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Jim Crow Blues

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Leon F. Litwack, Jim Crow Blues, OAH Magazine of History , Volume 18, Issue 2, January 2004, Pages 7–58, https://doi.org/10.1093/maghis/18.2.7

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What the white South lost on the battlefields of the Civil War and during Reconstruction, it would largely retake in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In what has been called the Nadir of African American history, a new generation of black southerners shared with the survivors of enslavement a sharply proscribed and deteriorating position in a South bent on commanding black lives and black labor by any means necessary. The most intense years were between 1890 and the first Great Migration in the 1910s, but the seeds had been planted in the forcible overthrow of Reconstruction in the 1870s, and the Age of Jim Crow would span more than half a century.

The term “Jim Crow,” as a way of characterizing black people, had its origins in minstrelsy in the early nineteenth century. Thomas “Daddy” Rice, a white minstrel, popularized the term. Using burnt cork to blacken his face, attired in the ill-fitting, tattered garment of a beggar, and grinning broadly, Rice imitated the dancing, singing, and demeanor generally ascribed to Negro character. Calling it “Jump Jim Crow,” he based the number on a routine he had seen performed in 1828 by an elderly and crippled Louisville stableman belonging to a Mr. Crow. “Weel about, and turn about/And do jis so;/Eb'ry time I weel about,/I jump Jim Crow” ( 1). The public responded with enthusiasm to Rice's caricature of black life. By the 1830s, minstrelsy had become one of the most popular forms of mass entertainment, “Jim Crow” had entered the American vocabulary, and many whites, North and South, came away from minstrel shows reinforced in their distorted images of black life, character, and aspirations. How a dance created by a black stableman and imitated by a white man for the amusement of white audiences would become synonymous with a system designed by whites to segregate the races is less clear. Abolitionist newspapers employed the term in the 1840s to describe separate railroad cars for blacks and whites in the North. But by the 1890s, “Jim Crow” took on additional force and meaning to denote the subordination and separation of black people in the South, much of it codified and much of it still enforced by custom, habit, and violence.

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The Journal of Southern Religion

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Review: Jim Crow's Counterculture

Tobin miller shearer.

Tobin Miller Shearer is an assistant professor of History at University of Montana.

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Tobin Miller Shearer, “Review: Jim Crow's Counterculture,” Journal of Southern Religion 15 (2013): http://jsr.fsu.edu/issues/vol15/shearer.html.

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R. A. Lawson. Jim Crow's Counterculture: The Blues and Black Southerners 1890-1945 . Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010. 304 pp. ISBN 978-0-8071-5227-0.

The field of cultural history has at times suffered from the burden of theory. In a bid to interpret costume, mores, food, or, as in this case, blues music, cultural historians have immersed themselves in postmodernism, poststructuralism, and the attendant complexities of prose that so often arise from these pursuits. R. A. Lawson, however, demonstrates how to make cultural history relevant, meaningful, and historically pertinent without encumbering the text with jargon-laced rhetoric. Moreover, his deep knowledge, sharp analysis, and rigorous contextualization of sources expand our understanding of African-American responses to institutionalized segregation, violence, and the ongoing legacies of white supremacy during the first half of the twentieth century.

In this sophisticated study of the blues in black southern culture between 1890 and 1945, Lawson contends that blues musicians fostered a flexible and durable counterculture that allowed African Americans to both resist and accommodate racism in the South and North. He traces the shift in blues music from pre-World War II me-centered themes—which he calls a “lonely sort of democratic individualism” (52)—to post-WWII we-centered themes, in which blues artists began to celebrate the possibility of full citizenship and participation in U.S. consumer culture (194). Larson also asserts that not only did blues musicians and their audiences encourage resistance to Jim Crow, they also prepared the foundation for future civil rights movement activism. Moreover, Lawson argues that U.S. popular culture owes a significant debt to the African-American community for the musical and cultural forms that emerged out of the blues enterprise.

Employing a clever titling structure that echoes his topic—chapters are labeled “Sound Check,” “Verse One,” “Break,” etc.—Lawson weaves together keen analysis of blues lyrics with rigorous historical context. At times, in fact, his discussion of the attendant historical factors surrounding a given song or blues theme seems to take on a life of its own and the blues thread is momentarily discarded. The reader may find that the level of detail offered in explanation of the demise of Reconstruction, the after effects of the Great Flood of 1927, the demographic shifts of the Great Migrations, or the ramifications of the New Deal in the Lower Mississippi Valley is not entirely necessary.

At the same time, such careful positioning of his sources in the historical moment allows him to explicate the popularizing role of performer and composer W. C. Handy, the significance of blues giant Leadbelly’s incarcerations, and the meaning of Muddy Waters’s rise to become “Chicago’s famous silk-suited, pompadour-wearing, fully electrified king of blues” (173). Under Lawson’s considered evaluation, such bluesmen become not just famous performers but also opportunities for evaluating and assessing the various ways in which African Americans accommodated to and resisted a society that continually sought to place them in a subservient position.

In an especially fascinating section, Lawson shows how blues performers dehumanized the Japanese but not the Germans during WWII. He argues that blues performers recognized they could encourage patriotism by stereotyping another racial minority group but not by doing the same to white people—even if the Germans were state enemies. In this section, as throughout the book, Lawson describes his subjects in the fullness of their humanity. He writes not of one-dimensional saints and sinners, but of human beings who failed, fought, wished, and won.

Lawson’s narrative follows bluesmen in their peregrinations throughout the South and in migration to the North; women are largely absent. He explains that it was men who did most of the performing and, by extension, shaped the counterculture so central to his argument, although both women and men listened to and participated in the blues scene. Leading figures like Ma Rainey and Lillie Mae Glover do make brief appearances, but the women of the blues world that Tera Hunter brings to life ( To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War, 1997) bear little on the story told here. More deliberate integration of the perspectives of women would have made for a richer presentation of the full reach of the blues counterculture.

Like gender, religion gets somewhat short shrift. Lawson does note that blues performersembodied the very antithesis of Christian charity, asceticism, and piety (1, 2, 64, 68, 72) but only in passing and without a deeper examination of the connections that existed between blues performers and Christian practitioners. As womanist scholar Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan notes, both black gospel and the blues “come out of a Black aesthetic that reflects a history, ritual, and social interaction of a collective Black ethnic, holistic, cultural identity.” 1 The themes of sorrow and remorse, abandon and return, and faithfulness and betrayal resonated with and were sometimes drawn from religious sources. A bit more attention to those connections would have strengthened an otherwise robust interrogation of blues lyrics.

Yet, in the larger context of cultural history, Lawson offers a thorough, incisive, and meticulously researched analysis of Jim Crow era blues. Readers leave the text with a new appreciation for the ways in which one musical form and the counterculture that birthed and sustained it allowed African Americans to name and claim a space of their own. Reminiscent of Robin D. G. Kelley’s work on working-class opposition to Jim Crow in buses and job sites, Lawson’s treatment offers fresh insight into the intersection of resistance and accommodation in jook joints and recording studios. Moreover, Lawson has done so in an accessible style that challenges other cultural historians to set aside jargon and make plain their claims.

Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, “Justified, Sanctified, and Redeemed: Blessed Expectation in Black Women’s Blues and Gospels,” in Embracing the Spirit: Womanist Perspectives on Hope, Salvation, and Transformation, ed. Emilie Maureen Townes (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1997), 151

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

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Jim Crow Laws

By: History.com Editors

Updated: January 22, 2024 | Original: February 28, 2018

1938: Drinking fountain on the county courthouse lawn, Halifax, North Carolina (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation . Named after a Black minstrel show character, the laws—which existed for about 100 years, from the post- Civil War era until 1968—were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence and death.

Black Codes

The roots of Jim Crow laws began as early as 1865, immediately following the ratification of the 13th Amendment , which abolished slavery in the United States.

Black codes were strict local and state laws that detailed when, where and how formerly enslaved people could work, and for how much compensation. The codes appeared throughout the South as a legal way to put Black citizens into indentured servitude, to take voting rights away, to control where they lived and how they traveled and to seize children for labor purposes.

The legal system was stacked against Black citizens, with former Confederate soldiers working as police and judges, making it difficult for African Americans to win court cases and ensuring they were subject to Black codes.

These codes worked in conjunction with labor camps for the incarcerated, where prisoners were treated as enslaved people. Black offenders typically received longer sentences than their white equals, and because of the grueling work, often did not live out their entire sentence.

Ku Klux Klan

During the Reconstruction era, local governments, as well as the national Democratic Party and President Andrew Johnson , thwarted efforts to help Black Americans move forward.

Violence was on the rise, making danger a regular aspect of African American life. Black schools were vandalized and destroyed, and bands of violent white people attacked, tortured and lynched Black citizens in the night. Families were attacked and forced off their land all across the South.

The most ruthless organization of the Jim Crow era, the Ku Klux Klan , was born in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee , as a private club for Confederate veterans.

The KKK grew into a secret society terrorizing Black communities and seeping through white Southern culture, with members at the highest levels of government and in the lowest echelons of criminal back alleys.

Jim Crow Laws Expand

At the start of the 1880s, big cities in the South were not wholly beholden to Jim Crow laws and Black Americans found more freedom in them.

This led to substantial Black populations moving to the cities and, as the decade progressed, white city dwellers demanded more laws to limit opportunities for African Americans.

Jim Crow laws soon spread around the country with even more force than previously. Public parks were forbidden for African Americans to enter, and theaters and restaurants were segregated.

Segregated waiting rooms in bus and train stations were required, as well as water fountains, restrooms, building entrances, elevators, cemeteries, even amusement-park cashier windows.

Laws forbade African Americans from living in white neighborhoods. Segregation was enforced for public pools, phone booths, hospitals, asylums, jails and residential homes for the elderly and handicapped.

Some states required separate textbooks for Black and white students. New Orleans mandated the segregation of prostitutes according to race. In Atlanta, African Americans in court were given a different Bible from white people to swear on. Marriage and cohabitation between white and Black people was strictly forbidden in most Southern states.

It was not uncommon to see signs posted at town and city limits warning African Americans that they were not welcome there.

Ida B. Wells

As oppressive as the Jim Crow era was, it was also a time when many African Americans around the country stepped forward into leadership roles to vigorously oppose the laws.

Memphis teacher Ida B. Wells became a prominent activist against Jim Crow laws after refusing to leave a first-class train car designated for white people only. A conductor forcibly removed her and she successfully sued the railroad, though that decision was later reversed by a higher court.

Angry at the injustice, Wells devoted herself to fighting Jim Crow laws. Her vehicle for dissent was newspaper writing: In 1889 she became co-owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight and used her position to take on school segregation and sexual harassment.

Wells traveled throughout the South to publicize her work and advocated for the arming of Black citizens. Wells also investigated lynchings and wrote about her findings.

A mob destroyed her newspaper and threatened her with death, forcing her to move to the North, where she continued her efforts against Jim Crow laws and lynching.

Charlotte Hawkins Brown

Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a North Carolina-born, Massachusetts-raised Black woman who returned to her birthplace at the age of 17, in 1901, to work as a teacher for the American Missionary Association.

After funding was withdrawn for that school, Brown began fundraising to start her own school, named the Palmer Memorial Institute.

Brown became the first Black woman to create a Black school in North Carolina and through her education work became a fierce and vocal opponent of Jim Crow laws.

Isaiah Montgomery

Not everyone battled for equal rights within white society—some chose a separatist approach.

Convinced by Jim Crow laws that Black and white people could not live peaceably together, formerly enslaved Isaiah Montgomery created the African American-only town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi , in 1887.

Montgomery recruited other former enslaved people to settle in the wilderness with him, clearing the land and forging a settlement that included several schools, an Andrew Carnegie -funded library, a hospital, three cotton gins, a bank and a sawmill. Mound Bayou still exists today, and is still almost 100 percent Black.

Jim Crow Laws in the 20th Century

As the 20th century progressed, Jim Crow laws flourished within an oppressive society marked by violence.

Following World War I , the NAACP noted that lynchings had become so prevalent that it sent investigator Walter White to the South. White had lighter skin and could infiltrate white hate groups.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

As lynchings increased, so did race riots, with at least 25 across the United States over several months in 1919, a period sometimes referred to as “ Red Summer .” In retaliation, white authorities charged Black communities with conspiring to conquer white America.

