Cultural Change

*PLEASE USE SOURCES PROVIDED AT THE BOTTOM *PLEASE USE SOURCES PROVIDED AT THE BOTTOM  ASSIGNMENT PART 1  Many of your assignment submissions so far show that the concept of the “paragraph” needs work. Each paragraph starts with a topic sentence (or a transition sentence and then the topic sentence), followed by sentences that illuminate or support that topic or idea.  I like my paragraphs on the short side, but sometimes a long paragraph is called for if the topic requires a lot of explanation.  Here is an illuminating handout from the University of North Carolina. Read it completely and with attention before beginning this assignment: Now, here are five topic sentences drawn from this week’s lesson. Choose two of them and, based on the model in the handout you just read, use the information from this week’s lesson to write a four to seven-sentence paragraph beginning with each one. I want to see that you have mastered both the lesson material (use specific names and dates), AND the paragraph handout you just read. Use simple, plain English; omit needless words; stay on topic–no rambling or “filler”; don’t make stuff up; be specific. Include the paragraph number with your answer paragraphs. 1. Although her name is known by every American school child, Rosa Parks was not the first African American to challenge segregation on public transportation. 2. It’s not surprising that ragtime music was viewed with suspicion by many Americans. 3. With his fame as the “King of Ragtime,” Scott Joplin aimed for more ambitious musical accomplishments. 4. There are several theories about the origin of the irresistible, toe-tapping rhythms of ragtime. 5. There were some powerful reasons that African-American performers were willing to inhabit the old “Zip Coon” character once again in the opening years of the twentieth century. Answer 10 of these 20 questions in one or, at most, two complete and correct sentences. Include the questions with your answers. Double space. Make sure that your answer can stand on its own, without reference to the question. Include dates, even if the question does not specifically ask for them. ASSIGNMENT PART 2  1. What is the “Reconstruction” period in American history? 2. When and why did Reconstruction end? 3. What role did the Ku Klux Klan play in Reconstruction in the South? 4. Who was Homer Adolph Plessy, and what is he remembered for? 5. How were “Plessy v. Ferguson” and “The Great Migration” related? 6. Who was the “March King” of America c. 1900, and what made him famous? 7. What kind of African-American musicians were called “professors” in the late 19th century? 8. How did pianist Scott Joplin differ from the piano “professors” of his day? 9. What was the significance of “Maple Leaf Rag” for Scott Joplin, and for the history of American popular music? 10. What kinds of projects did Scott Joplin unsuccessfully try to raise money for? Why was it difficult for him to raise these funds? 11. Ragtime music was wildly popular in the early 1900s. But many people detested it. Why? 12. What is a “piano roll”? 13. What and where was “Tin Pan Alley”? 14. Identify a significant cultural change brought about by ragtime music. 15. What is a “coon song”? 16. What and when was the first big “coon song” hit? Who wrote it? 17. How did the culture of coon songs relate to the “Old Zip Coon” blackface character? 18. What did Ernest Hogan always regret, and why? 19. Who was Bert Williams? 20. Did the coon song era have any positive impacts on African American musicians and other performers? If so, describe them. SOURCES: Read this, from the PBS project “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.” (Click on section heading.) More than one historian believes that, had Abraham Lincoln not been assassinated in April of 1865, the South would have been treated with much more mercy-tempered justice than ended up being the case. Equal civil rights for emancipated African Americans was the original intent of the program that came to be known as “Reconstruction,” but political corruption, and the failure to provide equal economic and civic opportunity, caused Reconstruction to implode and fail. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Lincoln gives his second inaugural address in March 1865, one month before his assassination. He is at the center of this photo, holding papers in his hand, behind a small table with a cup of water. Why did Reconstruction end? Most of the Reconstruction-Era governments in former Confederate states were Republican (the party of Abraham Lincoln). Anti-Reconstruction forces in the South were aligned with the Democratic party. In order to sort out a tangled mess of disputed Southern-state ballots in the 1876 presidential election, a compromise with Southern Democrats put Republican Rutherford B. Hayes into the White House, in exchange for an agreement by Hayes to remove Reconstruction-enforcing federal troops from the South. A