Racial Uplift and American Music, 1878-1943

TitleRacial Uplift and American Music, 1878-1943
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSchenbeck, Lawrence
Number of Pages330
PublisherUniversity Press of Mississippi
CityJackson, MS

Racial Uplift and American Music, 1878-1943 traces the career of racial uplift ideology as a factor in elite African Americans' embrace of classical music around the turn of the previous century, from the collapse of Reconstruction to the death of composer R. Nathaniel Dett, whose music epitomized "uplift." Musically, the black intelligentsia's response to racism was to create and promote morally positive, politically inoffensive art that idealized the race. By incorporating black folk elements into the dignified genres of art song, symphony, and opera, "uplifters" demonstrated worthiness through high achievement in acknowledged arenas. Their efforts were variously opposed, tolerated, or supported by a range of white elites with their own notions about African American culture. The resulting conversation occupied the pages of black newspapers and informed the work of white philanthropists. Women also played crucial roles. This book examines the lives and thought of personalities central to musical uplift with an eye to recognizing their contributions and restoring their stature.

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