Rock'n'Roll and Race
The emergence of rock 'n' roll as a cultural phenomenon coincided with great ferment in the movement to grant civil rights to African Americans. Enmeshed in the racial politics of the 1950s, rock 'n' roll was credited with and criticized for promoting integration and economic opportunity for blacks while bringing to “mainstream” culture black styles and values. In the South, rock 'n' roll became a lightning rod for die-hard segregationists who associated the music—and African Americans—with depraved beliefs and behavior. Rock 'n' roll was also big business, and therefore subject to the dictates of the white mass market, as interpreted by recording and broadcasting professionals. In pursuit of profit they shunned controversy, exploited black performers, bleached the music, and promoted white rock 'n' rollers. Subject to these pressures and counterpressures, rock 'n' roll remained a highly visible and contested arena for struggles over racial identity and cultural and economic empowerment in the United States.
The seminal event for proponents of black rights in the 1950s was the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in five cases (from Kansas, Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia) challenging segregation in public schools—usually cited by reference to the first, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The cases, which capped decades of work by the NAACP and other orga
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Publication information: Book title: All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America. Contributors: Glenn C. Altschuler - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 35.
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