shady political deal in a heated presidential election was the final blow that ended Reconstruction and, along with it, any hope of equality and civil rights for freed slaves, or anyone with even one drop of Negro blood. Read your way through this fine presentation on the End of Reconstruction (link is the title of this section), as well as the Epilogue that follows it, from the University of Houston. Illustration from Harper’s Magazine. New Orleans,1874, during post-Civil War Reconstruction period. Clash between the (racially integrated) Police and the (segregationist) White League on Canal Street. Reconstruction never went smoothly in the South, and led to the first rise of the Ku Klux Klan and other segregationist organizations. “Separate but Equal” Doctrine: Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896 We mark the beginning of the end of legal segregation in the South–the “Jim Crow” era–with the Supreme Court’s “Brown v. Board of Education” decision in 1954, and desegregation’s spread beyond the classroom with Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of a public transit bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. The end of the Jim Crow era is usually given as 1964, when Pres. Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. But some put it earlier or later. But how did the “Jim Crow” era begin? It started with another person of color–Homer Adolph Plessy–who refused to leave the “Whites Only” section of a Louisiana commuter streetcar in 1892. The Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson went against Plessy, and established that segregation did not violate the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and was legal as long as the separate accommodations for “White” and “Colored” were equal. Well, of course, they were never equal in quality. And this doctrine extended to schools as well, which were completely segregated, and by no means equal.  This “Jim Crow” era was marked by state-sanctioned segregation, along with lynchings, murder, arson and intimidation against African Americans. Despite all this, it was also the time when music created by African Americans–ragtime, jazz and the blues–became the essential American popular music, to which all Americans, black and white, danced or, at least, tapped their feet. And around the world, the sound of these African-American popular musical styles said, universally, “American.” Read the details of the Plessy v. Ferguson case at this Chicago-Kent Law School website (link is the title of this section). NOTE: Plessy was not the first African American in the U.S. to refuse to leave segregated public transportation. Listen to this recent public radio podcast (Feb. 17, 2020), which documents many of these incidents, starting with Elizabeth Jennings in NYC in 1854. Commemorative marker at the site in New Orleans where Homer Adolphe Plessy was arrested for refusing to move from a “whites only”  rail car to a “colored” car in 1892. March-Crazy America (1890-1910) In the 1890s and early 1900s, America was “March Crazy” (as in parade songs by the March King, John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)). Rags and “stomps” (jazz compositions based on rags or marches), share their formal structure with the march, which is, in turn, derived from the ballroom dances of the 18th century, like the minuet and the quadrille. Sousa toured the world with his band, playing marches of his own composition, to which people danced the “two step.” People of the 1890s and early 1900s, who were very familiar with the march as entertainment music, would have heard ragtime (which we will study in the next section) as related to the march, but with “raggedy” (syncopated) melody over a very regular, march-like “oom-pah” bass. The left hand of a rag always sounds to me like the tuba in a march. Listen to Sousa’s most famous march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”   This was “top of the charts” popular music in the 1890s. John Philip Sousa in 1908 Newspaper advertisement, Allentown, Pennsylvania, 1908, for Sousa concert Who was Scott Joplin? Before Scott Joplin put pen to paper to produce “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1897 (published in 1899), African-American pianists were entertaining in saloons and brothels (houses of prostitution) with popular songs in a style that, undoubtedly, was the foundation of what became known as “ragtime” or “ragged time.” We would probably say that their piano playing sounded “jazzy” — but the word “jazz” as applied to music was not yet current. (It actually had a sexual connotation.) A brothel pianist was known as the “professor” and many legendary ragtime and jazz pianists started their careers in just this way.  