04 Oct 2019

ACM Announces Black History Month 2019

To mark Black History Month, we are celebrating a range of incredible black music artists from the past 100 years of popular music history. Written by ACM Tutor Emma-Louise, learn about seven iconic music artists and black activists including Nina Simone, Bob Marley, Tupac and more! Remember to listen to our Black History Month Spotify Playlist featuring these acclaimed artists (alongside some of ACM’s finest)!



If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.

The True definition of a fearless leader, Billie knew the power of fame and wasn’t afraid to use her status to change the world. Approached in 1939 by jewish songwriter Abel Meerapol, at a time when Racial killings and segregation was at an all time high in the USA, Holiday was intrigued to take on one of his songs.

Meerapol explained to Holiday that he had written a song titled, ‘Strange Fruit’, with the aim of spreading awareness of the horrific lynch killings that were being experienced within the African-American community throughout the United States. He explained that the song would have more of an impact if it was delivered by an African-American performer but, that all he had approached were too scared to take it on… Not Billie Holiday.

On a Late, smoky night in the Cafe society club in New York, the first racially integrated club in the United States, Holiday performed the song with no introduction. The audience was stunned by her courage and emotion. This iconic moment and song changed the world forever.

Thank you Billie Holiday. The first ever performance was not recorded, but the final performance was:


There’s no excuse for young people not knowing who their heroes and heroines are.

Born Eunice Waymon, Simone started her passion for music as a trained classical pianist. Being shunned from a number of prestigious Music universities, Simone learned how to sing and focussed her career as a vocalist, accompanying herself on the Piano. Which blasted her career into iconic status.

Simone not only felt passionate about the discrimination she had experienced as an African American artist, but felt so strongly about the injustices experienced by her people.  She joined the civil rights movement in every way she could. Not only through rallies and various events, but by writing impactful, descriptive compositions and always openly talking about her work in the civil rights movement in various interviews, questioning government policies, leaders and in some instances, the interviewer.

Thank you Nina Simone.


I’m not saying I’m gonna rule the world or I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world. And that’s our job, It’s to spark somebody else watching us.

Tupac Amaru Shukur was a son of a Black Panther and thought it was his vocation to spread the word on life as an African-American living in the USA, as well as arming black people with the knowledge and intellectual power to get themselves out of poverty through education. A true Icon, not only in the hiphop genre, but of our time. His death left a legacy of inspirational lyrics, which is still being discovered to this day.

Thank you Tupac.


I wanted to find real men that have lived, have struggled, cried, have a light and a spirit about them. I felt like this is an opportunity to show the strength and vulnerability in black men.

We all know that Beyonce Knowles-Carter is the Queen Bee, but over the past 4 years Mrs Carter has been delving deeper and deeper into exploring African American culture, the political issues within the USA, whilst using her music to create awareness of the issues being faced by minority groups, as well as social issues that affect the young people of today.

From the release of the thought provoking ‘Formation’, to her bringing the mothers of Police brutality victims as her guests to the VMAs, these acts have undoubtedly catapulted Beyonce from the queen of Pop, to a civil rights activist Icon. Beyonce continues to lead protests through her music.

Beyonce’s Performance of the Martin Luther King inspired song, ‘Take my hand Precious lord’, enables us to see her as a spokesperson of the civil rights continuous movement, as well as the phenomenal artist that she is.

Thank you Beyonce.


I’d like to dedicate this to all of the Creator’s righteous children

I have some food in my bag for you

Not that edible food the food you eat?

No I have some food for thought

Since knowledge is infinite it has infinitely fell on me

Born Erica Wright, Badu is known for her spirituality and  thought provoking lyrics, utilising the use of metaphors, causing her listeners to delve deeper into her thoughts and meanings behind her compositions.

She launched into mainstream music industry in 1998 with her no. 1 hit ‘On & On’, A whirlwind of metaphoric innuendoes, referring to ancient African practices, The Nation of Islam beliefs, as well as Egyptian/Hotep Beliefs.

Badu prides herself in being an educator, and uses herself as a vessel to communicate vital information. She does this through every single song she releases, whether it’s speaking about holding onto emotional baggage and allowing it to affect your life, as heard in ‘Bag Lady’. Or Paying homage to the murdered USA president, fused with the civil right actions of Rosa Parks, as heard in ‘Window Seat’. Badu is a true Icon of our time, a game changer.

Thank you Erykah.


Don’t terrorise, organise. Don’t burn, give kids the chance to learn. The real answer to race problems in this country is education. Not burning and killing. Be ready, be qualified own something, be somebody.

James Joseph Brown has been labeled the ‘god-father of soul’ for over half a century and was ranked as the no. 1 artist in the world from 1942 until 2010, 4 years after his death.

Brown was a multi-instrumentalist and was well known for his ‘no-nonsense’ musical directing. Often fining band members for playing wrong notes or being late to rehearsals and performances. He was known for being the ‘hardest working man in show business’ and his performances were the result of this hard work. Every single song was performed to perfection, while even the backing vocalists’ tassel dresses were in perfect sync when doing choreographed movement in live shows.

Along with hits like ‘I feel good’, ‘Man’s world’, and ‘Papa’s got a brand new bag’, Brown wanted to make a difference with the music he composed and, when the time was right, got involved in encouraging deprived communities to keep themselves in education. He also donated all royalties from his song, ‘Don’t be a drop out’, to school charities. Brown did not like to get involved in politics or speaking out against racial injustices as he felt that this would alienate a large number of his ‘cross-over’ audience. However, after the shooting of Martin Luther King, his heart was drawn towards making a statement and taking a stand. In an effort to unify the community, he organised a free concert in the state where King was shot, which was supported by the local political figures. Here we saw the song, ‘Say it Loud, I’m black and I’m proud’ The chants could be heard all over the state and the people of Memphis felt this concert helped them heal from the horrific death of such a world-changing figure.

Thank you James Brown.


The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity, and his ability to affect those around his positively.

Robert Nesta Marley is by far the face of the Reggae music Genre.

The Jamaican born Singer/songwriter made it his duty to inform the world on the beliefs and practices of the, often shunned and misunderstood, Rastafarians. Marley also educated the world on the lives of Jamaicans, shedding a light on the various injustices suffered by black people on a worldwide scale.

Though his life and career was sadly cut short, due to an aggressive strain of cancer, his legacy has not only never been forgotten, but also has continued to grow in awareness due to the hard work of his children and wife Rita. She also played a vital part in his success, whilst writing, arranging and performing as part of his backing vocal section throughout his career.

Marley never shied away from difficult conversations with interviewers, on the contrary, he challenged interviewers with thought provoking questions to their questions. Marley was known for it.

He overtly got involved in politics, often to his detriment, notably being shot and ambushed on a number of occasions. One of the most memorable incidents was when he was supposed to perform at a high-risk political concert in his home country, ‘The One Love Peace Concert’,  against the advice of all of his loved ones and fellow band members. His reasoning was that it would be the only way to unite the two rival parties and stop the violence in the country. Marley and his wife were shot in their home the day before the concert, in an effort to stop the performance. Being the fighter that he was, Marley performed the concert, with a bandage around his wound.

An Icon that will always be honoured.

Thank you Bob Marley.

Listen to our Black History Month Spotify Playlist featuring these iconic artists and more!

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