Aired: August 17, 2013

Jazz and Civil Rights

Miles Davis
Courtesy of The Library of Congress

Antonio Garcia (Virginia Commonwealth University) says that the personal and professional lives of musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane cannot be divorced from the struggle for racial equality—they contributed in significant ways to interracial understanding and social progress.  Also featured: The composers of the Civil Rights anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” also created musical theater at the turn of the century, transforming the image of African American characters and performers. Paula Marie Seniors (Virginia Tech) looks at the lives of the composers Bob Cole, J. Rosamond Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, whose work helped break down stereotypical portrayals of black Americans. Plus: Timothy O’Donnell (University of Mary Washington) is leading an effort to help historically black colleges and universities field high-quality debate teams on crucial public policy issues. And: As entrepreneurs in a largely segregated trade, African American funeral directors were historically among the few black individuals who were economically independent.  Suzanne Smith (George Mason University) in her book, To Serve the Living, shows how their financial freedom gave them the ability to support the struggle for civil rights as well as bury the dead.


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