Scott Joplin in 1903. This great American composer is buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria, Queens, New York There had been some songs called “ragtime” style published before the late 1890s, but they didn’t catch on as dance music in a big way. Joplin knew the ragtime music of the African-American piano entertainers, but because he was classically trained, and could write down his own brilliant compositions, he brought ragtime to national and international attention. It became known as quintessentially American music–more classical than pop, really–and Joplin was respected as a serious composer, and not just a bawdy-house “professor.” This University of Missouri survey (link is the title of this section) of Joplin’s life is aimed at high school students, but it has all the essentials, except for the sexually-transmitted disease–syphilis–from which Joplin is believed to have died. But this overview makes his hard work and talent very clear. Also very clear is the discrimination he faced as an African American, at the outset of the Jim Crow era. His music was heard literally everywhere but, because of his skin color, he himself was not welcome everywhere. Scott Joplin is one of the most important of American composers of the twentieth century. Sheet music cover of “Maple Leaf Rag,” 1899 What is ragtime? Click on the section title and watch this less-than-four-minute presentation on ragtime music. The presenter makes it easy to understand how, with a few tweaks and some syncopation, ragtime completely changed American music. The exact origins of both ragtime and jazz are unclear. There are many theories, but nothing absolutely concrete, except that both are indisputably African-American creations. Blackface minstrel with banjo, 1890 The banjo is originally an African instrument with a resonating body made from a dried gourd, which came to the Americas in the minds and memories of captive Africans. (Listen to a couple of minutes of this highly syncopated performance on the West African akonting, and you’ll recognize a family resemblance to ragtime: .) White minstrel performers adopted and adapted it, and used the same downpicking or “frailing” technique as the slaves, creating a naturally syncopated rhythmic pattern. There is a theory that this naturally-syncopated banjo music is the precursor of “ragged” or syncopated music of all kinds. Some early descriptions of ragtime by music journalists and essayists (writing around the year 1900), point to piano music in honky-tonks and brothels (houses of prostitution) along the Mississippi River from the 1870s as the immediate precursor of the polished and published “rags” of Scott Joplin, starting with the “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899). Other theories mention Scots-Irish fiddle music, and New Orleans band music. The minstrel-show closing act or “walk around” was often choreographed to a syncopated dance called the cakewalk, (here from the 1943 all-Black-cast film “Stormy Weather”) another strong precursor possibility. In this movie clip, note that the women are all uniformly very light-skinned African-Americans. They are the “yellow gals” of the minstrel show. The men can be any color of complexion. This is a very grand minstrel-show finale. It’s theatrically exaggerated, but this is what the cakewalk or “walkaround” looked like in a minstrel show. From a sheet music advertisement in 1912 – man playing “Maple Leaf Rag.” Ragtime music was completely different in “feel” and style than any kind of instrumental music that came before it. It was considered revolutionary by all, and as “trash” by many, who objected to its “Negroid” origins. Here is a clip from a 1970s theatrical film about Scott Joplin, showing some “professors” (brothel pianists) in a piano duel, ending with the introduction of the “Maple Leaf Rag.” This did NOT actually happen, but it shows the “brothel” atmosphere, and does attempt to show how Joplin’s composition is very , coming straight out of the existing style, but more polished, and backed up by classical training. The older white man is John Stark, who championed Joplin, and published his music. In the opening scene, Joplin is hatless, and his “ear musician” friend Lucius is in the bowler hat. (Sorry, the sound is not great). Although this is an INVENTED EVENT in the life of Scott Joplin, it’s a brilliant dramatic device. We have Joplin as the educated, musically literate composer, and his friend Lucius, a genius “ear musician.” The music of the African-American “professors” in the Mississippi saloons and brothels is “ear music.” It’s never written down. It takes popular tunes of the day and gives them a “ragged,” syncopated style associated with banjo music and the minstrel-show cakewalk. Because it’s not written down it can’t be published. And because it can’t be published it can’t penetrate into the mainstream American popular music marketplace. The brilliance of these ear musicians is confined to their immediate audiences. But Joplin uses this syncopated saloon style to create piano “rags” that he does write down, with the encouragement of his white businessman