Negro spirituals sung by enslaved African-Americans are categorized as the oldest American folk songs. Thus, because country music is a descendant of blues and folk music, the Black musical tradition in the genre extends to the 17th century, well before the genre’s established 1920s roots.

The inspirational fiber of country music was expertly refined and developed by, and then passed down from, men and women who were the sons and daughters of slaves and sharecroppers to their generations of Black descendants, who still tend and grow the legacy of these profound American sounds.

Keep reading for a short history of Black artists' place in country music: