Why were there so few Black musicals during the great Civil Rights decade of the 1960s?    

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that there can be some theoretical reasons and practical ones as to why there were so few Black musicals during the Civil Rights time frame.  One of the most resounding theoretical ones would be that the movement itself did not lend itself to be depicted in musicals.  The gravity and focus of the time period was so serious and so driven by grave consequences that the musical genre was not seen as an avenue to spread the word of Civil Rights.  Poetry and even art were much more independent means by which artists could voice their own beliefs about the movement without having to conform to particular genre- driven realities.  Another reason as to why there could have been an absence of musicals would have to do with finance and securing it.  To produce a musical requires a great deal of financial resources and partnerships with individuals who would desire to see a profit in post- production phases.  This is simply not going to be the case during the time.  Few, if any, financially well off individuals were willing to even talk openly about Civil Rights.  The idea that these people would support a musical about the topic is challenging.  At the same time, there is real question as to whether a Broadway Musical about Civil Rights during the Civil Rights timeframe would have made any money.  If people were up in arms about The Crucible being produced in the 1950s, it stands to reason that they would not have been supportive of a musical about or in support of Civil Rights.  In the end, the musical genre did not represent the topic of Civil Rights because it was theoretically and practically impossible to do at the time.

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