used them.  

Some of the instruments, however, do not bear an artist's name, like many of the banjos in the collection, or the drum most likely used by slaves in the 19th century in the Sea Islands off of South Carolina.  These objects tell the story of a whole people, and remind us that the music we dance, groove, and sing along to has been immeasurably touched by the history of African Americans and their music.