My Research Related To American Black Culture And Rich African Musical Heritage

I am interested in researching African history, American Black culture and music in the United States of America. I am specifically interested in exploring how human trafficked Africans shape American music. This study will conduct investigative research of the history of African traditions, while attempting to determine the impact of enslavement on American music.

Characterizing the Black influence on American music in all its glory is a daunting task. Black influences are so essential to America that there would be no American music as we know it without it.

It’s said that Africans were among the earliest non indigenous settlers [Some believe and state proof of Black people already being in the Americas but that’s a subject for another time] of what would become the United States, and the rich African musical heritage that was carried with them was part of the foundation of a new American culture of music that mixed European and African traditions together. Religious music, work songs [enslaved and non-], dance music, and the variety from swing, jazz, rock, rap and remixed music of the descendants, would become the heartbeat of American music, eventually influencing Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The music of Africans, descendants are one of the most poetic and inescapable examples of the importance of the Black experience to the cultural heritage of all Americans, regardless of race or origin.

The unique musical features of Black traditions were traced back in one way or other to Africa. The expressive showmanship that is displayed in Black music have their roots in techniques originally developed in western and central Africa before arriving to the United States via the Atlantic [known as the Transatlantic slave Trade].

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Over the centuries, African American musicians have drawn on the ancestral connection to Africa as a source of pride and inspiration.

Music has played an essential role in all aspects of Black history, from civil rights struggles and religious ceremonies to social and political commentary and building of communities. With this project I aspire to shed light on themes: Roots in Africa, Human Trafficking/Enslavement, Mass Media & Entertainment and American Influence.


COOPER, B.LEE. “Promoting Social Change Through Audio Repetition: Black Musicians as Creators and Revivalists 1953-1978.” Journal of Popular Music Studies (University of California Press), vol. 30, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 45–56. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1525/jpms.2018.200015.

This academic journal presents evidence of the development of contemporary American music which reflects outstandingly from the integration of black composers, performers, and their songs into mainstream popular record charts. The author describes how between 1953 and 1978 a fascinating role reversal occurred. During that quarter century black artists shifted from creators to revivalists. The same role reversal did not apply to white artists, who tended to evolve along a more consistent audience acceptance continuum. B. Lee Cooper poses and answers: How can this 25-year cycle of social change best be illustrated? What elements of black music dramatically entered the pop spectrum during the fifties, and later gained dominance by the end of the sixties? Why did black artists become more and more conservative during the late seventies? Cooper’s examination of audio repetition covered recordings and song revivals which offered revealing information about changes in artistic, economic and social life in America post 1953. This will be helpful for my project due the changes in American music involving Black artists during the Civil Rights movement.

HEFFERNAN, NICK. “‘As Usual, I’ll Have to Take an IOU’: W. E. B. Du Bois, the Gift of Black Music and the Cultural Politics of Obligation.” Journal of American Studies, vol. 52, no. 4, Nov. 2018, pp. 1095–1121. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1017/S0021875817000883.

In The Souls of Black Folk (1903) W. E. B. Du Bois describes African American music as ‘the singular spiritual heritage of the nation and the greatest gift of the Negro people’ to America, contesting the tendency to regard white interest in black culture as appropriation or theft. Yet this metaphor invoked the complex circuits of indebtedness and obligation that are intrinsic to gift exchange in anthropological accounts of the practice, challenging white recipients of the gift to make enough as response. This challenge is most systematically addressed in a sequence of films that tell stories about white enthusiasm for the blues. The Blues Brothers (1980), Crossroads (1986), Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) and Black Snake Moan (2006) depict the blues as a gift and explore how whites might appropriately acknowledge and reciprocate for receiving it in a culture distorted by racial inequalities. The films develop a distinct set of narrative conventions for handling the politics of racial obligation, vacillating between seeing black music as a transracial cultural resource on the one hand and as a racially defined, inalienable possession of African Americans on the other. Using these same conventions, Honeydripper (2007) invites us to see the process of cultural exchange from a different perspective in which the problematic status of the blues as racialized property is diminished. I found this article long but quite interesting

Mathews, Burgin. “Jazz and the Magic City: An Alabama Diaspora.” Southern Cultures, vol. 25, no. 4, Winter 2019, pp. 108–127. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/scu.2019.0048.

Mathews, the author, explains in much of the twentieth century, Birmingham, Alabama, was home to a thriving and unique jazz tradition, one whose influence on American music has been overlooked. In the decades before the Civil Rights Movement, Black teachers in Birmingham’s segregated schools originated a program of instrumental music that trained generations of professional jazz players, composers, and arrangers. Booker T. Washington’s principles of industrial education was applied to the high school band room, instructor John T. Whatley known as Fess launched a local tradition that spanned most of the twentieth century. Birmingham musicians helped shape the sound of swing nationwide and played key roles in the birth of bebop. The city’s influence can even be heard in the ‘otherworldly’ experiments of Sun Ra, a musician who claimed to have come from outer space but whose music was steeped in Birmingham tradition. This article examines Birmingham’s contributions to making the world of jazz and the ways in which jazz, in turn, shaped the culture of Birmingham. This article is relevant to my research topic

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