African-American Banjo


This banjo was made by an unknown maker in the United States around 1835-1865. It has undergone considerable scrutiny and analysis at the Smithsonian because of its attribution to American slave origins. So far, studies have been inconclusive. While the sun design carved on the body may have African origins, the polygonal shape, wood top (instead of a skin), and carved head pegbox lie outside the traditions of banjos brought to America by Africans. Nevertheless, the instrument was likely made by someone familiar with Black culture.

Date Made: 1835-1865

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States

Subject: African American


See more items in: Culture and the Arts: Musical Instruments, Music & Musical Instruments, Cultures & Communities, Banjos


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Robert S. Jamieson

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1990.0164.01Accession Number: 1990.0164Catalog Number: 1990.0164.01

Object Name: banjo

Physical Description: wood (part material)metal (part material)Measurements: overall: 31 in x 10 in x 3 1/2 in; 78.74 cm x 25.4 cm x 8.89 cm


Record Id: nmah_606749

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