ABC/Fred WatkinsTaking the Stage: African American Music and Stories that Changed America, an all-star celebration of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

The two-hour special features performances by Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Herbie Hancock, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera and many other music stars. Legendary music producer Quincy Jones, who was one of the event’s executive producers, says tonight’s program will cover some of the greatest music contributions that African Americans have made throughout the years.

“It goes straight through the ages,” Jones tells ABC Radio. “Stuff from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s; be-bop, doo-wop, hip-hop, big bands; everything. It covers the history.”

Don Mischer, co-executive producer of Taking the Stage, concurs, and adds that the contribution African Americans have made to pop culture is “unparalleled.”

“You know, from jazz to rock and roll to hip-hop, and we’re trying to hit on all of those,” Mischer explains. “What’s working really well in this show is that the music is connected to something that’s anchored in the museum.”

In addition to the musical performances, the special features dance and spoken-word presentations, including a tribute to Michael Jackson. Its star-studded roster of celebrities includes President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Samuel L. Jackson, Dave Chappelle, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Angela Bassett, Chris Tucker and Quincy Jones’ daughter, Rashida.

Quincy believes tonight’s special is important to black culture and it comes as a perfect time.

“In many ways the timing is just right on,” he says. “We’ve never had such a racial confrontation ever in the country as it has been now. Because it has always been covered up in the North, in the South you know where you stand.”

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