mentor and publisher, John Stark. The pieces are clean and sophisticated, but still toe-tappingly infectious dance music. They are structured like marches, and are challenging to play, yet accessible to a pianist of good ability. Above all, they got published, starting with “Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899. It was a gigantic hit — the first piece of instrumental sheet music to sell over a million copies. By this route, music made by African Americans for African Americans became all of America’s popular music. [The 19th-century blackface and minstrel shows were “pretend” African American, made by white entertainers.] First page of sheet music for “Ethiopia Rag” by Scott Joplin’s disciple Joseph Lamb. Notice the “Slow March Tempo” indication at the upper left. Here is a piano roll version of “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin. Piano rolls were the “programming” for player pianos that many people had in their homes. Piano rolls allowed them to hear performances of great music (perhaps more difficult than anyone in that particular home could manage), often played by the composers themselves. The man at the piano is pumping two pedals with his feet, to operate the roll and the piano mechanism. This piano roll was probably made somewhere in the 1900-1912 range, because it doesn’t have “swing” that New Orleans jazz began to bring to ragtime (you’ll hear that swing soon, in the next lesson): Here is a somewhat later piano roll, of Scott Joplin’s famous piano rag “The Entertainer” (1902) in which you can hear the swing of jazz changing the “feel” considerably. It’s labeled 1902 in the Youtube description, but this piano roll sounds to me  like it was made in the late 1910s or 1920s:  Ragtime style was immediately adopted into all sorts of popular music, most notably the popular songs written by New York’s Tin Pan Alley composers — mostly white European Americans, many of them from Jewish immigrant families, like Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. Tin Pan Alley was the designation for a stretch of West 28th St. where music publishing houses were clustered together. The area got its nickname from the clatter of battered old upright pianos demonstrating the new songs for potential customers. The area was at its height from about 1903 to 1930. Toward the end of this time, people began to buy many more recordings than copies of sheet music, to play on their victrolas at home. This trend coincided with the rise of the singing star, outshining the song itself, exalting the performer, also leading to more sales of recordings over sheet music. Between 1899 and 1917, the word “rag” constantly appeared in song titles, as well as in instrumental works. Ragtime was the sound of American popular music until about 1917, when jazz (a direct descendant of ragtime) supplanted it. And, by the way, remember that Sousa march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”? America was so ragtime-crazy in the years from 1900-1917 that just about any and every American song was given the”ragtime treatment,” including Sousa’s most famous march. Here it is, in ragtime, on a piano roll from about 1917, on a player piano from the Scott Joplin museum. The sound is not ideal, but it gives you a good picture of player piano operation and the effect of ragtime rhythm on a classic march. In 1973, the music of Scott Joplin became wildly popular once again, because it was adapted for use in the Academy Award-winning film The Sting. The music was selected and arranged, and the piano rags performed, by legendary film and theater composer, the late Marvin Hamlisch–graduate of the Queens College music department, by the way. The main theme is “The Entertainer,” but the piano rag “Solace: A Mexican Serenade” also figures prominently. The “Mexican” part is more Cuban than Mexican. It’s the the underlying “Habañera” rhythm, which was a popular ballroom dance at the time, derived from a slow, duple-meter Cuban folk dance. This is a wonderful piece of music by any measure. Listen to Hamlisch’s own performance: Marvin Hamlisch holding Oscars for his music for The Sting (1973) featuring the music of Scott Joplin. Hamlisch studied composition at Queens College, CUNY. How did people feel about ragtime? Ragtime Letter 1913.pdf  Public opinion was split on the subject. Many older, cultivated (= snobbish) people railed against it, as a kind of music that would lower morals and degrade American culture. And there was no hesitation to say that the degradation and danger to public morals was a direct result of the “negroid” origins of ragtime. There was a constant stream of “letters to the editor” about the horrors of ragtime.  