With Jim Crow dominating the landscape, education increasingly under attack and few opportunities for Black college graduates, the Great Migration of the 1920s saw a significant migration of educated Black people out of the South, spurred on by publications like The Chicago Defender , which encouraged Black Americans to move north.

Read by millions of Southern Black people, white people attempted to ban the newspaper and threatened violence against any caught reading or distributing it.

The poverty of the Great Depression only deepened resentment, with a rise in lynchings, and after World War II , even Black veterans returning home met with segregation and violence.

Jim Crow in the North

The North was not immune to Jim Crow-like laws. Some states required Black people to own property before they could vote, schools and neighborhoods were segregated, and businesses displayed “Whites Only” signs.

In Ohio, segregationist Allen Granbery Thurman ran for governor in 1867 promising to bar Black citizens from voting. After he narrowly lost that political race, Thurman was appointed to the U.S. Senate, where he fought to dissolve Reconstruction-era reforms benefiting African Americans.

After World War II , suburban developments in the North and South were created with legal covenants that did not allow Black families, and Black people often found it difficult or impossible to obtain mortgages for homes in certain “red-lined” neighborhoods.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

When Did Jim Crow Laws End?

The post-World War II era saw an increase in civil rights activities in the African American community, with a focus on ensuring that Black citizens were able to vote. This ushered in the civil rights movement , resulting in the removal of Jim Crow laws.

In 1948 President Harry Truman ordered integration in the military, and in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that educational segregation was unconstitutional, bringing to an end the era of “separate-but-equal” education.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act , which legally ended the segregation that had been institutionalized by Jim Crow laws.

And in 1965, the Voting Rights Act halted efforts to keep minorities from voting. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, which ended discrimination in renting and selling homes, followed.

Jim Crow laws were technically off the books, though that has not always guaranteed full integration or adherence to anti-racism laws throughout the United States. Several recent pieces of legislation—such as House Bill 1020 in Mississippi, which aimed to disenfranchise the majority-Black capital city of Jackson by creating a new judicial district overseen by white leaders—are often compared to Jim Crow laws.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Richard Wormser . Segregated America. Smithsonian Institute . Jim Crow Laws. National Park Service . “Exploiting Black Labor After the Abolition of Slavery.” The Conversation . “Hundreds of black Americans were killed during 'Red Summer.' A century later, still ignored.” Associated Press/USA Today . “Here's What's Become Of A Historic All-Black Town In The Mississippi Delta.” NPR . 

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

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what is the thesis of jim crow blues

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what is the thesis of jim crow blues

Essential Question

How do the Country Blues reflect the challenges of sharecropping, racial injustice, and rural poverty in early 20th-century African-American life?

“As I began to get into the history of the music,” writes Amiri Baraka (writing under the name LeRoi Jones) in his book  Blues People , “I found that this was impossible without, at the same time, getting deeper into the history of the people. [The Blues] was the history of the Afro-American people as text, as tale, as story, as exposition, narrative… the music was the score, the actually expressed creative orchestration, reflection, of Afro-American life.”

In the beginning, the Blues was a music performed by poor African Americans for audiences of poor African Americans, and a reflection of their common experiences in the Jim Crow South. The Blues were one of the few forums through which poor, rural African Americans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries could articulate their experiences, attitudes, and emotions. They made music about heartbreak, about the challenges of their lives as sharecroppers, about the relentless Mississippi River floods, about the harsh mastery of white landowners.

This lesson focuses on the music through which those hardships were expressed and on the daily lives of southern blacks in the sharecropping era. It is structured around an imagined road trip through Mississippi. Students will “stop” in two places: Yazoo City, where they will learn about the sorts of natural disasters that periodically devastated already-struggling poor southerners, and Hillhouse, where they will learn about the institution of sharecropping. They will study a particular Country Blues song at each “stop” and examine it as a window onto the socioeconomic conditions of the people who created it. Students will create a scrapbook of their journey, in which they will record and analyze what they have learned about the difficulty of eking out a living in the age of sharecropping.

Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  • How Country Blues music reflected the socioeconomic experiences of southern African Americans in pre-World War II America
  • The basic workings and challenges of the sharecropping system
  • The effects of sharecropping on the daily lives of African-American and white tenant farmers
  • The effects of natural disasters such as river floods on poor southerners in pre-World War II America
  • How the paintings of Jacob Lawrence represented African American life in the South before World War II
  • Closely read song lyrics for information, point of view, and argument
  • Extrapolate arguments about music by assessing sound, mood, tone, and instrumentation
  • Use maps to find locations and construct a logical travel sequence

J.B. Lenoir

Alabama blues, bridging the gap, bessie smith, homeless blues, lightnin' hopkins, death letter blues, charley patton, bo weavil blues, howlin' wolf, i’ll be back someday, chopping cotton in greene county, georgia, 1941, poor mother and children, california, 1936, sharecropper’s cabin and sharecropper’s wife. ten miles south of jackson, mississippi, 1937, thirteen-year old sharecropper boy near americus, georgia, 1937.

  • Cotton sharecroppers. Greene County, Georgia, 1937

Refugees from the Mississippi River Flood, 1927

Motivational activity:.

  • After listening to the lyrics of this song, what relationship do you think Hip Hop has with the Blues? ( Note to instructor: You may need to explain to students who Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf were. )
  • According to Nas, what is the relationship between music and a person’s identity — who they are?
  • Show students video clip of Howlin’ Wolf performing “I’ll Be Back Someday”  (1964). Ask them to consider just what Nas might have connected with in this music.
  • Display the quote below, from the 1963 book  Blues People,  by Amiri Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones):  “[The Blues] was the history of the Afro-American people as text, as tale, as story, as exposition, narrative… the music was the score, the actually expressed creative orchestration, reflection, of Afro-American life.”
  • What does Baraka mean in this quote? How does Howlin’ Wolf embody this? How would you put Baraka’s ideas into your own words?
  • Does “Bridging the Gap” support Baraka’s thesis? What specific examples can you identify?

1. Explain to students that in this lesson they will take an imagined road trip through Mississippi to visit two sites where they will learn about African-American life in the South in the early part of the 20th century, and how that life was reflected in Country Blues music. Students will visit two stations where they will examine a series of artifacts including film clips, photographs, visual art, and readings. They will answer a series of questions about these artifacts. For a post-lesson homework activity, students will be asked to research a third stop, the hometown of famed Blues musician B.B. King, Indianola, Mississippi. The stations are:

  • Video : Bessie Smith, “Homeless Blues”
  • Video : Charlie Patton, “Bol Weavil Blues”
  • Video:  Son House, “Death Letter Blues”
  • Image:   Paintings of Jacob Lawrence from the Great Migration Series , Panel 9
  • Image:   Photo of destruction from the 1927 Mississippi River flood
  • Video : Lightin’ Hopkins, “Cotton”
  • Handout :  Explanation of Sharecropping  (from PBS, “ Sharecropping in Mississippi “)
  • Image :  Paintings of Jacob Lawrence from the Great Migration Series , Panel 17
  • Poor mother and children, California, 1936
  • Sharecropper’s cabin and sharecropper’s wife, ten miles south of Jackson, Mississippi, 1937
  • Thirteen-year old sharecropper boy near Americus, Georgia, 1937

2. Explain to students that after visiting the two stations, they will be asked to create a scrapbook based on their imaginary travels. (Note: It is up to the instructor whether this project will be completed at home or if additional class time will be provided, and whether it will be completed on an individual basis or by groups.)

3. Distribute  Handout 2 – Scrapbook Guidelines . Invite several students to read, having each read one part of the assignment aloud. Clarify any part of the assignment that remains unclear to students. Instruct students to be mindful of these guidelines as they visit the stations. Assign a deadline for completion of the scrapbook.

4. Divide students into groups of 3-4. Distribute   Handout 3 – Mapping Your Trip Through Mississippi , and instruct each group to complete the requirements on the handout.

5. Distribute   Handout 4 – Questions for Road Trip Stations . Inform students that they now begin their journey through the stations. In order to accommodate the needs of the classroom, they will not actually follow the route they have planned. Instead, divide groups evenly between the two stations, instructing them to finish the first and then move on to the second.

6. Instruct students to discuss the questions for each artifact as a group. Students should take notes on their own copies of the handout.

Summary Activity:

After all groups have visited both stations, reconvene the class as a whole. Refer back to the questions posed in the Motivational Activity and discuss:

  • How do the artifacts you have seen reflect the themes in Baraka’s quote and in “Bridging the Gap?”
  • How did the Country Blues reflect the experience of African-Americans in the rural South early part of the 20th century?

Homework/Assessment:

Have students complete the Scrapbook Activity, and have them also research a third station: Indianola, Mississippi, the hometown of Blues superstar B.B. King, who was born into a family of poor sharecroppers in 1925.

Writing Prompt:

How did the Country Blues reflect the challenges of sharecropping, racial injustice, and rural poverty in early 20th-century African-American life? Be sure to make specific references to the artifacts seen and heard in this lesson.

Extensions:

  • Assign students additional research as part of the scrapbook project. You may wish to ask students to identify additional Blues songs, images, artifacts, or performers, or to compile additional information about sharecropping and/or the 1927 Mississippi River flood.
  • Ask students to visit the website “ Obama’s Secret Weapon in the South .” Once they have read the story and inspected the images, ask them to discuss and/or write about the connections among prehistoric geography, southern sharecropping, the Blues, and modern presidential politics.

Handout – Explanation of Sharecropping Handout 1 – Lyrics for Songs in This Lesson Handout 2 – Scrapbook Guidelines Handout 3 – Mapping Your Trip Through Mississippi Handout 4 – Questions for Road Trip Stations

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New Jersey State Learning Standards for English Language Arts: Reading

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New York State Standards

New York State Next Generation English Language Arts Learning Standards Reading Anchor Standards

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Writing Anchor Standards

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Speaking and Listening

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NYS Next Generation 6-12 Literacy Standards in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects Literacy 6-12 Anchor Standards for Reading

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Literacy 6-12 Anchor Standards for Writing

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  • Standard 7: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Standard 9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Texas State Standards

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for ELA & Reading

  • Make inference about text and use textual evidence to support understanding.
  • Summarize, paraphrase, and synthesize texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order within a text and across texts.
  • Make intertextual links among and across texts, including other media (e.g. film, play, music) and provide textual evidence.
  • Make complex inference about text and use textual evidence to support understanding.

Texas Essential Knowledge Skills for Social Studies

  • Explain the relationships that exist between societies and their architecture, art, music, and literature.
  • Relate ways in which contemporary expressions of culture have been influenced by the past.
  • Describe ways in which contemporary issues influence creative expression.
  • Pose and answer geographic questions including: Where is it located? Why is it there? What is significant about its location? How is its location related to the location of other people, places and environments?
  • Explain the reasons for the increase in factories and urbanization.
  • Analyze the causes and effects of economic differences among different regions of the United States at selected times in U.S. History.

Texas Essential Knowledge Skills for Fine and Performing Arts – General

  • The fine arts incorporate the study of dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts to offer unique experience and empower students to explore realities, relationships, and ideas. These disciplines engage and motivate all students through active learning, critical thinking, and innovation problem solving.
  • Four basic strands: music literacy, creative expression, historical and cultural relevance; and critical evaluation and response-provide broad, unifying structure for organizing the knowledge and skills students are expected to acquire.
  • Identify relationships of concepts to other academic disciplines such as the relations between music and mathematics, literature, history, and the sciences;
  • Identify and explore the impact of technologies, ethical issues, and economic factors on music, performers, and performances;
  • (A) compare and contrast music by genre, style, culture, and historical period;
  • (B) define uses of music in societies and cultures;
  • (C) identify and explore the relationships between music and other academic disciplines;
  • (D) identify music-related vocations and avocations;
  • (E) identify and explore the impact of technologies, ethical issues, and economic factors on music, musicians, and performances; and
  • (F) identify and explore tools for college and career preparation such as personal performance recordings, social media applications, repertoire lists, auditions, and interview techniques.

Common Core State Standards

College and Career Readiness Reading Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 for Literature and Informational Text

  • Reading 7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • Reading 8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
  • Reading 9: Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

College and Career Readiness Writing Anchor Standards for Grades 6-12 in English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects

  • Writing 2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • Writing 9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening for Grades 6-12

  • Speaking and Listening 2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Social Studies – National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

  • Theme 1 : Culture
  • Theme 3 : People, Places, and Environments
  • Theme 5 : Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

National Standards for Music Education

Core Music Standard: Responding

  • Select : Choose music appropriate for a specific purpose or context.
  • Analyze : Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.
  • Interpret : Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators’ and/or performers’ expressive intent.
  • Evaluate : Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.

