Black Studies

Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans

May 22, 2008
By
Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans

Charles Hirsch’s new book Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans was reviewed yesterday in the Times-Picayune. Contributing writer Jason Berry begins by drawing a parallel between the early New Orleans jazz scene Hirsch brings to life in his book, and the city as we know it today: The music we now call jazz flowered at the dawn of the last century, a time of grinding poverty and struggle for black people, as Charles Hersch writes in a provocative new history, Subversive Sounds. A political scientist by training, Hersch illuminates how musicians of color drew from realities that few white people experienced in forging a form of dance music for people of both races. In that sense, Subversive Sounds is more than timely. The social realities of New Orleans today resemble the city in 1900: racial polarization beneath a blanket of poverty and uncertain leadership. A century ago tourism was in its infancy; today’s “cultural economy” markets an urban identity shaped by African-American traditions that ran deepest in downriver wards that were wrecked in the flooding of 2005, areas where tour buses show visitors the wonder of our Pompeii on the Mississippi. Read the full review . . .

Read more »

Press Release: Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself

May 14, 2008
By
Press Release: Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself

Founded in 1965 and still active today, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is an American institution with an international reputation. From its working-class roots on the South Side of Chicago, the AACM went on to forge an extensive legacy of cultural and social experimentation, crossing both musical and racial boundaries. The success of individual members and ensembles from Muhal Richard Abrams, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Anthony Braxton to Douglas Ewart, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and Nicole Mitchell has been matched by the enormous international influence of the collective itself in inspiring a generation of musical experimentalists. George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as a teenager in 1971, establishes the full importance and vitality of the AACM with this communal history, written with a symphonic sweep that draws on a cross-generational chorus of voices and a rich collection of rare images. Read the press release. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

Read more »

An innovative blend of storytelling and scholarship

May 7, 2008
By
An innovative blend of storytelling and scholarship

In a recent review posted to the Bookslut website, Barbara J. King praises anthropologist Richard Price’s most recent book Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination for its unique ethnographic account of the author’s encounter with the enigmatic subject of Tooy—a priest, philosopher, and healer living in a shantytown on the outskirts of Cayenne, French Guiana. Commending the book for drawing not only on Price’s ethnographic and archival research, but also on Tooy’s teachings, songs, and stories, King writes: The book glows with knowledge, Tooy’s as much as Rich’s, as Rich is the first to say; he writes of Tooy with love, as a friend, but also with respect, calling him “a fellow intellectual.…” The complexity of Rich’s analysis sits side by side with the complexity of Tooy’s time-and-space travel. As I close the book (and begin to listen to Tooy’s voice at Rich’s website ), I know that I grasp only a small fraction of what Tooy knows. It’s a good feeling, in a peculiar way; after all, that’s what inhabiting an unfamiliar reality will do for a person—teach her what she doesn’t know, and how to learn something more. Read the article at Bookslut. Also . . .

Read more »

The collective history of the AACM

May 2, 2008
By
The collective history of the AACM

Today’s New York Times is running a piece on author George E. Lewis’s new book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music—the authoritative historical account of one of America’s most influential avant-garde jazz collectives. Founded in 1965, many icons of the avant garde, musicians like Anthony Braxton and Leo Wadada Smith, have joined its ranks. And many of them continue to play as members of the collective today. The NYT article includes information on several upcoming events in NYC including a special book release concert happening next Friday (May 9th) at the Community Church of New York. From the NYT: The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an organization that has fostered some of the most vital American avant-garde music of the last 40 years. Though noncommercial, often pointedly conceptual and unabashedly arcane, this music has had a profound influence over the years on several generations of experimental musicians worldwide. The scene plays out vividly in A Power Stronger Than Itself: The A.A.C.M. and Experimental Music, an important book by the trombonist-composer-scholar George Lewis due out from the University of Chicago Press this month. Reconstructing that inaugural meeting from audio tapes, Mr. Lewis conveys . . .

Read more »

The monumental AACM

April 10, 2008
By
The monumental AACM

In 1965 a group of Chicago musicians dedicated to exploring the frontiers of American jazz banded together to create the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians—one of the most radical and influential musical collectives in the history of the genre. Now, author George E. Lewis has chronicled the definitive history of the movement in, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, a book music critic Peter Margasak praises in today’s Chicago Reader for “ deeper into the formation and development of the AACM than any previous history, and as a formal acknowledgment of the group’s enormous importance and influence….” Margasak’s article continues: In the early 60s the marketplace was indifferent or hostile to creative jazz, and the AACM was the first sustained musician-run group to support it, producing legendary artists like Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Henry Threadgill. The organization remains active today, led by reedist Douglas Ewart and flutist Nicole Mitchell, and its members still display the fierce determination and brilliant creativity that made its name a seal of quality. And on Tuesday, April 15, 4:15 pm you’ll have a chance to see some of the AACM’s brilliant creativity yourself if . . .

