How the Smithsonian Is Building its New, Sweeping Collection of Black American Music

The Smithsonian is growing its collection of African-American music with a team of hands-on specialists, including Timothy Anne Burnside.

The boombox arrived late one night at a hotel in Atlanta, and it came from Chuck D. Purchased in New York in 1987, a year before Chuck D’s group Public Enemy would drop its landmark album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, the boombox had seen hotels like this all over the world. Public Enemy used it on tour in the 1980s, retired it, then brought it back on the road in the 2000s. For awhile, the hunk of metal played a role as a hallowed stage prop...