Core Music Standard: Connecting

  • Connecting 11 : Relate  musical ideas and works to varied contexts and daily life to deepen understanding.

National Core Arts Standards

  • Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard 9: Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.
  • Anchor Standard 10: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.
  • Anchor Standards 11: Relate artistic ideas and work with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.

Career Technical Education Standards (California Model) – Arts, Media and Entertainment Pathway Standards

Design, Visual and Media Arts (A)

  • 1.0 Demonstrate ability to reorganize and integrate visual art elements across digital media and design applications. A1.1 View and respond to a variety of industry-related artistic products integrating industry appropriate vocabulary. A1.4 Select industry-specific works and analyze the intent of the work and the appropriate use of media. A1.5 Research and analyze the work of an artist or designer and how the artist’s distinctive style contributes to their industry production. A1.9 Analyze the material used by a given artist and describe how its use influences the meaning of the work. ia, and Entertainment | A3.0 Analyze and assess the impact of history and culture on the development of professional arts and media products. A3.2 Describe how the issues of time, place, and cultural influence and are reflected in a variety of artistic products. A3.3 Identify contemporary styles and discuss the diverse social, economic, and political developments reflected in art work in an industry setting. A3.4 Identify art in international industry and discuss ways in which the work reflects cultural perspective. A3.5 Analyze similarities and differences of purpose in art created in culturally diverse industry applications. A4.0 Analyze, assess, and identify effectiveness of artistic products based on elements of art, the principles of design, and professional industry standards. A4.2 Deconstruct how beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence commercial media (traditional and electronic). A4.5 Analyze and articulate how society influences the interpretation and effectiveness of an artistic product. A5.0 Identify essential industry competencies, explore commercial applications and develop a career specific personal plan. A5.3 Deconstruct works of art, identifying psychological content found in the symbols and images and their relationship to industry and society.

Performing Arts (B)

  • B2.0 Read, listen to, deconstruct, and analyze peer and professional music using the elements and terminology of music. B2.2 Describe how the elements of music are used. B2.5 Analyze and describe significant musical events perceived and remembered in a given industry generated example. B2.6 Analyze and describe the use of musical elements in a given professional work that makes it unique, interesting, and expressive. B2.7 Demonstrate the different uses of form, both past and present, in a varied repertoire of music in commercial settings from diverse genres, styles, and professional applications. B7.0 Analyze the historical and cultural perspective of multiple industry performance products from a discipline-specific perspective. B7.3 Analyze the historical and cultural perspective of the musician in the professional setting. B8.0 Deconstruct the aesthetic values that drive professional performance and the artistic elements necessary for industry production. B8.4 Use complex evaluation criteria and terminology to compare and contrast a variety of genres of professional performance products.
  • Trace It Back - People
  • AP/Honors/101
  • Elementary 3-6
  • Ethnic Studies
  • General Music
  • Physical Education
  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Social Studies/History

Chiaroscuro Jazz

Home / In the Classroom / Index of Lesson Plans and Activities for Grades 6-12 / “Jazz is About Collaboration”: Jim Crow Laws And Segregation

“Jazz is About Collaboration”: Jim Crow Laws And Segregation

Estimated Time of Completion:  One week of class time, and a second week of meeting and writing time for small groups which may be done independently.

  • To learn about the importance of jazz music in American life during the Depression.
  • To learn about Jim Crow laws and their effect on African-Americans.
  • To appreciate that de facto segregation existed even where segregation was not mandated by law.
  • To contrast the ways in which America’s most significant contribution to the arts, jazz music, depended on collaboration, whereas segregation valued separation above all else.
  • To pave the way for students to understand the Civil Rights movement.

Materials Needed

  • The PBS Ken Burns documentary JAZZ. This lesson uses primarily Episodes Five and Six.
  • The PBS Web site that accompanies the JAZZ series, as well as other Web sites listed in the lesson.
  • Writing implements for keeping a diary.
  • Art materials for creating posters. For one optional activity, a tape recorder would be useful.
  • A road map/atlas of the United States.

This lesson correlates to the National Standards for History, National Center for History in the Schools located online at  https://socialsciences.ucla.edu/ :

  • Analyze the role of new laws and the federal judiciary in instituting racial inequality and in disfranchising various racial groups.
  • Understand how new cultural movements reflected and changed American society.
  • Understand how American life changed during the 1930s. Analyze the impact of the Great Depression on the American family and on ethnic and racial minorities. Explain the cultural life of the Depression years in art, literature and music.

Procedures and Activities

Activity 1: jazz in the 30s.

Show the segment “Like Taking a Drug” from Episode Five of JAZZ. It begins approximately 53 minutes into the film and ends 6 minutes later with a new a title, “Men Working Together.” The segment depicts the first teen craze in America generated by popular musicians—replete with screaming fan clubs, dance crazes, and clothing fads. Although the decade is the 1930s (and much may appear funny and quaint to teens today), much else will strike them as eerily familiar.

After watching the segment, discuss the similarities and differences between “swing fans” and today’s music fans. What kinds of new technologies enabled jazz to become the first of all teen crazes (e.g. records, radio, the first sound films)? Do recording stars today get a similar reaction from their audiences? Ask students how they would have felt if they had been the leader of a jazz band in the 1930s.

Now tell students that you are going to divide the class into teams. Each team will form an imaginary jazz band that will tour America in the late 1930s. It is the height of the Swing Band Era, and jazz musicians have become celebrities and sex symbols. Their music, played incessantly on the radio, blares across Depression America, lifting spirits and luring Americans to halls and clubs where they can dance their troubles away.

Tell students that each band will have the opportunity to decide what instruments each member will play, what they will name their band, what style of music from the ’30s they’ll play, who their idols are, how they will dress, and so forth. As they go on their imaginary tour, each band member will be asked to keep a diary of events.

Show the first 45 minutes of Episode Six, or select from the segments below those you have time for and deem most important:

Depression America and Jazz From the beginning to approximately 13 minutes into Episode Six, the film covers an overview of Depression America including its effect on African Americans, the commercialization of Big Bands in the East and why musicians are drawn to the Midwest, where a more pulsating blues sound is still alive. It also introduces us to Coleman Hawkins.

Lester Young

From approximately 13 minutes to 19 minutes into Episode Six, the video highlights the importance of the saxophonist Lester Young who heads for Kansas City. The sequence begins with a street scene.

Kansas City

From 19 minutes to 28 minutes into Episode Six, the Kansas City scene itself is the focus, including the life of musicians who improvise well into the night. This sequence begins with the heading “Kansas City” and ends by introducing Count Basie.

Count Basie From 28 minutes to 34 minutes, we learn about the life and music of Count Basie. It begins with the chapter title “Count Basie.”

Mary Lou Williams From 35 minutes to 42 minutes, the film focuses on the role of women in jazz, highlighting the importance of Mary Lou Williams. This sequence ends with the title, “Memories of You.”

Memories of You From 42 minutes to approximately 47 minutes, the film covers a bit of Louis Armstrong, more on Count Basie (who adds singer Jimmy Rushing to his band), the venues where jazz bands played in Depression America, and the importance of music to America at this time. It ends with the title “Musical Kinship.”

As students watch the segments have them take notes in the following categories; alternatively, stop after each segment to discuss the following topics

  • What were the hardships faced by Americans, and especially African-Americans, during the Depression?
  • What are the instruments you hear in jazz bands during this time?
  • How did jazz bands travel at this time?
  • Were the jazz bands themselves integrated?
  • Did the jazz bands play to integrated audiences?
  • What were some of the important cities in the jazz world?
  • What were some of the popular dances in the ’30s? How do these dances differ from the dances of today?
  • What kinds of clothing did people wear in their everyday lives during the ’30s? When they were dancing?
  • Who are some of the important jazz artists at this time? How many of them seem to have been women? What were some of the problems female jazz artists may have faced?
  • Which one of these musicians did you like most and why?

Activity 2: Creating the Band

Now assign students to their jazz band teams. (Teams of 4 or 5 members work best, but you can easily make them larger.) Although there were many all-white or all-African-American bands in the 1930s, in order to illustrate the effects of segregation on American life tell students that most of their members must assume the roles of African-American men. Each band should also include one white male musician (or manager) and one African-American woman. (There were some female artists performing at this time, but not many. Wives of the performers occasionally accompanied the band on tour.)

Then, if you have time, show the following clips from JAZZ:

In Episode Five, in the section “Men Working Together” there is a segment about Benny Goodman’s decision to include Teddy Wilson, an African-American pianist, in his trio. It begins around 104 minutes into the video.

I n Episode Five, the segment seven minutes (trains with hobos) to 21 minutes into the video (streetcars with sound of horn) explains how white America made jazz a big business and reaped the profits for itself. It also shows how Duke Ellington responded to the painful effects of segregation.

Episode Eight, approximately 34 minutes into the film, describes how in 1947 Louis Armstrong invited Jack Teagarten (a white trombonist) to play with him at Town Hall. The sequence ends approximately five minutes later when the city of New Orleans refuses to let the two play together.

Questions to pose if you have time to show the above clips:

  • Was segregation a problem only in the South?
  • Were segregated jazz groups the norm because of how black musicians felt about white musicians, and vice versa, or because of how their audiences responded?
  • How did some African-American artists deal with the injustices and humiliations of segregation?

Ask each team to decide together the following:

  • The name of their band.
  • Their band’s hometown
  • The band members’ names.
  • The instrument(s) each band member plays.
  • The general style of the band’s music.
  • The jazz musician most admired by the band.
  • The band’s hopes for the future.

Also ask that each team designate which band members function as manager, arranger, conductor, and so forth.

Direct students to the Jazz Lounge on the PBS JAZZ Web site for information about jazz styles. To help students figure out what instruments were in a jazz swing band, direct them to the “Behind the Beat” section of the JAZZ Web site and ask them to look at the credits for recordings made in the 1930s. For ideas about some famous jazz artists, students can do research in the Biographies section of the PBS Web site, as well as the following: “Jazz Essays” at  http://www.redhotjazz.com/essays.html

Activity 3: Writing Biographies

Now ask that each student write a biography of themselves as a jazz artist. First, they should figure out how old they are at the moment (c. 1937), then work back in time and figure out when they were born (e.g. 1915). Using the historical and social information on the PBS JAZZ Web site, students should try to interpret how historical events would have affected them and their familiess, particularly from an African-American perspective.

Suggest that students look at some real-life biographies of jazz artists on the JAZZ site. If you have class time, show more JAZZ video clips of the early lives of great jazz artists like Louis Armstrong (Episode Two, the sequence “The Gift” which begins approximately six minutes into the film); Billie Holiday (Episode Five, beginning about 107 minutes into the film and ending about six minutes later); and Duke Ellington (Episode 2, approximately 143 minutes into the video).

Activity 4: Sharing Biographies

Now members of each jazz band need to get to know each other’s fictional selves.

Ask each team member to share his or her biography with members of the group. Each group should sit in a cirlce, and each person in the circle should pass his or her biography one person to the left. The person on the left should read the biography and ask its author any questions which seem important.

Now members of the band should introduce one another. In other words, each person will introduce to the entire group the person whose biography they have read. Encourage students to ham it up a bit… “Joe is the best pianist since Jelly Roll Morton, and he will make our band the equal of Duke Ellington’s anyday.”

Activity 5: Constructing the Story of the Band

If you have the time, show this segment from the JAZZ documentary:

Episode Seven, “We Need to Be Free” which begins approximately 116 minutes into the film. You need only show the next ten minutes, the section which demonstrates how Duke Ellington wrote specifically for the instrumentalists in his band, and how he got them to play their best on stage even if they were not on speaking terms offstage.

Ask students in what ways making music is like playing on a team. For what reasons might band members not get along? They might compete for audience “ratings,” disagree with each other’s politics, have dated the same man or woman, etc. Why might some band members be good friends? They might hail from the same city, like the same foods, share a love of the same sport, admire each other’s musicianship, etc.

