Written By: Matthew Harron
Still today, music is used as a powerful tool to quell political tensions when they arise in American culture. Some artist have built their careers around the politically charged messages embodied within their music; this held true for emerging bebop and rock artist during the Civil Rights movement.
African American artists such as Fats Domino contributed to defeating segregation through music. Bebop was fading and the rock-n-roll scene was pushing into the early 1960's. White teens could not ignore the intriguing style that African Americans artists possessed. African American artists skillfully created powerful music, congregating an audience of listeners from all backgrounds, with the intention of challenging the social construct of race.
Fats Domino, an African American artist, performed for integrated audiences throughout the deep south. Hits like "Blueberry Hill" and "Ain't that a shame" broke through intense color lines.
Amidst the growing Civil Rights cases held in court, organizations like the NAACP struggled to find a fair jury, as primarily white and racist men continued to look past segregation. Music was more effective than the court cases that confined African Americans. Danielle McGuire, author of At The Dark End Of The Street, magnifies this in her book. Interracial bands belted out blues, ballads, and bebop over integrated airwaves, effectively launching a revolution that rattled and roused teenagers and shook up segregationists, who bristled at the idea of their offspring listening to the new 'jungle music.'
White segregationists feared the integrated crowds. Never did they want their children to fall in love with an African American. Members of the White Citizens Council (an organization that fought vigorously to keep Jim Crow laws intact) saw the musical work of African Americans as vulgar.
Though today, we have made tremendous progress as a society in the acceptance of whites and blacks integrating. This does not mean that artists are not following similar paths of those from the 1950s and 1960s.
Kendrick Lamar's 2016 Grammy's performance was passionate and empowering. Lamar dismantled previously held stereotypes about African Americans and the society that they are condemned to. To watch a full video click here.
Music has been a guide to creating change in not only the American culture, but throughout the world. It is during the harshest times of racism and segregation that musicians are able to produce a message strong enough to ensure social equality. As McGuire puts it, "It succeeded, as politics, religion, and law could never do, in writing from the heart and soul."