Celebrate the vibrant Jazz, R&B and Soul music of African American artists who, during segregation, created the foundation of modern American music. Navigating the injustices of racial segregation was difficult and, at times, dangerous—even for renowned Black artists like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Little Richard or Sam Cooke. Like many other Black Americans, they relied on Victor Hugo Green’s Negro Travelers’ Green Book, a directory of lodgings, restaurants and entertainment venues where African Americans were safe and welcomed. The virtual “underground musicians green book”—a network of friends, family and fans—provided food, lodging and fellowship for Black entertainers on tour.
Green’s book was a guide to a parallel world of vibrant Black neighborhoods like New York City’s Harlem, Chicago’s Bronzeville and Washington, D.C.’s U Street, where Black entrepreneurs created thriving businesses that served and sustained Black patrons and artists. Informally known as the Chitlin’ Circuit, these music venues included glamorous theaters, swinging dance halls and rural juke joints, where icons and rising stars alike honed their craft and won audience acclaim.
The program shines the spotlight on legendary Jazz, R&B and Soul performers who kept The Apollo and Howard Theaters and Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom jumping, and who also toured the Southern one-night circuit on their road to success. It features an exciting mix of classic songs performed by legendary and contemporary stars and candid interviews with performers, celebrities and notable musicians who were a part of the circuit. Music was a uniting force during segregation and remains so to this day. The Musicians’ Green Book will honor the genius of these Black artists, who, during these difficult times, changed America with their songs.
Premiering exclusively in December on PBS.