Now ask students to create the story of the band itself. Keeping in mind that they now need to blend their individual biographies into a group identity, have them answer the following questions:

  • Which musician(s) started the group and why? What city did the band start in?
  • Which musicians were added later to the group, and why?
  • What older musicians sponsored the group, or were mentors to some of the players?
  • Has the band had any serious disagreements to date?
  • What financial risks or problems face the band?
  • What recordings has the group made together? Name them.
  • Describe the band’s very best concert ever.
  • Describe what reviewers are saying about the band.
  • Describe what the band’s critics are saying about the band.
  • Describe the band’s goals for the next year.

Now ask the group to write a “band biography.” Each member of the band should keep a copy of it for later use.

Activity 6: Planning a Tour

Based on what they have read, seen on the video, or experienced first hand, ask students to formulate an itinerary departing from either New York City or Chicago. Each band’s itinerary should include a minimum of three cities. Require that one of cities be in a Southern state. Also require that the tour include two small town venues in between big cities, such as a college campus, movie theater or hotel ballroom. One of the small town stops must also be in a Southern state. Tell students that they can travel a maximum of 400 miles between stops. Distribute road maps or atlases, or access online mapping sites like  MapQuest  or  Vicinity . Ask students to plot their route from city to city, without using today’s super highways (most of which were not yet built).

Depending on your time schedule, you may or may not wish to ask students to search online for information about each city they visit. A good source of information about various cities in the 1930s would be the WPA guides that were written at the time and can be found in reprints for such cities as New Orleans or New York City. The Library of Congress’s  WPA Life Histories  collection, organized by state and available online, is a great place to start. Individual WPA guides for  Virginia  and  Tennessee  are available online.

Activity 7: Publicity

  • Posters and flyers. Use album cover art for inspiration.
  • Radio commercials. These could be taped and include an excerpt of the band’s music. If you have musicians in your class, ask them to create their own. Otherwise may use tapes, CD’s or perhaps download something from the PBS JAZZ Web site from a group they would like to emulate.
  • Dance numbers presented live. These should correspond to one of the band’s latest hits. Check out the “Dance” section of the JAZZ Web site for more information.

Activity 8: Learning About Segregation

The bands are now ready to go on their imaginary journeys. Help the class consider the travel arrangements they will have to make. Who will drive? Will the manager have to make reservations? Where will the band eat and sleep? What luggage will they have? How can the band travel as economically as possible during hard times?

Then ask the class to consider the following question:

What would be different about taking this tour back in 1937 compared to today?

Students will naturally think of many things; it’s the Depression, there was no air conditioning, etc. Some students may or may not think of segregation. You may wish to explain the difference between de facto segregation in the North and West and segregation based on state statutes in the South. You may also wish to assign textbook reading on Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court decision which made segregation legal. Now ask, what would segregation mean on a day-to-day basis for their tours?

To answer this question, ask students to read “The Jim Crow Years” set in Little Rock Arkansas from  Will the Circle Be Unbroken?  It is one of 26 scripts produced by the Southern Regional Council, based on an oral history project. The Southern Regional Council works to promote racial justice, protect democratic rights and broaden civic participation. An article about the series appeared in the May/June 2000 issue of  Social Education .

From the script students will be able to:

  • Deduce the “rules” of the Jim Crow South.
  • Learn how the rules affected every aspect of everyday life for both blacks and whites.
  • Appreciate the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that African-Americans fought the system.
  • Learn that some whites also struggled to liberate the South from the stranglehold of Jim Crow.

The script can be downloaded, printed, and distributed to students. (The SRC has granted PBS permission to do so for purposes of this lesson.) Alternatively, you can have students read the script online, or order the CD’s and tapes of the program from the SRC.

If you download and print it, students can perform a dramatic reading of the script. Including the Narrator, there are 20 roles. The most pivotal of these is Ozell Sutton, an African-American who grew up the son of a sharecropper. Later he became a journalist for the  Arkansas Democrat  and Special Assistant to Governor Winthrop Rockefeller. Brownie Ledbetter is a white woman who expresses her outrage at the segregationist mores under which she lives.

After students have either read or enacted the script, they should be able to answer the Jim Crow Study Guide questions in class discussion or in writing.

Now ask the class to make a list of all the “rules,” big and small, that segregation imposed on life in the South before and during the 1960s. Then ask, What will this mean for you as your jazz band tours the South? Allow considerable time for discussion. It is in the minutia of daily life that students will understand segregation’s full impact.

For documents relating to segregation, search “American Memory” of the Library of Congress at  http://memory.loc.gov/  or the National Archives at  http://www.archives.gov/research_room/arc/index.html .

Activity 9: On the Road

Show Episode Five, beginning about 43 minutes into the film with an image of a train and the title “The Road” and ending at about 52 minutes.

Based on what they’ve seen in the film clip, ask students to make lists of the kinds of difficulties they will encounter on the road, both physical and psychological.

Activity 10: Keeping a Diary

  • Your bus or car breaks down and you need to get help.
  • A member of your band gets sick and you need to get medical help.
  • You must house your band players in a small town where there is no hotel for African Americans.
  • You must figure out what to do for a concert in which black and white players cannot be seen on stage together.
  • You must figure out how to house the band overnight, since the black and white players will not be allowed to stay in the same hotel.
  • Two band members are having serious interpersonal differences and do not want to play together that evening.
  • You play to your most enthusiastic crowd yet.
  • You enter a new and exciting city you have never been to before; describe it.
  • You are exhausted and booked to play at a dance hall where few people show up.
  • On the road you are struck by the suffering of many people in Depressio-era America.
  • A band member is insulted by a racial slur or indignity.
  • You have been driving in the South and cannot find a restroom marked “For Colored Men” or “For Colored Women”
  • An incident occurs which lets you know that there are some white Southerners who feel that Jim Crow laws are burdensome and unjust.
  • A policeman stops your bus on the road to make inquiries.
  • You meet some aspiring jazz musicians who admire your group.
  • You learn that the all-white jazz band that played before you earned almost twice as much as your group did.

Activity 11: Sharing Diaries, Sharing Experiences

Suggestions for debriefing from the Jazz Tour experience:

  • Diaries can be shared in many ways. Band members can read each other’s diaries, or each band can present their overall experience to the class by reading excerpts from their diaries and playing their music (performed live, or taken from a tape or CD).
  • Hold a discussion about what students learned about the impact of segregation. Why is segregation antithetical to the “all men are created equal” premise of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution?
  • How is segregation antithetical to the creative and collaborative nature of jazz music? What other ventures in life would be stymied or stifled altogether under a segregated system?

Assessment Suggestions

  • Students may be evaluated on their diary entries. You may read and grade them according to a rubric you introduce at the start, or you may let students evaluate each other’s work and provide feedback. It is important that the entries reflect what students have learned about a segregated America.
  • Students may be evaluated for their advertisements for their band, their band biography, for their overall ability to work productively within a group, and for their participation in class discussion.

Extensions / Adaptations

  • Ask students to read a biography of one jazz artist. Ask students to write a review or present a talk which addresses the effect of segregation on the artist and his or her work.
  • Compare the Supreme Court decisions of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) to Brown v. the Board of Education (1954). How did the 1954 decision eventually lead to the demise of segregation?
  • Arguments over the most effective ways to integrate America still cause controversy. Choose an issue like school vouchers or affirmative action and hold a debate.

About the Author

Joan Brodsky Schur teaches social studies and English at the Village Community School in New York City. Her work in the classroom has been described in various articles she has written over the years for  Social Education . Joan and fellow-colleague Sari Grossman are the editors of  In A New Land: An Anthology of Immigrant Literature . Joan is also a contributing author to the Constitution Community, a Web site of the National Archives at  http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/constitution_community.html .

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APM documentary: 'Remembering Jim Crow'

Remembering Jim Crow

The controversy over individual states changing their election and voting laws has raised concern among voting rights and civil rights activists and some elected leaders, including President Joe Biden.

For much of the 20th century, Black Americans in the South were barred from the voting booth, sent to the back of the bus and walled off from many of the rights they deserved as citizens. Until well into the 1960s, segregation was legal. The system was called Jim Crow.

On Wednesday, Biden said parts of the United States are "backsliding into the days of Jim Crow," by passing laws he said are reminiscent of when Black Americans had to pay poll taxes and pass other tests to vote. Last month the president called the Georgia election law "Jim Crow in the 21st century."

In this 2001 American Public Media documentary , Americans — Black and white — remember life in the Jim Crow times.

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Who Was Jim Crow?

Fifty years ago, the voting Rights Act targeted the laws and practices of Jim Crow. Here’s where the name came from.

Geography, Social Studies, U.S. History

Thomas Dartmouth Rice was a white American stage performer in the early 1830s. He is best known for popularizing the derogatory practice of blackface with an act called “Jump, Jim Crow” (or “Jumping Jim Crow”).

Portrait from the New York Public Library Digital Collections

Thomas Dartmouth Rice was a white American stage performer in the early 1830s. He is best known for popularizing the derogatory practice of blackface with an act called “Jump, Jim Crow” (or “Jumping Jim Crow”).

In 1944, the Detroit, Michigan, chapter of the NAACP held a mock-funeral for him. In 1963, participants in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom symbolically buried him. Racial discrimination existed throughout the United States in the 20th century, but it had a special name in the South— Jim Crow . Fifty years ago, this Thursday [August 6,2015], U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson tried to bury Jim Crow  by signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. The Voting Rights Act and its predecessor, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, fought racial discrimination laws in the South by banning legal segregation in public accommodations and outlawing the poll taxes and tests that were used to stop African Americans from voting. Today, we still use the term “ Jim Crow ” to describe that system of segregation and discrimination in the South. But the system’s namesake isn’t actually southern. Jim Crow came from the North. “Jump, Jim Crow” Thomas Dartmouth Rice, a white man, was born in New York City in 1808. He devoted himself to the theater in his 20s, and in the early 1830s, he began performing the act that would make him famous: He painted his face black and did a song and dance he claimed were inspired by an enslaved Black person he saw. The act was called “Jump, Jim Crow” (or “Jumping Jim Crow”). “He would put on not only blackface makeup, but shabby dress that imitated in his mind—and white people’s minds of the time—the dress and aspect and demeanor of the southern enslaved black person,” says Eric Lott, author of  Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class,  and professor of English and American Studies at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Rice’s routine was a hit in New York City, New York, one of many of places in the North where working-class whites could see blackface minstrelsy , which was quickly becoming a dominant form of theater and a leading source for popular music in the United States. (Performing in blackface is highly offensive to this day.) Rice took his act on tour, even going as far as England; and as his popularity grew, his stage name seeped into the culture. Jim Crow was a harmful caricature . The show exploited stereotyped speech, movement, and physical features attributed to Black people to mock them. It entertained, and miseducated, whites at the expense of Blacks, all for Rice's financial benefit. “‘Jumping Jim Crow ’ and just ‘ Jim Crow ’ generally sort of became shorthand—or one shorthand, anyway—for describing African Americans in this country,” Lott says. “So much so,” he says, “that by the time of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s  Uncle Tom’s Cabin , which was twenty years later in 1852,” one character refers to another as Jim Crow . (In a strange full-circle, Rice later played Uncle Tom in blackface stage adaptations of the novel, which often reversed the book’s abolitionist message.) Regardless of whether the term “ Jim Crow ” existed before Rice took it to the stage, his act helped popularize it as a derogatory term for African Americans. To call someone “ Jim Crow ” wasn’t just to point out his or her skin color: It was to reduce that person to the kind of caricature that Rice performed on stage. From the Theater to the Legislature After the Civil War , southern states passed laws that discriminated against African Americans who had just been released from slavery; and as early as the 1890s, these laws had gained a nickname. In 1899, North Carolina’s  Goldsboro Daily Argus  published an article subtitled “How ‘Capt. Tilley’ of the A. & N.C. Road Enforces the Jim Crow Law.” “Travelers on the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad during the present month have noted the drawing of the color line in the passenger coaches,” the paper reported. “Captain Tilley … is unceasing in his efforts to see that the color line, otherwise the Jim Crow law, is literally and fearfully enforced.” Experts don’t really know how a racist performance in the North came to represent racist laws and policies in the South. But they can speculate . Since the phrase originated in blackface minstrelsy , Lott says that it’s almost “perversely accurate … that it should come to be the name for official segregation and state-sponsored racism .” “I think probably in the popular white mind,” he says, “it was just used because that’s just how they referred to black people.” “Sometimes in history a movie comes out or a book comes out and it just changes the language … and you can point at it,” says David Pilgrim, Director of the  Jim Crow Museum and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. “And in just this case,” he says, “I think it just evolved. And I think it was from many sources.” However, it happened, the new meaning stuck. Blackface minstrelsy ’s popularity faded (but never died) and T.D. Rice is barely remembered. Most people today don’t know his name. But everybody knows Jim Crow . This article was originally published August 6, 2015.

