Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement

Start Free Trial

Where do you see music helping to break down the barriers of segregation?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There were a few ways in which music helped erode some of the barriers of segregation in the United States. One way I see it is in the popularization of jazz. In the 1920s and 1930s, jazz became an ever-popular genre of music. Jazz first emerged in the African American community as it evolved from blues, ragtime, and gospel. It soon became popular in some white communities. It did not take long before jazz was appropriated by white musicians. This forced many white Americans to reckon with the fact that African Americans could make significant contributions to the country's cultural identity.

As early as the 1920s, music and dance halls often hosted white musicians performing jazz for white audiences. On occasion, African American performers would also play for white audiences. A pivotal change occurred in the mid-1930s when white musician Benny Goodman invited Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton, two African American performers, to join him on stage as part of his quartet. This became the first notable interracial group of musicians in the United States.

As the years went by, it became more common to see bands featuring musicians of different races performing together. This paved the way for Americans to gradually accept integration in various public arenas, such as theater, cinema, and professional sports.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team