Head shot of Samuel A Floyd

Samuel A. Floyd

Head shot of Samuel A Floyd

Photo from University of California Press via Columbia College

African American, Music, Archives

Samuel A. Floyd, PhD


A music educator, archivist, and historian, Samuel A. Floyd Jr’s goal was to document and preserve the spectrum of Black music in written and performed forms to express African Diasporic cultures across genre, time period, geographic region, and social class.   

Samuel A. Floyd Jr. was born in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1937. He was raised by his mother in Lakeland, Florida, after his father, a wandering musician, abandoned the family when Floyd was just four years old. Nurtured by the arts environment in Lakeland, Floyd studied at Florida A&M University, an HBCU renowned for its marching bands.  Floyd was a member of the band and received his BS in 1957. After completing his degree, Floyd taught as a band director for Smith-Brown High School in Arcadia, Florida, until 1962. Then, for two years he taught as a music instructor and assistant director of bands under the legendary William Foster, at his alma mater, Florida A&M University. In 1964, Floyd was hired as assistant band director in the music department at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, eventually rising to the rank of Associate Professor. He received his MME in music education (1965) at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he later earned his PhD in music (1969). 

In 1978, Floyd joined the faculty of Fisk University as a professor of music. He established and directed the Institute for Research in Black American Music for Fisk University and founded the Black Music Research Journal (BMRJ) (1980-2016). Citing Fisk’s severe financial woes, he left the school in 1983 to join the faculty of Chicago’s Columbia College, taking the BMRJ with him.  There he created the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) serving as its director from 1983 to 1990, and again from 1993 to 2002. He also served as academic dean from 1990 to 1993, and as interim vice president of academic affairs and provost from 1999 to 2001. In 2002, he became director emeritus and consultant for the Center for Black Music Research.

At CBMR, Floyd was extremely productive. He published several bibliographies and newsletters. He edited reference books on Black music. He initiated and edited Lenox Avenue: A Journal of Interartistic Inquiry (1995-1999), which located the role of Black music within the broader arts of the African Diaspora. And he organized several national and international conferences; and sponsored four ensembles to perform and record different genres of Black music for local and national audiences, based on research from the center.

Among Floyd’s publications of interest to folklorists are:

The Power of Black Music: Interpreting its History from Africa to the United States (1996)

The Transformation of Black Music: The Rhythms, the Songs, the Ships of the African Diaspora (2017)

Phyllis M. May-Machunda

(coming soon)