In partnership with NPR Music, watch this engaging conversation highlighting African American women who have played a pivotal part in rock and roll. Although African American women have influenced rock and roll from its beginnings, their presence in the genre has been diminished in favor of narratives of rock being dominated by white men. Journalist and co-creator of NPR Music's, Turning The Tables series, Ann Powers interviews Maureen Mahon, author of Black Diamond Queens, to discuss how African American women have laid the foundation for rock and roll — from chart-topping hits to onstage personas.

cover photo of Tina Turner for Maureen Mahon's book, Black Diamond Queens

In Black Diamond Queens, Maureen Mahon draws on recordings, press coverage, archival materials, and interviews to document the history of African American women in rock and roll between the 1950s and the 1980s.

Duke University Press

The interview also highlight recordings, albums, photographs, and other archival materials from the Museum’s collection that document African American women’s history in rock and roll from the 1950s to today. This collecting effort was led by Dr. Dwandalyn Reece, the museum's Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Music and Performing Arts. Learn more about the story of African American music from the arrival of the first Africans to the present day in our permanent exhibition, Musical Crossroads.

Explore the Collection

Discover Objects from the Museum's Collection Featuring Women in Rock and Roll

Big Mama Thonrton

Black vinyl record of "Night Mare / Hound Dog", 1953
View Object about Big Mama Thonrton

Nona Hendryx

Costume worn by Nona Hendryx of Labelle, 1975
View Object about Nona Hendryx

Tina Turner

An audio cassette of Tina Turner's "Private Dancer", 1984
View Object about Tina Turner

This program is produced in partnership with NPR Music as part of, Turning the Tables and with the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative #BecauseOfHerStory.

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