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what is the thesis of jim crow blues

Beyoncé and Jay-Z attend the 66th Grammy Awards at Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 4, 2024. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy hide caption

Beyoncé and Jay-Z attend the 66th Grammy Awards at Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 4, 2024.

When Jay-Z took the stage at this year's Grammys to accept the second-ever Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, the rap titan and business mogul seized the opportunity to address the elephant in the room. After name-checking a few of the organizational fumbles that had led hip-hop artists, himself included, to boycott the ceremony in years past, he swung the spotlight onto his wife. "I don't want to embarrass this young lady," he said, as Beyoncé smiled back from under a white Stetson, "but she has more Grammys than everyone, and never won album of the year. So even by your own metrics, that doesn't work." The nervous laughter that punctuated the moment told the story of an era, in which Beyoncé's repeated passing over in the categories that count the most has increasingly been held up as evidence of an institutional failure, reflecting wider cracks in the foundation. "We gotta keep showing up — and forget the Grammys for a second, just in life," Jay added in closing. "Keep showing up until they give you all those accolades you feel you deserve. Until they call you chairman. Until they call you a genius. Until they call you the greatest of all time."

Let's get this out of the way: Beyoncé should have won already — even Adele knows it — and you could make a case for Jay-Z, too, who was nominated for 4:44 in 2018. Rarely are stars of Bey's stature so ambitious, or their work so consistently unimpeachable. It makes sense that Jay, a careerist who has spent decades crafting an impeccable résumé, can't understand why such an honor is missing from his partner's. Yet while there is a reading of his speech as bold and insurgent, deploying a Trojan Horse from within the city walls, there is another that is more like lobbying — getting ahead of next year's cycle, where a showdown between Beyoncé and Taylor Swift feels all but inevitable. Either way, it represents a seemingly insatiable need to see that trophy on their mantle.

When will Black artists be ready to break up with The Grammys?

When will Black artists be ready to break up with The Grammys?

Jay's speech exists on a continuum with a more recent stunt, in which Beyoncé's team beamed advertisements for her new album, Cowboy Carter (out March 29), onto the exteriors of the Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum, New Museum and the Museum of Arts and Design. The messaging, apart from some mundane release details, qualified her current move into country music, reading: "This ain't a country album. This is a 'Beyoncé' album," as if putting primacy on the artiste as fit for display there. Taking back space has long been a point of emphasis for the couple: When Noel Gallagher responded to Jay-Z headlining Glastonbury by saying hip-hop had no place at the festival, the rapper emerged performing "Wonderwall." The "performance art film" for Jay's song " Picasso Baby " was ​​inspired by the work of artist Marina Abramović and shot at Pace Gallery. As The Carters, they brought their "Apes**t" music video to the Louvre. "Put some colored girls in the MoMA," Jay once rapped, with Beyoncé capping the list. "Call Larry Gagosian, you belong in mo-seums."

Museums, of course, are colonial by nature. And awards ceremonies, at least those that drive conversation in the entertainment business, have long been built on the myth of white culture as the dominant American culture. (For all its diversity initiatives in recent years, the Recording Academy still maintains a white majority in its voting class.) In the Carters' ongoing push for acceptance, most roads seem to lead to a white establishment. To be clear, there is value in the challenge: "De-centering whiteness in arts and cultural institutions is an urgent matter," the writer Jamara Wakefield wrote in 2019. "This is why it is critical that the public continue to apply pressure to power, so institutional leaders do not become complacent or complicit." But what is curious about the efforts of pop's royal couple is how they've triumphed by just about any other metric, and how doggedly they still pursue the approval of a few institutions as the definitive appraisal of their worth. It's no one's place to tell them not to fight, but it may be time to recognize that fight as something other than activism.

The inspiration for Cowboy Carter , Beyoncé revealed in a statement, dates back to 2016, and the hostility she experienced performing her song "Daddy Lessons" at the CMA Awards, alongside the trio then still known as the Dixie Chicks . Country's biggest night, it seemed, was not a safe space for Blackness, a feeling compounded by the Grammys denying the song entry in country categories that same year. In the book Black Country Music: Listening For Revolutions , Francesca T. Royster opens with the complications at the core of this issue — namely, the struggle to distance the music from its more intolerant associations. As she put it, to many ears country music can still "evoke and memorialize visceral memories of racialized violence; lynchings, the indignities of Jim Crow; gender surveillance and disciplining; and the continued experience of racial segregation in urban, suburban, and rural spaces in the North and South."

Beyoncé is getting played on country radio. Could her success help other Black women?

Beyoncé is getting played on country radio. Could her success help other Black women?

Through the lens of that friction, one can read Beyoncé's very presence on that stage as mounting a case for Black belonging. In an essay centered on the CMA performance, Royster was able to articulate the merit of such seemingly seditious acts: "In the end, I see Beyoncé offering a revised model of rage that can be generative, and also inclusive and justice seeking, one that parallels the Black feminist view of 'mothering.' " But the caveats are obvious: No matter how generative, inclusive and justice-seeking Bey's rage, she remains an interloper, defined as such by the terms of the conversation she wishes to join. Years later, Cowboy Carter faces the same conundrum. The purist is not swayed by an outsider's know-how or obeisance, and any move to show one up plays into the very perception that genre hardliners enforce — of countryfolk keeping out carpetbaggers, even or perhaps especially the most accomplished Black pop star of a generation.

Cowboy Carter 's cover photo has already kicked off some heated debates about intent — specifically, about appealing to the white gaze versus honoring the legacies of Southern Black identity. In the image, she sits sidesaddle on horseback, platinum-blonde hair flowing out of a cowboy hat, hoisting up an American flag. On the one hand, there is a rich history of Black cowboys and rodeos, and bringing that context to the fore is a way to put Black people at the center of a narrative from which they have largely been divorced in popular culture. On the other, there is no more blatant performance of an all-American identity than waving the stars and stripes — and so much of that identity has been predicated on Black erasure that sacrificing oneself to it can feel like submitting to those values. In the 1963 book Blues People , Amiri Baraka said that "the adjustment necessary for the black man to enter completely into 'white' American society was a complete disavowal that he or his part of the culture had ever been anything other than American." There is an extent to which the Americanness of it all comes to supersede the Blackness, where the attempt to reclaim the thing becomes an acquiescence to its power.

The ever-talkative Azealia Banks had a lot to say in response to the cover. "You're reinforcing the false rhetoric that country music is a post civil war white art form. And subsequently reinforcing the idea that there is no racism / segregation / slavery / violence / theft / massacres / plagues / manifest destiny craziness that form the bedrock of epithets like 'proud to be American' or 'god bless the usa,' " she wrote on Instagram. Discourse about Beyoncé tends to vibrate at an extreme pitch; I don't necessarily believe it is her responsibility to unpack all that baggage, and for the moment, it's impossible to say that she won't at least try somehow. That said, there is something disconcerting about the image. It would be one thing if she were a career country artist, actively fighting for the right to exist as she is, as many in that world valiantly are. But she is a pop star, donning the genre like a costume, which makes the whole thing performance — and no amount of proselytizing before the country music faithful that can rewrite the realities of this divided, racialized history. The question then becomes: Who is the audience?

We have seen Black excellence receive the Grammys' highest honor before. Stevie Wonder won album of the year three out of four years in the 1970s. Michael Jackson won album and record of the year in 1984. Lauryn Hill won album of the year and best new artist in 1999. OutKast scored the top prize in 2004. Did those wins kick the door open in a lasting way? Ahead of the 2023 ceremony, one anonymous voter revealed why they had chosen Harry's House , the eventual AOTY winner, over Renaissance : "Did I personally listen to it a ton? No. Did it make itself known in every TikTok? Absolutely." Another on why they chose ABBA instead: "With Beyoncé, the fact that every time she does something new, it's a big event and everyone's supposed to quake in their shoes — it's a little too portentous."

In the same way, other Black pop stars before Beyoncé have gone country and faced versions of the battles that greet her today. Granted, Beyoncé is a Black Texan, and it's easy to understand the importance of preserving a lineage. The Cowboy Carter rollout has already shone a light on contemporary Black artists in country and Americana, how hard they work for recognition and how deep their roots run. There is power in centering Black experience to take back narrative control of an art form, and doing so can lower the barrier to entry for those who might follow in her footsteps. But two things can be true at once: Beyoncé can be tapping into a history she has every right to, and she can also be doing so in deference to governing bodies that will never truly see her.

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There is also the matter of class to consider. Both Jay-Z and Beyoncé are estimated to be billionaires. They do not need institutional support the way others do, and in fact have received an exceptional amount. What would winning album of the year at the Grammys, or being accepted at the CMAs, do for them today? How will infiltration materially affect their communities at this point? If their ultimate goal is political activation, they might find greater engagement elsewhere, rallying the people these institutions were built to alienate. If it is a robust and inclusive music business, they might spend less time at the usual pageants, lean into their wealth and agency and try to build something else entirely. But their core commitment has remained the same: Keep showing up, keep waiting to be acknowledged.

In that light, it feels disingenuous to ignore how their actions also serve the Black capitalist ideal: the principle that infiltration of a white space is the same as decolonizing it, that Black equity is found in assimilation. The Carters' combined efforts raise important questions about the limits of that labor, and when advocacy begins to mingle with brown-nosing. While I don't doubt their genuine desire to see these spaces become more accepting for "people who look like we," as Jay put it on 4:44 's "Legacy," business ventures like the ostensibly artist-focused streaming service Tidal, or Roc Nation's immediately controversial partnership with the NFL, have always eventually tilted in the direction of the existing hierarchy.

There's a passage from Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks that sticks with me. Fanon, one of the foremost racial theorists, first explained the needs of Black acceptance: "Since the black man has always been treated as inferior, he attempts to react with a superiority complex. ... It is because the black man belongs to an 'inferior' race that he tries to resemble the superior race." After laying out the particulars of this complex, Fanon puts the relationship into striking relief: "Man is human only to the extent to which he tries to impose himself on another man in order to be recognized by him. As long as he has not been effectively recognized by the other, it is the other who remains the focus of his actions. His human worth and reality depend on this other and on his reaction by the other. It is in this other that the meaning of his life is condensed."

It is clear that the Carters, in seeing their work underrecognized by these institutions, see its very meaning condensed. But in truth, it is boundless, far greater than the space of those halls. No one person's reach can extend beyond institutional power, but allowing such institutions to have the final say on legacy is minimizing in its own way, particularly when you no longer need to amplify your voice to be heard, or affirm your own greatness to have influence. So much great art is never considered high art, and that's fine. It would be foolish to say we have not been empowered by their efforts to some extent: The masterpieces created chasing highbrow benchmarks and insider status are the spoils of this crusade, challenging us to push for greater heights, as well. You see it in the reverent way other artists talk about them, their craft and everything they've achieved ( look no further than this year's best new artist winner, Victoria Monét ). We continue to invest in the drama of their fight for inclusion because it can feel like a front-line battleground for a more impartial world: If their excellence can't be recognized, can any of ours? But as the fight drags on, the struggle becomes cyclical, and it grows clearer and clearer that we can't count on their victory to save us.

Billie Holiday’s gowns and gardenias were an assertion of dignity

The jazz legend’s signature style was a rebuke to both the prejudices of the day and the negative press generated by her arrests.

On Oct. 5, 1958, Billie Holiday took the stage at the inaugural Monterey Jazz Festival. Then America’s preeminent jazz singer, she closed the event with an effortlessly sophisticated 11-song set that mirrored the image she had carefully crafted for herself over the years: makeup perfectly applied, ebony hair pulled back into her trademark ponytail. Her shimmering strapless evening gown was patterned with stars and complemented by dangling earrings and a mink stole. She was the picture of stylish elegance.

It was no accident. During a career that began in the early 1930s and lasted until her death at 44 in 1959, Holiday honed a look that counteracted the prevailing sentiments of a culture defined by Jim Crow. She deflected racial animosity by countering the negative stereotypes of African Americans embodied by tropes such as “Amos ’n’ Andy” and Aunt Jemima. Holiday was doing much more than making music, says Scherrie Payne, who sang with the Supremes in the mid-’70s. “She was making a statement for the Black woman.”

