A Cultural History of the First Jazz and Blues Communities in Jacksonville, Florida, 1896-1916: A Contribution of African Americans to American Theater

By Casey, Brian | The American Music Research Center Journal, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

A Cultural History of the First Jazz and Blues Communities in Jacksonville, Florida, 1896-1916: A Contribution of African Americans to American Theater


Casey, Brian, The American Music Research Center Journal


A Cultural History of the First Jazz and Blues Communities in Jacksonville, Florida, 1896-1916: A Contribution of African Americans to American Theater By Peter Dunbaugh Smith. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edward Mellon Press, 2015.

The history of American popular music is commonly discussed in terms which, by defining seminal individuals, trends and locales, serve to paint a broad picture of the development of the art form. In many contexts this is an appropriate method for analyzing and understanding the origins of American popular music. The convenience and widespread applicability of this approach, however, brings with it significant omissions and the likelihood that many aspects of the development of the music are overlooked. With an abundance of useful and well-conceived volumes addressing this kind of generalist approach readily available to readers today, more focused writing that takes specific perspectives on the development of popular music in America are warranted - even required. Peter Dunbaugh Smith's recent monograph involves just this kind of specific local perspective, and is a welcome addition to the literature addressing specialized developments in American popular music around the turn of the century.

By focusing on a cultural center in an American city not commonly associated with early developments in American popular music, Smith gives the reader a new lens through which to understand how familiar national figures in the performing arts of the era relate to those outside the traditionally accepted centers of musical development, namely New York, Chicago and New Orleans. Embedded in this narrative, Smith presents two primary threads of discovery. The foreground thread is his fairly comprehensive overview of African American performance traditions in the La Villa neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida, and how that cultural center is connected to other musical commu- nities across America. In this line of exploration, extensively researched and thoroughly referenced descriptions of the theaters, halls, productions and business ventures involved in the entertainment industry in Jacksonville over a twenty-year span are detailed. While many of the names and locales may be unfamiliar to most readers, by the third chapter, it becomes clear that the turn of any page can reveal a surprisingly direct connection to a much more familiar artist or composition. These discoveries, while seemingly trivial, add an exciting element to the overall impression on this reader.

The other thread of discovery illuminated throughout the text by virtue of the localized nature of the subject matter is a direct explication of the socio-cultural climate in African American communities of northern Florida as a representative region of the South at the turn of the century. By relaying the history of musical performance in Jacksonville and its neighboring cities in such a thorough and exhaustive manner, Smith necessarily tracks the influence of Jim Crow on what began as an era of hope for the African American community in the wake of Reconstruction. In the brief period between 1896 and 1916, we see the rise and decline of agency for African Americans, specifically in the performing arts, culminating in strict social segregation laws, political disenfranchisement, and the suppression of economic opportunity that came about through the misnamed "separate, but equal" national policy, which arose in the wake of the historic Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision in 1896.

Interwoven into these two threads is the story of American popular music, its relationship to musical theater and the African American contribution to all musical expression of early twentieth-century America. It is in this context that I question the prominent inclusion of jazz in the title of this book. While it is clear that Smith does make reference to a few artists in their formative years who later became known for their contributions to jazz, the use of the term and even the idiom of jazz at this time is perhaps anachronistic. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Cultural History of the First Jazz and Blues Communities in Jacksonville, Florida, 1896-1916: A Contribution of African Americans to American Theater
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.