afromodernism

3

In the last couple weeks, I’ve been reading books on the racial politics of black music genres, specifically in the first half of the 20th Century. The three books here all give detailed historical accounts of the way black vernacular music in the U.S. came to intersect with and further the cause of black equality in the different sectors of American life. Guthrie Ramsey's Race Music provides an overview of the various movements associated with black music genres over the 20th century, discussing genres such as bebop, jazz, and jump blues in the context of movements such as “Afro-modernism” and framing music production in terms of the representation of race and racial issues in public discourse.

Jon Panish's The Color of Jazz and Suzanne Smith's Dancing in the Street both focus in on a simultaneous historical, political, and musical moment. The Color of Jazz discusses the evolution of the black jazz player in the age of extreme racism, while Dancing in the Street highlights the black political and socioeconomic struggles in Detroit at the inception and golden age of Motown Records, the record label that put out the biggest Motown hits of any record label at the time. Both of these books are framed by the Civil Rights movement.