That statement was bold and unambiguous, and it continues to reverberate through popular music. “Billie Holiday is one of the great fashion icons,” says style guru Tim Gunn, host of “ Making the Cut .” “She embodied a grand elegance [with] a profound edge to it. What she exuded said everything. It said, ‘I’m a woman who struggled, but I have great confidence and I want you to know I’m here.’ Her stage presence was charismatic, and the clothes said it all. She was a trailblazer.”

As her fame grew, Holiday would face more than the prejudices of the day — federal and local government agencies were intent on diminishing her stature as a public figure. The persona she built was a bulwark against such efforts. The image was of a dignified, elegant “lady” — a fact underscored by her nickname, Lady Day. She even included the word in two of her best-known album titles, “Lady Sings the Blues” and “Lady in Satin.”

Her interest in fashion began in an unlikely place. Growing up in Baltimore’s Fells Point, she was often cared for by family and friends while her mother accepted long-term domestic jobs in other cities. Around age 12, Holiday began spending time at two neighborhood bordellos, one owned by Alice Dean, the other by Ethel Moore, and became captivated by the women’s wardrobes — the furs, the jewelry, the evening dresses. “Her mentors … were madams,” wrote journalist Linda Kuehl, who did extensive research for a Holiday biography that was never completed. “In their houses she began … singing the pop tunes of the day.” Holiday later used the trappings of that world — the music, alcohol and drugs as well as the gowns and minks — to create a lasting artistic persona.

During the 1930s, when she played Harlem nightclubs and toured with Count Basie and Artie Shaw, Holiday’s fashion sense continued to develop. At first, she wore simple fitted day dresses set off with accessories such as jackets or belts. Her style had become more distinctive by the time reporter Lillian Johnson observed in a 1937 Baltimore Afro-American profile: “[H]er street clothes for the day consisted of a soft fierce sports coat in dark gray with a blue fox collar, a gray skirt, and a short woolen jacket of brick. For her stage appearance, she donned a black chiffon, fitted evening gown with a black satin underslip trimmed with rhinestones at the neck. … She wore three white gardenias [in her hair]” — a hallmark of her stage appearance for years.

The Style section

“Like most stylish women,” says Coty Award-winning designer Jeffrey Banks, “like Diana Vreeland and Coco Chanel, Billie Holiday had her signatures — the flower behind her ear, deep red lipstick, later on the ponytail — because she wanted people to remember her look.”

From 1939 to 1941, Holiday headlined at Café Society, the iconoclastic Greenwich Village nightclub known for integrating both its talent and its audience. Her wardrobe evolved considerably during this period as a result of a long-term affair she had with arts patron Louise Crane, whose family’s business, Crane & Co., counted among its clients the U.S. government, since Crane supplied the Treasury Department with the paper used to print currency.

“[Louise] was good to Billie,” says Irene Wilson Kitchens, Holiday’s friend and first wife of pianist Teddy Wilson. “She took her to Bonwit Teller. That’s where Billie got her first fox. [Billie] was so childish about it, like a big kid. ‘Renie,’ she said, ‘Look what I got. I got a silver fox.’ That was the beginning of Billie getting really nice things to wear, the lovely evening gowns and things. Before it was over, Billie was the most glamorous thing there was. No one in the business looked better than [she did], and [Louise]” — for whom money was never an issue — “had a lot to do with it.”

While her look was deeply personal, in historical context it was also intensely political. “She had an eclecticism to her style, much like her musical predecessor Josephine Baker,” says Darnell-Jamal Lisby, a fashion historian at the Cleveland Museum of Art . “Holiday was also three or four generations out of emancipation [her great-grandmother was, in fact, an enslaved person], when African Americans were finding a way to be seen as equals. Holiday was reclaiming her Blackness, her womanhood.”

In the mid-1940s, Holiday developed a drug addiction and, in 1947 and 1948, served almost a year in prison for narcotics possession. After her release, maintaining her image of class and refinement was more important than ever, as she was routinely labeled a criminal in the press. In her comeback concert at Carnegie Hall, held days after her prison release, she appeared in, according to costume designer Bobby Goodrich, “an iconic white dress with a bodice of sequined fabric and a trim of pleated chiffon ruffle and a bottom half of the dress featuring layers of chiffon.” A white choker necklace and her hair pulled on top of her head into a ball finished the look, which was calculated for its effect. As Banks observes, “Billie Holiday used clothing to say, ‘I may have just been let out of prison, but I’m still viable.’”

While authorities pursued her over the next decade, Holiday’s public image continued to counteract the often-negative depictions of her in the media. She was arrested in 1949 in San Francisco, but in the press coverage of her booking — for which she donned glamorous sunglasses and an $18,000 full-length mink — she looked like a movie star. So important was her role as a fashion influencer that when she died, coverage of her funeral invariably included a description of her burial outfit: a rose Chantilly lace gown with long sleeves, pink gloves, a five-strand pearl necklace around her neck and a halo of white gardenias in her hair. Even in death, Holiday was the epitome of class and grace.

Only after she died did the staying power of her image become apparent. When Aretha Franklin hit the music scene in 1961 — Holiday knew her so well in the late 1950s that she had Franklin’s telephone number in her address book — she echoed the jazz legend’s image. Franklin often appeared in chic gowns, some of which featured the embroidered patterns Holiday favored. Jazz singer Nancy Wilson was similarly inspired by Holiday to create her own refined look, which was so acclaimed that two of her gowns now hang in the Smithsonian Institution. As Gunn says, “In fashion history, something is always begetting something else.”

Holiday’s most consequential influence was arguably on the Motown look. During the 1960s, under the watchful eye of founder Berry Gordy, the presentation of his Motown artists — with the men such as Smokey Robinson flawlessly groomed and dressed in tailored suits and the women such as Diana Ross clad in sleek dresses accented by coifed hairstyles — had a profound effect on the way the African American community was perceived by the general public.

“Gordy’s ambition was to make Black music respectable and salable to a White audience,” says Peter Benjaminson, author of “ The Story of Motown .” “He wanted the look to be stylish and attractive. Billie Holiday was Motown’s immediate predecessor. It’s obvious she was an influence, and Gordy made that clear with his first movie: ‘Lady Sings the Blues.’” Payne believes “Berry wanted to create a classy look, and Billie Holiday was classy. She was the lady in satin. She was regal.”

It was her music that allowed Holiday to enter the pantheon of indelible American artists, but she used her platform to forge an image that made an impact of its own. “It’s symbiotic,” says Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Fashion Institute of Technology . “You can’t separate her voice from her appearance. You see her and you hear the music as well.” And her influence continues. Lisby points to Beyoncé’s look at the 2007 Grammy Awards ceremony, “when she wore a ’20s-inspired dress and a gardenia in her hair. And there are more artists who have been influenced by Billie: Sade, early Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey — they all take a page out of Billie’s playbook.”

Ultimately, Holiday crafted what Nichelle Gainer, author of “Vintage Black Glamour,” calls “a classic, sleek timeless look someone could wear today.” And that, after all, is the aspiration of any fashion designer: a timeless creation. Holiday may have intended her look to ward off the hostile forces in her life, but in the end she conceived a style as eternal as her music.

A previous version of this article stated that Billie Holiday's grandmother was an enslaved person. In fact, her great-grandmother was enslaved. The article has been corrected.

Paul Alexander is the author of “ Bitter Crop: The Heartache and Triumph of Billie Holiday’s Last Year ,” which was published last month. He teaches at Hunter College.

  • Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’ isn’t a country album. It’s worse. 36 minutes ago Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’ isn’t a country album. It’s worse. 36 minutes ago
  • Billie Holiday’s gowns and gardenias were an assertion of dignity Earlier today Billie Holiday’s gowns and gardenias were an assertion of dignity Earlier today
  • 10 takeaways from Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’ March 29, 2024 10 takeaways from Beyoncé’s ‘Cowboy Carter’ March 29, 2024

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

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Is beyoncé’s new album country.

Release ignites hot talk about genre’s less-discussed Black roots, what constitutes authenticity

Christina Pazzanese

Harvard Staff Writer

Beyonce wearing a cowboy hat at the Grammy Awards.

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The scheduled release this week of Beyoncé’s new, country-inflected album, “Act II: Cowboy Carter” (containing the single “Texas Hold ’Em,” the first No. 1 country hit by a Black woman), has sparked media coverage about the overlooked influence of Black musicians on the genre and criticism of the singer’s intent to enter the arena and turn a spotlight on that heritage.

The roots of country music are popularly associated with rural white Southerners who brought their Celtic, Scottish, British, and Acadian folk traditions to the New World. But historians have long noted the genre owes a major debt to Black hymnals, gospel, spirituals, field songs, jazz, and the blues.

Some of country’s pioneering stars in the first half of the 20th century, such as Jimmie Rodgers (regarded as the “father of country music”) and the Carter Family, were influenced by unsung Black musicians and had hits with their songs. And the banjo, country’s signature sound, was first introduced by enslaved Africans.

Emmett G. Price III  is a musician and founding dean of Africana Studies at Berklee College of Music who writes extensively about Black music and culture. He was a visiting professor of music at Harvard University in 2022-2023. The Gazette spoke with Price about Beyoncé’s new project and what constitutes authentic country music. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Emmett Price.

Emmett G. Price III, founding dean of Africana Studies, Berklee College of Music.

File photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Critics have suggested Beyoncé has not made a true country album but just picked up superficial trappings — donning a cowboy hat and adding banjo and fiddle to pop music. She herself says she made a “Beyoncé album” not a country album. What do you make of this discussion?

Her two tracks, “16 Carriages” and particularly “Texas Hold ’Em,” pay homage to the various styles, sentiments, and Black people in country music over the years. In many ways, the debate from her new release is exactly the conversation she was trying to instigate.

Country music, or country and western going back to the 1920s, is one of a number of descendants of what we know as the blues and as spirituals. When you add the over-fascination of race in our nation, particularly during the ’20s through the ’60s, you’ll understand why there’s such huge pushback on having a Black woman be the “face” of country music.

She’s “supposed” to be in R&B or in hip-hop or in gospel. People are claiming cultural spaces without paying homage to the early influencers. I think the debate is heated on all sides because this is cultural real estate that folks are talking about, and nobody wants to give up any real estate.

Musicians often share ideas and influences in many genres of American popular music, including country. How did country music become thought of solely as an expression of white culture?

All of the American forms of music are combinations and merging and syntheses of different sounds because the populations they spoke to had influence and impact on them. I think the question is beautiful because it’s a conflation of the history of radio, particularly in the United States of America, as well as the history of charts like the Billboard chart.

Radio, depending on where you lived, particularly in the early days, you really only had two stations — off and on. And you couldn’t see who was on the radio. A number of artists, such as Big Mama Thornton, who most people have no awareness of — “Hound Dog” was her song before Elvis Presley covered it. And when he covered it, there was a huge trajectory that happened. White artists were able to get their versions of songs played, and Black artists went into obscurity because they didn’t have any sales. Radio was the way to expand one’s reach and influence. That’s the first thing.

And then, the Billboard charts began in the mid-teens to track who the top sellers of sheet music were. By the late ’20s and into the ’30s, they began keeping track of the top-selling records based on whatever classification was used to stereotype and phenotype the sounds and sentiments. Of course, that was all up and down racial lines.

So, our over-fascination with race plays a huge role in how we experience different types of music. Having said that, there were still Black artists back in those days, who were creating things that would be considered country music.

Who were some of the important, lesser-known Black country musicians and songwriters?

DeFord Bailey is the kicker for me, just an unknown legend who was tremendously influential and is absolutely forgotten. Charley Pride is another one. I will even say Ray Charles, who has a tremendous legacy in the country space. Rufus Payne was another cat, not well-known. He went by the nickname “Tee Tot.” Hank Williams met him when Hank Williams was a child and Paine was a street performer. Linda Martell is another one who is not well-known. The Neville Brothers, particularly Aaron Neville, and Darius Rucker, who pays homage to Aaron Neville.

In contemporary times, you can’t talk about country without talking about Rhiannon Giddens [artistic director of Harvard’s Silkroad Ensemble]. Not only through her presence on Beyonce’s “Texas Hold ’Em,” but what she had been doing for years with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the great legacy that comes from that tradition.

Why have these artists, especially those who mentored country legends like Rodgers and the Carters, gotten so little attention? Were they not able to record?  

