Black Face, Blue Notes and Whiteman
The early growth and rapid expansion of popular American music in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America had widespread and irreversible effects on not only the growing black population, but also on America as a whole. The growth and evolution of music in this period, though fraught with racism and obstacles for the black performer, prepared the nation for the cultural revolution that allowed for the improvement of race relations and, ultimately, the gradual acceptance of a multi-racial national identity. Certainly this change did not come about easily, overt racism dominated the minstrel show even as it provided employment opportunities for black performers; revisionist histories abound, especially in the development of jazz music, as the invaluable contributions of the black artists preceding the jazz movement often had their story rewritten to assert the development of jazz music by white artists instead. Despite these challenges, the growth and spread of music in this era was ultimately a positive influence on black culture. In addition to priming the nation for the eventual slow acceptance of race, music afforded blacks opportunities to earn a living, facilitated dispersion and growth of communities and also served as a sort of emotional release and expressionism.
Almost undoubtedly, early popular music, that of minstrel shows, had a negative impact on the black community. With racist depictions of slaves as bug-eyed, ignorant and worthless these minstrel shows served to spread these racist ideas, and as they grew in popularity, to embed them in the national idea of black culture. Further, preformed by white men in blackface, acts such as Jim Crow (a character based on a crippled black man, taken to extremes) came to symbolize black culture for decades to come. These racist depictions and justifications of slavery continued on throughout the 1880s, it was not until after this time that the music...
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