Many classical musicians and musical commentators, however, supported and defended ragtime as genuine American music. Not all, by any means, were so prejudiced as to consider it dangerous. Huge and enduring hit in 1913 for songwriter Irving Berlin The attached quotation, in a music journal, of a  “Letter to the Editor” from 1913 is typical of many such, and many much worse in their racism. Ragtime also created an intense cultural “generation gap.” This was music that your parents and grandparents hated–detested–and so it must be good. The natural rebelliousness of youth now had something cultural to grab on to. “We love the music you hate, and so we are modern, we are different, while you are old, stuffy, and headed for the trash heap of history.” Middle-class Black elders also hated ragtime, as you’ll see in this documentary clip of great American ragtime and jazz pianist and composer, Eubie Blake (1887-1983). The commentator at the beginning of the clip is, by the way, the late Maurice Peress, who was the long-time director of the Queens College Orchestra. Blake’s parents didn’t want this “ragtime” in the house, because it had crass and lowlife origins, and many, if not most, African Americans who were trying to rise up into the middle class wanted to put plenty of distance between themselves and “lower class” associations. In that very intense Jim Crow era, any kind of “rising up” was hard won, and very easily destroyed. Blake’s parents wanted him to stick to his European-classical piano lessons and leave the ragtime in the gutter where he found it. But he caught the ragtime bug early, and became one of the 20th century’s most notable American musicians. How had African music influenced American music to this point? Minstrel show music probably did, occasionally, make use of slave songs–altered and “squared off” in a European way. The sound of the banjo, still an important part of American popular music of the “country” and “bluegrass” sort, is an African sound, no question. When you hear the banjo, you are hearing Africa. Negro spirituals, after their revival and popularization by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, were sung and recorded by well-known opera singers, and their preservation and study were encouraged by European-American scholars and musicians as probably the only true and genuine American folk music. But it was with ragtime, for the first time, that a widespread outcry from the older generation against the “n**gerization” of American culture clashed with the younger generation’s embrace of ragtime for dancing, for singing, for listening. This was just the first example, of many examples, of truly African-American-made music becoming the sound of American popular music. It started here and, of course, it hasn’t ended yet. Ragtime and Coon Songs Attached Files:  levy-145-160 coon, coon, coon.pdf (7.367 MB)   All Coons Look Alike to Me – Lyrics.pdf (21.283 KB)  Along with the rise of ragtime in the late 1890s, “Coon Songs”–a type of popular song that parodied African-American life and habits–began to be written for vaudeville (variety-show theater) performers. These songs were published as sheet music, and sold in great numbers. Many were recorded in the 1890s through the 1910s as well. Click the link in the title of this section and read the material down to the bottom of that page. Coon songs are racist, by any measure. They picked up where the waning minstrel show left off, using the same racial stereotypes, but magnified to a ridiculous extent. The sheet music cover art is repulsive to us now, but was a commonplace thing in its time, and served to deepen and preserve those minstrel-show stereotypes, which can seem mild in comparison to the coon song’s content and marketing. Some of the most popular coon songs were written and performed by African-American songwriters. Is this surprising? Well, not as much as you may think. Just as schools and buses and water fountains were segregated by race, the world of mainstream popular entertainment was not normally open to African Americans. Some extraordinary performers of color did cross the line and perform for white audiences in vaudeville shows, but it was very much the exception rather than the rule. To gain entry into well-paying mainstream venues, many talented African Americans played along with the coon image, writing and performing songs and dances that seem awfully demeaning to us now.   African-American performers (sheet music from 1899, also available with “Humorous Darky Text”) took part in the “coon song craze” as a way in–the only way in–to the world of mainstream entertainment. The young movie industry also offered few opportunities to African Americans aside from stereotyped minstrel-show characters, like mammies, Aunt Jemimas, Uncle Neds, urban dandies, and slow-moving “lazy coons.” The most famous of this last type was the actor Stepin Fetchit (real name Lincoln Perry, 1902-1985). The actor and comedian Bert Williams (pictured lower left) went on to become one of America’s best-loved entertainers, black or white, and made several silent movies that showcased his acting and mimic talents. This song was featured in the 