The beloved bassist, Milt Hinton, chronicled his life through photography, creating a fascinating portrait of music history—and civil rights—in 20th century America.
Milt Hinton’s prowess as a photographer is only topped by his stature as a musician. He seems to know just the right moment to snap a picture. And he also seems to have an inner essence that allows him to say the right things at the right time. —Dizzy Gillespie
Milt Hinton (1910-2000) was a revered bass player who became one of the most recorded bassists in history over a career that lasted an incredible seven decades. Through it all, he captured his behind-the-scenes life in music through thousands of photographs, making him one of the rare musicians who not only experienced the history of jazz but also documented that history along the way.
Oberlin College & Conservatory brings Hinton’s story to life with the traveling exhibition Playing the Changes: The Life and Legacy of Milt Hinton, which will be on view at the Hampton University Museum from April 20, 2020 through July 18, 2020. The exhibit combines Hinton’s original photographs with insightful biographical materials drawn from Oberlin’s Milton J. and Mona C. Hinton Collection. It provides an unrivaled perspective on the life and legacy of one of the 20th century’s most accomplished bass players while also documenting the sobering racial inequalities faced by African Americans throughout the 20th century.
The grandson of a slave growing up in rural Mississippi, Hinton knew the realities of racism. Discrimination continued during his Jim Crow-era travels with the Cab Calloway Orchestra in the 1930s and 40s. Later, segregation persisted when Hinton worked to break through the color line in New York recording studios.
But as this exhibit shows, Hinton knew how to play the changes. Musically, he worked with performers across the spectrum of styles, from Cab Calloway to Louis Armstrong to Bing Crosby to Barbra Streisand to Paul McCartney. Socially, he navigated the evolving expectations of what it meant to be an African American in the U.S. Through it all, he combined talent with perseverance to overcome life’s adversities, leaving behind a legacy that Oberlin College is proud to share.
ABOUT OBERLIN COLLEGE & CONSERVATORY: Oberlin is a highly selective liberal arts college and conservatory of music. Founded in 1833, Oberlin College was the first institution to grant bachelor’s degrees to women in a coeducational environment and was a leader in the education of African Americans. Oberlin Conservatory, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015, is the oldest continuously operating conservatory of music in America. The Oberlin community is known for its exemplary academic and musical pedagogy and its commitment to social justice, sustainability, and creative entrepreneurship. Oberlin’s legacy of inclusion and respect for diversity continues to define campus life today. Learn more at Oberlin College & Conservatory.