What Was This Thing Called Jazz? Race, Fear and Hope in the Discussion of Jazz During the American Jazz Age
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Jazz and the uproar it caused during the 1920s provided a way to discuss different ideas regarding race in America. By attributing different characteristics to jazz as music, its history and its influence, the discussion of jazz was used to warn, inspire, excite and influence people. Its strong connection to African American history and culture meant that jazz and its fast growing popularity exposed and tested the fundament of America’s segregated and generally racist society. This fostered a backlash of increased racism and fear of jazz, as well as a provocation of hope and ideologies concerning the ways in which jazz and other types of African-American culture and art could be used to establish a more positive image of and life for African Americans. This thesis aims to disclose the issues jazz dislodged in American society of the 1920s within and between different groups and individuals. It will show the ways in which jazz was part of the struggle for racial equality and how in this role jazz was not always regarded as a positive contribution. By understanding ideologies, reactions and experiences of those concerned with jazz in their own time, this essay will show the actual complexity of jazz as the first ‘true’ American music that was born from America’s racial past.