The group was founded in 1969 by Russell Knighton at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the group was called the Macalester College Black Voices. It was in 1971 when current director Gary Hines took leadership over the ensemble, and the group name was officially changed to Sounds of Blackness (SOB).
The group had acquired local celebrity status throughout the years though never signed with a record company because of various reasons including the fact that many companies were not comfortable with the group's name. Some companies even suggested to Hines that the group's name be changed to "The Sounds of Music." The chief lead singer of the group was Ann Nesby until 1995, when Nesby left the group to pursue a solo career. The group continues to perform internationally.
Since January 1971, the Grammy Award winning Sounds of Blackness have consistently performed, recorded and proudly proclaimed the music, culture and history of African Americans to audiences around the world. The Sounds of Blackness have embraced and presented every “sound of blackness”: Jazz, Blues, Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, Reggae, Ragtime, Spirtuals, Work songs and Field Hollers. On three occasions, Sounds of Blackness has peformed for audiences of over one billion people: the Opening Ceromonies of the 1994 World Cup, the 1996 Summer Olympics, and the 1998 World Figure Skating Championships. The group has also performed at the White House on five separate occasions.