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Black Composers: Getting Started

This guide to Black composers offers a sampling of resources on their lives, works, and social contexts. Like Duke Libraries' "5 Titles" blog, this guide is meant to offer a selection of resources rather than serve as a comprehensive list.

Here are some music resources available through the Duke Libraries that may help you find biographies, recordings, and printed works of specific composers. The good news is that they're all available either online or via Duke's Library Takeout Service.

General Music Resources

Here are some online music databases and general resources that can be helpful as you start your research.

More Subject Headings

If the suggested resources in this guide don't include what you're looking for, remember that the Libraries have a wealth of other resources available.  Try some of these subject headings to explore further:

Databases and Online Resources of Interest

There are several online databases of music recordings and printed and manuscript music that can help you in your research.

The Black Music History Library is an open-access database of resources in multiple media related to various musical genres.

Music by Black Composers is a project of the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation, and includes music and resources related to both living and historical Black composers.


The Petrucci Music Library (also known as IMSLP) provides free access to digitized images of myriad printed and manuscript musical works of many genres.

Alexander Street Press includes at least four collections of recordings that may be of potential interest to researchers of Black and African-American composers:


The Naxos Music Library has a wealth of recordings and resources categorized by genre and ensemble type, themed playlists, essays, and easily searchable collections.

Note:  access to Alexander Street Press and Naxos requires Duke credentials; the other resources noted above are open-access.