The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace

The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace

by David Gilbert

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Overview

In 1912 James Reese Europe made history by conducting his 125-member Clef Club Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The first concert by an African American ensemble at the esteemed venue was more than just a concert--it was a political act of desegregation, a defiant challenge to the status quo in American music. In this book, David Gilbert explores how Europe and other African American performers, at the height of Jim Crow, transformed their racial difference into the mass-market commodity known as "black music." Gilbert shows how Europe and others used the rhythmic sounds of ragtime, blues, and jazz to construct new representations of black identity, challenging many of the nation's preconceived ideas about race, culture, and modernity and setting off a musical craze in the process.

Gilbert sheds new light on the little-known era of African American music and culture between the heyday of minstrelsy and the Harlem Renaissance. He demonstrates how black performers played a pioneering role in establishing New York City as the center of American popular music, from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway, and shows how African Americans shaped American mass culture in their own image.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469622705
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 05/18/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 312
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

David Gilbert is an independent scholar who received a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

You might think you already know the story of the birth of ragtime, but The Product of Our Souls gives us an entirely fresh look at this musical expression of African American modernity. David Gilbert provides readers with a new understanding of the creative autonomy and power of African American composers, musicians, and playwrights as they shaped the future of American popular music in relation to white supremacy and an emerging consumer culture.—Barry Shank, author of The Political Force of Musical Beauty



The Product of Our Souls has the potential to be one of the most important works of urban cultural history produced in the last twenty years. For so long, the stories of the Johnson Brothers, the Marshall Hotel, James Reese Europe, and others have been used to close the curtains on minstrelsy or open the doors of the New Negro Renaissance. But here we see a cogent and fully developed story of its own, the story of a ragtime modernity, the period where race is identified as a key conduit in the creation of the American musical marketplace.—Davarian L. Baldwin, author of Chicago's New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life

Davarian L. Baldwin

The Product of Our Souls has the potential to be one of the most important works of urban cultural history produced in the last twenty years. For so long, the stories of the Johnson Brothers, the Marshall Hotel, James Reese Europe, and others have been used to close the curtains on minstrelsy or open the doors of the New Negro Renaissance. But here we see a cogent and fully developed story of its own, the story of a ragtime modernity, the period where race is identified as a key conduit in the creation of the American musical marketplace.

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