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Jazz, Civil Rights, and American Society

Jazz, Civil Rights and American Society traced social conflict and social progress through the study of jazz music. Starting with its antecedents, the Negro spirituals of the mid and late nineteenth century, and the development of blues music at the beginning of the twentieth century, the course explored how through lyrics and music, the African American people have expressed their desires for freedom and equality. From Duke Ellington’s "Black Brown and Beige" to Billie Holiday’s "Strange Fruit," to Charles Mingus’ "Fables of Faubus" and Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, the sweet syncopations and heartfelt realities of jazz as a music of freedom were explored. The class looked at how the music differed in various cities and areas of the country, as well as at similarities and differences among jazz musicians, black and white. In addition to class readings, the class weekly listened to music, viewed audio clips of live performances, and heard what the musicians themselves have to say. This course (HIST-388) was taught by Maurice Jackson, Department of History, as a Doyle Seminar (small upper-level classes that foster deepened student learning about diversity and difference through research and dialogue).

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Maurice Jackson headshot

Maurice Jackson

Department of History, African American Studies Program