1902 Broadway show In Dahomey, which had an entirely black cast and creative team. Williams and Walker billed themselves as “Two Real Coons” in the years around 1900. This, of course, seems extremely demeaning. But they were contrasting themselves with white performers in blackface. Although they perpetuated many of the stereotypes that their white audiences expected, they completely removed the stereotype of the aggressive and violent black male. They ran their own musical-theater company, and they successfully entertained both black and white audiences. Bert Williams had a successful career as a comedian in early movies, and was one of the most famous entertainers in the U.S. (Walker died in 1911; Williams died in 1922.) The coon song culture permeated show business. White vaudeville stars performed coon songs, in blackface or not. The recording industry was young and hungry, and coon songs more than filled the bill. Coon song sheet music, with caricatures that outdid anything from minstrel-show music, sold very well, especially if combined with ragtime rhythms, or plastered with the picture of a famous vaudeville performer. African-American performers often played along, because it was the only way in.  In the end, as offensive as coon songs were, they were that “way in” for African-American songwriters and performers, and not everyone sees the phenomenon as universally negative. Early coon song: Ernest Hogan, “All Coons Look Alike to Me” (1896): – Recorded many times from 1896 onward (lyrics attached to this section). It’s a song about love gone wrong, written by a Black man, sung here (as on most recordings) by white vaudeville performer and recording artist. The recording quality of many of these early discs is quite bad, unfortunately. George W. Johnson, “The Laughing Coon” (1898): “Coon, Coon, Coon” (1900). Sheet music attached to this section. Find the lyrics and an amateur performance (folk style) here: Early recording (not good quality, but listen to get the idea): Ernest Hogan, c. 1905 A Coon Song in time: Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown Attached Files:  rufus rastus.pdf (6.376 MB)  Harry von Tilzer: “Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown” (1905). Lyrics by Andrew B. Sterling. Von Tilzer was a prolific Tin Pan Alley songwriter.  Examine the sheet music first. Take a close look at the cover. The characters have exaggerated minstrel show features. The man is a well-dressed dandy, like the original “Zip Coon” character. The woman is engaged in nagging her man, as she often is. He is a party animal, a player, and puts his own pleasure ahead of the necessities of life, and the welfare of his woman. Note that in most coon songs, the relationship between the man and woman is almost always described as cohabitation, and not marriage. The cover also has a photo of a popular vaudeville performer, and sheet music often featured such photos for marketing reasons. (“You love her on stage; now buy the sheet music.”) Now take a close look at the lyrics, noting the dialect, and the characterizations in the lyrics. This was a very popular coon song–one of the most enduring. Here is a little trip through time with this particular song. It was sung by both black and white performers. In our Louis Armstrong class, we’ll see that great musician sing coon songs as well. Early recording: White vaudeville and prolific recording artist Arthur Collins, c. 1905: 1940s recording, sung by Beatrice Kay, white performer singing in “Negro dialiect”: Funk style: Rufus Thomas, 1969, who uses the chorus lyrics, and makes up the rest :  So, why would a Black performer, in 1969 (the time of the Black Panthers), pick a degrading coon song from 1905 for a cut on his Funky Chicken album? Because it’s complicated. Coon songs are demeaning and degrading and racist–no argument there–but they did provide an entry point for many Black performers into mainstream entertainment. And think about it this way: enslaved Africans  co-opted the Christianity that was forced upon them (whether they “became” Christians or not), and used it in the Negro Spiritual to voice their cries for freedom and justice. In the early twentieth century, Black entertainers took the coon songs and minstrel stereotypes that were forced upon them, and turned them into fuel for their ever-increasing presence on the main stage of American popular music. Some cultural historians see a connection between the popularity of coon songs from the 1880s to the 1930s and the anxiety of European Americans about African-American migration out of the South, where cruelly enforced Jim Crow laws, as well as extra-legal attacks–lynching, bombings, beatings and arson–were making ordinary life nearly impossible for people of color. That migration, to the industrial cities of the Northeast and north Midwest, did indeed happen, and it is called the Great Migration.

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