Some of the Black artists actually did record, but they would have recorded on obsolete labels that maybe pressed 100 albums that were sitting in somebody’s basement or garage. If you had a recording, but you didn’t have any distribution through radio play, nobody knew you had a record.

There were some phenomenal musicians who clearly were phenomenal enough to be inspirations, if not mentors, but not phenomenal enough to be on the cover and put out as artists.

You also have the important third rail of Jim Crow South. Because of segregation, even if I was a promoter or a producer, there is no way that I can have these Black artists on the same bill as my white artists and make a lot of money. So, there was a lack of willingness to break those understood cultural habits of segregation. It’s a matter of who has access and who doesn’t have access.

The banjo was an African-derived instrument popularized by Black musicians in the 18th and 19th centuries that fell out of favor for the guitar after white musicians began using it in minstrel shows as a prop. Today, it’s closely associated with bluegrass and Americana. In recent years, musicians like Giddens, a banjoist and singer, have sought to reclaim and revive the banjo’s place in Black music. Talk about this history.

Dr. Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje , emerita professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA, wrote a [1978] dissertation on the one-string banjo, tracing it back to its African origins and brought out West African fiddle music. Most people are not aware of the origin. People assume that the fiddle or the banjo were Spanish in origin and came through the Celtic journey or the Spanish journey.

In certain rural areas in the Carolinas, and certainly down South, the instrument never went away. In the Gullah Sea Islands, for the Geechee people all of those traditions continued to stay alive. It’s just that where it was popular, it lost the attention of the majority of people. In the mainstream music culture, you’re right: Nobody’s playing the banjo; nobody’s playing the fiddle in Black spaces.

What Rhiannon does and other people do, particularly during this awareness of Black Lives Matter and of uplifting Black culture in all ways, shapes, and forms, is use the moment to explore our traditional heritages.

In many ways, this is what Beyonce’s doing not only through her new releases but also “Renaissance” or “Lemonade.” She’s paying homage to Black culture and saying, “Hey, folks, don’t forget about this. And also, don’t pin me down. I can do a number of things because this was all part of the rich tradition and heritage that I’m indigenous to.”

Because of her popularity, and the success she’s already having on the country charts, could Beyoncé change the music like Ray Charles did in the early 1960s by inspiring other musicians and introducing it to a new, more diverse fan base?

Absolutely. If there is one person who has the power to do it, I think it’s Beyoncé. I’m a huge Beyoncé fan, so you have to forgive my bias here, but I don’t think there’s anybody else in the industry right now who has the leverage, who has the reach and the influence, to create a moment where these conversations are being had.

And not only as an artist, but as a businesswoman and as a major influencer, she’s doing just that. I actually think that’s the goal. I think it’s about the conversation. What she’s trying to do is not only create effective art, but to leverage it to be a conversation-starter so that we can heal our nation.

She’s from Houston. She’s a Texan. She understands country, both the music and the culture, both the attractive and non-attractive aspects of it. She also understands the influence that it has on people’s lives and she’s going right after that, trying to get us in conversation rather than hiding in the camps we’re more comfortable in.

The conversation is that country is not all white. There is a legacy; there is a history of non-white people who have been major influencers, major contributors, and people who should be recognized as such.

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Pvt. Albert King, a Black soldier killed by a white military police officer, was buried in an unmarked grave in 1941.

On Sunday, he received a full military funeral.

It was the Army’s latest effort to correct its record on race going back to the Civil War.

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83 Years After His Killing, a Black Soldier Gets an Army Funeral

Pvt. Albert King, shot dead by a white military police officer in Georgia in 1941, was blamed for his own death and buried in an unmarked grave.

By Alexa Mills

Photographs by Alyssa Pointer

Reporting from Columbus, Ga.

In a Georgia cemetery, surrounded by tombstones cracked and worn by decades of rain and sun, Pvt. Albert King’s gleams new and bright. The Army unveiled it Sunday in a full military funeral, 83 years late.

Since 1941 his body has rested in an unmarked grave near the military base where a white military police officer shot and killed him.

Though Private King enlisted to fight in World War II, it was a fight with white bus drivers and soldiers on a segregated bus that cost him his life. After he escaped the bus and ran, the police officer found him, killed him and was exonerated in a sham military trial the same day.

An Army investigation initially found that Private King had died in the line of duty. But, under pressure from the commanding general at the base, Fort Benning, the investigators reversed their decision and determined that his death was a result of his own misconduct — making him ineligible for a military funeral. That was the official story, until three years ago.

In 2021, the facts of the case came to light in a legal brief and investigative reporting . Three lawyers from the firm Morgan Lewis, all veterans and working pro bono, argued that the Army Board for Correction of Military Records should reinstate the original decision that King died in the line of duty. In 2022, they won .

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

“His name was stained, and we needed to cleanse that stain,” said Rose Zoltek-Jick, a law professor at Northeastern University and associate director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, which researches racially motivated Jim Crow-era homicides.

The memorial for Private King, eight decades in the making, is the Army’s latest effort to correct its record on race going back to the Civil War.

It has renamed nine bases originally named for Confederate generals, including Fort Benning, now known as Fort Moore.

Last year, the Army overturned the convictions of 110 Black soldiers accused of rioting in Houston in 1917. Nineteen of them had been executed.

In 2021, it installed a memorial for Pvt. Felix Hall, who was lynched on Fort Benning about a month before Private King was killed.

An Army spokeswoman, Heather J. Hagan, said in a statement, “The Army puts a high priority on honoring the legacy of all our soldiers and their families, especially when there is an error or injustice, as there was in the case of Pvt. Albert King.”

Helen Russell, Private King’s cousin, has been his primary advocate. Though they never met — she was born a generation after his death — she feels connected to him by the chain of care that makes a family tree: She buried her father, and her father buried Private King’s brother, who had been the soldier’s only immediate family when he was killed.

It is unclear from the records who buried Private King.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

Ms. Russell pursued the military memorial with the help of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project and her lawyers, Matthew Hawes, Micah Jones and Christopher Melendez. They had trouble gaining traction at first, but Ms. Russell’s congressman from Michigan, Shri Thanedar, helped get the Army’s attention.

“None of this would’ve been possible if not for the Board of Officers’ action back in ’41, which really documented what happened at the time,” Mr. Melendez said. “It was the witnesses who spoke before the board. It was Judge Hastie.”

William H. Hastie, a prominent Black judge and lawyer who worked in the top echelons of the War Department in the early 1940s, called Private King’s death the “callous and wanton shooting of an unarmed soldier” and argued that the man had died in the line of duty. Judge Hastie left the department soon after, fed up that his broad-based efforts to advocate for Black service members had been routinely ignored.

Top leaders from Fort Moore attended the ceremony on Sunday, including Major General Curtis A. Buzzard, the commanding general, and Colonel Colin P. Mahle, garrison commander.

Representative Sanford Bishop of Georgia, who represents Fort Moore and identified himself as a descendant of slaves and a child of Jim Crow, spoke at Private King’s grave.

“Today, after 83 years, the arc has finally bent toward justice,” he said.

In an interview, he spoke of Dr. Thomas Brewer, a Black physician and a founder of the local NAACP chapter, who alerted Judge Hastie to the King case — and who was later shot dead in a racial killing. “He was an unsung hero,” Mr. Bishop said through tears.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

This was the defining theme of the memorial: that a succession of citizens, soldiers, family, advocates, lawyers and journalists had spoken up for Private King, starting in 1941, until his name was cleared.

When it came time to choose an inscription for the headstone, Ms. Russell said, the words came immediately: “For my beloved cousin I fought the fight.”

The fight continues. At the memorial Sunday, she announced her intention to have Private King’s story incorporated into the school curriculum where she lives in Michigan.

“The children will be taught what they need to know,” she said.

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Critics say Beyoncé's new album 'Cowboy Carter' is a virtuosic riff on the country genre — but it could have used some editing

  • Beyoncé released her eighth studio album "Cowboy Carter" on Friday.
  • She described the country-inspired project as a "continuation of 'Renaissance'" and "an experience."
  • Critics are raving about the album's ambitious scope, especially on "Ya Ya" and "II Most Wanted."

Insider Today

Beyoncé has once again changed the game with a digital drop, unveiling her eighth studio album, "Cowboy Carter," on Friday to overwhelming praise.

The second installment in a three-act series that launched with " Renaissance " in 2022 draws heavily from Southern iconography, folk, blues, soul, and Americana influences. The tracklist boasts features from Nashville legends like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Linda Martell .

"I hope that you can hear my heart and soul, and all the love and passion that I poured into every detail and every sound," Beyoncé wrote on Instagram . "I hope this music is an experience, creating another journey where you can close your eyes, start from the beginning and never stop."

Reviews for "Cowboy Carter" are rolling in. Here's what critics are saying so far.

The sonic palette of "Cowboy Carter" is more diverse than its title may suggest.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

"Country, gospel, soul, blues, R&B, pop, psychedelic rock, and more all find themselves as key members of Beyoncé's country. Her country is more dimensional and multifaceted than Nashville could ever dream of, because Black folks in the country had to imagine and conjure worlds that did not even exist during enslavement and sharecropping in the heavily segregated Jim Crow South." — Taylor Crumpton, The Daily Beast

"Across 27 tracks, almost all with compellingly muscular melodies, she whips and neigh-neighs through every conceivable form of classic and modern country, roping in elements of opera, rock and hip-hop at her commanding, virtuosic whim." — Helen Brown, The Independent

"It's a deep stylistic smorgasbord that gets scattershot in the final third of the album's 27 tracks (several of them interludes) with trap beats and fiddles vying for the front row." — Melissa Ruggieri, USA Today

"With this endlessly entertaining project, she gets to be a warrior of female and Black pride and a sweetheart of the radio. Because being Beyoncé means never having to pretend to be just one thing." — Chris Willman, Variety

"So what kind of album is it? It's a journey." — Shane O'Neill, The Washington Post

The album's length works against it, though it doesn't ruin the overall effect.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

"It could have used some editing. For its five-year gestation, nearly 80-minute runtime, and history-making ambitions, 'Cowboy Carter' still feels somewhat undercooked." — Chris Kelly, The Washington Post

"At 1 hour 18 minutes long, it's a lot to take in one sitting and being in the saddle does start to chafe, but there's enough gold here to keep the stars and stripes aloft." — Alan Pedder, The Line of Best Fit

"There are moments when it starts to feel less like a coherent statement than one of those long 21st-century albums that offers listeners a selection box of tracks to pick and choose playlist additions from. Or perhaps its wild lurches into eclecticism are the point. Unwieldy as it is, it displays its author's ability to bend musical styles to her will." — Alexis Petridis, The Guardian

"Some of the time — not most, but some — 'Cowboy Carter' is boring . It's too long . There are too many ballads. There are too many sketched-out acoustic lullabies that almost function as skits.

"But even when it's boring , 'Cowboy Carter' is nowhere near bad . The whole thing is put together so meticulously." — Tom Breihan, Stereogum

Despite its ambitious scope, the album still feels intimate. "Cowboy Carter" doubles as a political statement and a personal ode to Beyoncé's roots.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

"Hitting her stride immediately with powerful curtain raiser 'Ameriican Requiem,' Beyoncé wastes no time in laying out her country credentials and pain at having them so coldly dismissed . But it's not sympathy she's after; if mainstream country can't stand her, she'll leave it choking in the sawdust as she hoedowns on regardless." — Alan Pedder, The Line of Best Fit

"Throughout it all, Beyoncé's hands are confidently and charismatically on the reins. The righteous zeal of her mission, and the giddy range of sonic adventuring, repeatedly gave me chills I haven't felt since the release of 'Lemonade.' Back then she was fighting for her marriage. Now she's fighting for a major culture shift." — Helen Brown, The Independent

"Legacies — musical ones, family ones — have been a theme of Beyoncé's music. Sometimes she's correcting artistic history and blending genres. Sometimes she's inserting her children into her art. One way or another, she's always tugging at roots." — Helena Andrews-Dyer, The Washington Post

"Beyoncé leans into the art of storytelling that is so central to country music, reflecting on authenticity, roots, legacy, and purpose—and offering a sharp contrast to the unassailable pop star veneer we typically see from the singer." — André-Naquian Wheeler, Vogue

"'Cowboy Carter' is such a grand statement of intent that it feels like it could be her ultimate say on identity and purpose. The fact that it's coming from outside her usual wheelhouse makes it even more impressive." — Neil Z. Yeung, AllMusic

"Ya Ya" is an eclectic highlight, blending Beyoncé's soulful voice with nods to Nancy Sinatra and The Beach Boys.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

"What do you get if you take a sample of Nancy Sinatra's 'These Boots Are Made for Walkin,' mix it with an interpolation of the Beach Boys' 'Good Vibrations' and douse the whole concoction in the essence of Tina Turner?