Read more »

Race, Gender, and Politics: Dangerous Frames

March 17, 2008
By
Race, Gender, and Politics: Dangerous Frames

Nicholas J. G. Winter is publishing his book, Dangerous Frames: How Ideas about Race and Gender Shape Public Opinion at the perfect time, just as these issues are getting their most concrete expression in the political sphere. We asked him to reflect on the the Democratic presidential race in light of the ideas he explores in his book. The historic presence in the Democratic primary race of both the first woman and the first African American with serious shots at a major party nomination has understandably brought lots of media attention to the roles of gender and race in Americans’ political thinking and voting. Much of this coverage obscures rather than clarifies those roles. On the one hand, commentators ask whether black and female voters support “one of their own.” Do black voters support Obama? Do women support Clinton? On the other hand, others ask some version of the question “Are Americans more racist or more sexist?” Is gender more fundamental to American social structure, or is racism more centrally embedded in American politics. More concretely, will white male swing voters be more disinclined to vote for a woman or an African American man in the general election? . . .

Read more »

Press Release: Rowley, Richard Wright

February 13, 2008
By
Press Release: Rowley, Richard Wright

Consistently an outsider—a child of the fundamentalist South with an eighth-grade education, a self-taught intellectual, a black man married to a white woman—Richard Wright nonetheless became the unparalleled voice of his time. The first full-scale biography of the author best known for his searing novels Black Boy and Native Son, Richard Wright: The Life and Times brings the man and his work—in all their complexity and distinction—to vibrant life. Acclaimed biographer Hazel Rowley chronicles Wright’s unprecedented journey from a sharecropper’s shack in Mississippi to Chicago’s South Side to international renown as a writer and outspoken critic of racism. Drawing on journals, letters, and eyewitness accounts, Richard Wright probes the author’s relationships with Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison, his attraction to Communism, and his so-called exile in France. Skillfully interweaving quotes from Wright’s own writings, Rowley deftly portrays a passionate, courageous, and flawed man who would become one of our most enduring literary figures. Read the press release. . . .

Read more »

Review: Pager, Marked

October 1, 2007
By
Review: Pager, Marked

The online e-zine PopMatters is running an interesting review of Devah Pager’s new book Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration. Like much of the other press this book has been receiving lately, the review focuses on Pager’s revealing analysis of the links between the U. S. penal system and the deep rooted racial and economic inequalities in the U. S. job market. PopMatters reviewer Steve Horowitz writes: Most Americans find the idea of serving two punishments for the one crime unfair, yet according to Princeton Professor of Sociology Devah Pager, this happens all the time. A person spends time in jail, and then suffers from the stigma of incarceration after being released.… This isn’t news to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the justice system. However, Pager extends her analysis one step further through an experimental field study in metropolitan Milwaukee. She sends out pairs of young men with matched resumes on job searches for employment and makes some startling discoveries. The Princeton professor shows that employers regularly exclude ex-offenders from consideration for entry-level, low-paying jobs, and provides strong evidence that the situation for young black men is significantly worse than for their . . .

Read more »

Press Release: Pager, Marked

September 28, 2007
By
Press Release: Pager, Marked

. . .

Read more »

Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

September 27, 2007
By
Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

The Boston Globe‘s Christopher Shea wrote an interesting piece for last Sunday’s paper on America’s growing prison system and its formative impact on American society. In his article, Shea details the revealing social experiment in Devah Pager’s new book, Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration, to show how the American penal system has become an “engine of inequality … actively the gap between the poor—especially poor black men—and everyone else.” Shea continues: In an ideal penal system, prisoners might exit the system having paid their debt to society and be more or less restored to their previous status as free men and women. But Pager’s book demonstrates just how detached from reality that view is. She had four college students, two black and two white, pose as applicants for low-level jobs in Milwaukee.… They used résumés that were nearly identical—high school degrees, steady progress from entry-level work to a supervisory position—except that in some cases the applicant had a drug conviction in his past… for which he served an 18-month sentence and then behaved perfectly on parole.… In her field study, Pager found that her black applicants with criminal records got called for . . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors