In his 1963 book, Blues People: Negro Music in White America, LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka), explores how blues music, as first sung by slaves to its evolving forms in the 1950s and 1960s, provides a profound narrative through which the experience of black people in America is revealed. "The blues continuum," with its common reference points, cultural influences, and oppositional roots, is a paradigm, Jones tells us, in which an entire history can be understood:
[The Blues] was the history of the Afro-American people as text, as tale, as story, as exposition, narrative . . . the music was the score, the actually expressed creative orchestration, reflection, of Afro-American life.
LeRoi Jones, in this groundbreaking work, transformed the historical experience of African Americans from that of cultural assimilation to cultural participation. He showed how the ever-present influence of the original blues sung by the marginalized became the foundation for later mainstream and even homogenized forms, such as the big band sound and swing. "The blues continuum" was the link found to connect, to strengthen, to render, finally, unassailable a heritage with roots reaching across continents.