"Well, you get 'Ya Ya,' of course, the best song on 'Cowboy Carter.'" — Kyle Denis, Billboard

"On the bonkers 'Ya Ya,' she tells us she's above 'petty' prejudice because she's 'a clever girl.' A boast she then backs up by spinning a sample of Nancy Sinatra's 'These Boots are Made for Walkin' into quotes from The Beach Boys' 'Good Vibrations,' staking her family's claim to life in America and calling on her ladies to 'pop it, jerk it, let loose' to a funky country soul groove." — Helen Brown, The Independent

"The best song on 'Cowboy Carter' is 'Ya Ya.' Following another snappy introduction from Martell, Beyoncé basks in an echo effect on her girlish vocals as she finger snaps and calls for a beat. You can picture the video of her high-stepping and hair-flinging as she slinks and slides around the retro groove." — Melissa Ruggieri, USA Today

"The song is sure to be a showstopper when she gets her ya-yas out on tour." — Mankaprr Conteh and Joseph Hudak, Rolling Stone

"II Most Wanted," a duet with Miley Cyrus, is another critical favorite.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

"'II Most Wanted,' on the other hand, feels effortlessly top-drawer country. Miley Cyrus was born with this kind of song in her mouth, and Beyoncé more than holds her own." — Alan Pedder, The Line of Best Fit

"Beyoncé magnanimously offers Cyrus the opening verse, and the twosome trade lines, not sparring, but complementing. Sometimes they sound like a modern-day Thelma and Louise ('I'll be your shotgun rider 'til the day I die'), steeped in limitless loyalty as they reflect on aging and love. The skipping acoustic guitar is a mere backdrop to these vocal powerhouses, with Cyrus' gravel the equilibrium to Beyoncé's honey." — Melissa Ruggieri, USA Today

"It's the reimagining of 'Landslide' as a Bonnie-and-Clyde anthem, 'II Most Wanted,' that most deftly melds the past and the present. Miley Cyrus and her whiskey rasp hold their own as two pop chameleons ponder a day when they won't be young." — Chris Kelly, The Washington Post

"As two of contemporary pop's most powerful voices, they could have easily tried to out-diva each other — but the resulting track is tastefully restrained." — Shaad D'Souza, Pitchfork

Business Insider's senior music reporter rates the album a 9.3/10.

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

The sequel to "Renaissance" is yet another feat of vocal finesse, archival research, and most of all, sonic cohesion.

Considering Beyoncé's exceptional discography, this shouldn't be surprising. But her ability to reference her forebears, assemble a diverse team of collaborators, and still create a lucid, unified project — like a conductor leading an orchestra — will never fail to boggle my mind .

Even the interludes on "Cowboy Carter" aren't skippable. However brief, they're always essential to the album's narrative and pulse. Amid the free-flowing brilliance, standout tracks include "Bodyguard," "Jolene," "II Most Wanted," "Ya Ya," and "Tyrant."

Beyoncé's big-picture vision is also what allows her to thrive in so many musical styles. She sees connective tissue and subtle shapes where other artists do not. Beyoncé doesn't simply adapt to a genre; she unspools, analyzes, interprets, and refashions it in her own image.

There's a very good reason she declared, "This ain't a Country album. This is a 'Beyoncé' album."

"Cowboy Carter" is explicitly invested in subverting the very notion of genre, with all its constraints and contrived prestige. It argues that each artist's unique approach is more important than any label or wrapper.

It's a winning argument.

Worth listening to:

"Ameriican Requiem"

"Blackbiird"

"16 Carriages"

"Protector"

"Texas Hold 'Em"

"Bodyguard"

"Spaghettii (feat. Shaboozey)"

"Alliigator Tears"

"Just For Fun"

"II Most Wanted (feat. Miley Cyrus)"

"Levii's Jeans (feat. Post Malone)"

"Oh Louisiana"

"Desert Eagle"

"Riiverdance"

"II Hands II Heaven"

"Sweet Honey Buckin"

Background music:

"Smoke Hour with Willie Nelson"

"Smoke Hour II"

"The Linda Martell Show"

Press skip:

*Final album score based on songs per category (1 point for "Worth listening to," .5 for "Background music," 0 for "Press skip").

what is the thesis of jim crow blues

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COMMENTS

  1. Literature on Jim Crow

    Woodward's thesis, set in the bloody Democratic campaigns against Populists and Republicans, is the focal point. ... Blues and jazz were shaped in New Orleans, Memphis, and Durham, North Carolina, and ... On black women, see Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina (Chapel Hill ...

  2. Jim Crow Blues

    Calling it "Jump Jim Crow," he based the number on a routine he had seen performed in 1828 by an elderly and crippled Louisville stableman belonging to a Mr. Crow. "Weel about, and turn about/And do jis so;/Eb'ry time I weel about,/I jump Jim Crow" ( 1). The public responded with enthusiasm to Rice's caricature of black life.

  3. PDF JIM CROW'S COUNTERCULTURE: THE BLUES AND BLACK SOUTHERNERS, 1890 ...

    Jim Crow's Counterculture, an inspiring cultural history tracing the evolution and implications of the genre between the late nineteenth and ... form combining acceptance and rejection to white supremacy statutes of the segregated era in the United States. Blues musicians, Lawson argues, were countercultural in several ways: they preached an ...

  4. Jim Crow and the blues

    Old Jim Crow You've been around too long Gotta work the devil 'til your dead and gone Old Jim Crow don't you know It's all over All over Oh lord, it's all over All over It's all over ...

  5. Jim crows counterculture: The blues and black ...

    In Jim Crow's Counterculture, R. A. Lawson offers a cultural history of blues musicians in the segregation era, explaining how by both accommodating and resisting Jim Crow life, blues musicians ...

  6. Assessing The Strange Career

    reer. The first, of course, is the Woodward thesis concerning the origins, timing, and nature of segregation or, as Woodward sometimes calls it, Jim Crow. The second is the concept of the Second Reconstruction as a way of gaining perspective on Recon-struction or, in Woodward's term, the "First Reconstruction." The third is the

  7. The Journal of Southern Religion · Review: Jim Crow's Counterculture

    Jim Crow's Counterculture: The Blues and Black Southerners 1890-1945. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2010. 304 pp. ISBN 978--8071-5227-. The field of cultural history has at times suffered from the burden of theory. In a bid to interpret costume, mores, food, or, as in this case, blues music, cultural historians have immersed ...

  8. The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow . Jim Crow Stories . The Birth of the

    The lyrics were about sex and lust, love found and love lost, going away and coming home, driving mules and riding horses, working on the farm and on the levee. By the time of the First World War ...

  9. Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow

    Segregation was a major aspect of Jim Crow, and as such, African Americans were not allowed to have access to the same institutions that white Southerners had access to. African Americans, instead ...

  10. Jim Crow Laws: Definition, Facts & Timeline

    Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation. Named after a Black minstrel show character, the laws—which existed for about 100 years, from the ...

  11. The Blues: The Sound of Rural Poverty

    In the beginning, the Blues was a music performed by poor African Americans for audiences of poor African Americans, and a reflection of their common experiences in the Jim Crow South. The Blues were one of the few forums through which poor, rural African Americans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries could articulate their experiences ...

  12. PDF Jim Crow Blues

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  13. Alexander's Overall Thesis from the New Jim Crow

    In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander explains the challenges that people of color face in modern American society. Her overall thesis from this book is "that mass incarceration constitutes a new system of racial oppression akin to slavery and the original Jim Crow" (Alexander, 32). She argues that in the current Age of ...

  14. The Meaning Behind The Song: The Bourgeois Blues by Leadbelly

    The title "The Bourgeois Blues" encapsulates the frustration and resentment towards the white middle and upper classes who perpetuated racial discrimination and inequality. It highlights the stark disparity in treatment and the struggles faced by African-Americans in comparison to the privileges enjoyed by the "bourgeois" in society. 5.

  15. Jim Crow Laws And Segregation

    To learn about Jim Crow laws and their effect on African-Americans. To appreciate that de facto segregation existed even where segregation was not mandated by law. To contrast the ways in which America's most significant contribution to the arts, jazz music, depended on collaboration, whereas segregation valued separation above all else.

  16. Trouble in Mind

    A vibrant middle class emerged, providing services such as bank. loans, barbering, real estate, life insurance, education, entertainment, and. burial plots. Though small in number, these entrepreneurs and professionals came to dominate black community life, particularly in the South's growing. towns and cities.

  17. APM documentary: 'Remembering Jim Crow'

    April 15, 2021 1:00 AM. Listen 'Remembering Jim Crow'. Share. For much of the 20th century, Black Americans in the South were barred from the voting booth, sent to the back of the bus and walled ...

  18. Who Was Jim Crow?

    Today, we still use the term "Jim Crow" to describe that system of segregation and discrimination in the South. But the system's namesake isn't actually southern. Jim Crow came from the North. "Jump, Jim Crow" Thomas Dartmouth Rice, a white man, was born in New York City in 1808. He devoted himself to the theater in his 20s, and in ...

  19. Protecting the image of a nation: Jim Crow propaganda

    This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by the The Graduate School at JMU Scholarly Commons. It ... Chapter 1: Image of a Nation: Jim Crow Propaganda "We must make ourselves known as we really are—not as Communist propaganda pictures us. We must pool our efforts with those of other free peoples in a sustained,

  20. MUS 300

    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like What is the form of this piece? West End blues A. verse-chorus B. boogie woogie C. march D. 12-bar blues, Sidney Bechet was an early successful jazz trombonist. T OR F, Which of the following was NOT a contributing factor to jazz's migration out of New Orleans? a. Prohibition b. poor crop conditions c. the closing of Storyville d ...

  21. Book Review: 'An Emancipation of the Mind,' by Matthew Stewart; 'The

    Taken together, two new books tell the century-long story of the revolutionary ideals that transformed the United States, and the counterrevolutionaries who fought them.

  22. A SOUND FOR RECOGNITION: BLUES MUSIC AND THE AFRICAN ...

    This Open Access Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by the Theses and Dissertations at OpenSIUC. It has been accepted for inclusion in Theses by an authorized administrator of OpenSIUC. For more information, please [email protected]. ... Blues music is a reflection of all the changes that shaped the African American ...

  23. 5 Takeaways From Nikole Hannah-Jones's Essay on 'Colorblindness' and

    Instead, during the nearly 100-year period known as Jim Crow, descendants of slavery were violently subjected to a dragnet of racist laws that kept them from most opportunities and also prevented ...

  24. Jay-Z, Beyoncé and the quest for institutional acceptance : NPR

    As she put it, to many ears country music can still "evoke and memorialize visceral memories of racialized violence; lynchings, the indignities of Jim Crow; gender surveillance and disciplining ...

  25. Opinion

    One might propose that antiracism deserves pride of place as a kind of atonement for the sins of slavery and Jim Crow. But while getting beyond evils requires being aware of them, redressing past ...

  26. Billie Holiday's signature style was more than a fashion statement

    During a career that began in the early 1930s and lasted until her death at 44 in 1959, Holiday honed a look that counteracted the prevailing sentiments of a culture defined by Jim Crow.

  27. Is Beyoncé's new album country?

    The scheduled release this week of Beyoncé's new, country-inflected album, "Act II: Cowboy Carter" (containing the single "Texas Hold 'Em," the first No. 1 country hit by a Black woman), has sparked media coverage about the overlooked influence of Black musicians on the genre and criticism of the singer's intent to enter the arena and turn a spotlight on that heritage.

  28. Jim Crows and the Blues

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  29. 83 Years After His Killing, a Black Soldier Gets an Army Funeral

    Pvt. Albert King, a Black soldier killed by a white military police officer, was buried in an unmarked grave in 1941. On Sunday, he received a full military funeral. It was the Army's latest ...

  30. Beyoncé's 'Cowboy Carter': What Critics Are Saying About the Album

    Beyoncé/YouTube "Country, gospel, soul, blues, R&B, pop, psychedelic rock, and more all find themselves as key members of Beyoncé's country.