A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Each month, Our State senior editor — and resident soundtrack maker — Mark Kemp, a former music editor of Rolling Stone, curates a one-of-a-kind Spotify playlist featuring North Carolina songs

Madison County Championship Rodeo

Each month, Our State senior editor — and resident soundtrack maker — Mark Kemp, a former music editor of Rolling Stone, curates a one-of-a-kind Spotify playlist featuring North Carolina songs

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Each month, Our State senior editor — and resident soundtrack maker — Mark Kemp, a former music editor of Rolling Stone, curates a one-of-a-kind Spotify playlist featuring North Carolina songs

An Our State Playlist: Black History in North Carolina

Each month, Our State senior editor — and resident soundtrack maker — Mark Kemp, a former music editor of Rolling Stone, curates a one-of-a-kind Spotify playlist featuring North Carolina songs and musicians.


From the Piedmont blues of Wadesboro-born Blind Boy Fuller, who serenaded Winston-Salem and Durham factory workers in the 1920s and ’30s, to the contemporary folk music that has earned Greensboro singer Rhiannon Giddens international acclaim, Black musicians in North Carolina have helped define every style of American music, from folk and blues to gospel and soul to hip-hop and rock.

In this playlist, you’ll hear the regal Tryon-born singer Nina Simone, whose classic anthem “Young, Gifted and Black” helped encourage children who saw her perform it on Sesame Street in 1972. And you’ll hear the Greensboro-based contemporary country-soul singer Rissi Palmer deliver that very same message today in “Little Black Girl, Little Black Boy.” Contemporary Charlotte-based R&B singers Greg Cox and Blanche J. sing of “Bigger Dreams,” and Kelsey Lu of the freedom one experiences by “Pushin’ Against the Wind.” And you’ll hear the legendary Durham gospel singer Shirley Caesar belt out her firm conviction, “I Want to Be Troubled No More.”

African American music in North Carolina spans from the gentle folk hits of Black Mountain-born Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly with His Song”) to the wailing free jazz of Hamlet’s native son John Coltrane (“Giant Steps”); the driving rock of Charlotte’s The Veldt (“Soul in a Jar”) to the conscious hip-hop of Snow Hill native Rapsody (“Crown”). And it’s all here in one eclectic, 50-track playlist — plus an extended bonus track that finds the legendary Flack taking a jazzy excursion into the stratosphere on the classic “Afro Blue.” Enjoy Black History Month by celebrating the dizzying range of American music pioneered by Black North Carolinians.