The different genre exhibitions feature everything from more interactive exhibits with timelines to cases containing such items as one of Louis Armstrong’s trumpets, one of B.B. King’s “Lucille” guitars, or costumes worn on key nights by performers like Billie Holiday, Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, or Aretha Franklin. The museum doesn’t neglect any area of Black music, going from the earliest spirituals to pre-jazz, traditional and modern jazz, blues, R&B/soul, funk, disco, and into contemporary hip-hop and EDM. There’s also a detailed storyboard for every idiom.
The greatest examples of Black music influencing other idioms that are sometimes mistakenly assumed not to have any links with African Americans can be seen in the Crossroads section. It includes an essay that traces how country founding fathers like Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams were influenced by the blues, and how the acoustic guitar playing of people like Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the gospel-tinged shouting of Odetta in turn influenced white folkies like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.