October 13, 2011
Talk + Music
"Roll It Along Thro' the Nation": From Slave to Citizen in Popular Song
Levitt Auditorium / 6:30 pm
Michael Lasser, music historian and host of National Public Radio's "Fascinatin' Rhythm"
This talk traces the treatment of blacks in popular music from the second half of the 19th century.
The most widely known songs either supported Abolition or came from Minstrel Shows. Though
they relied on degrading stereotypes, at least some of them treated blacks in ways that were
sympathetic and humanizing. Ironically, the songs of the Confederacy had little to say about slavery
as an institution, though some praised individual slaves who were docile and loving. Finally, the talk
examines African-American music from the end of the century—ragtime, the blues, and jazz. They
mark the first major influences of black culture on American life.