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Vindicating karma: Jazz and the Black Arts movement

W. S Tkweme, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation examines certain dimensions of jazz rhetoric, performance, and organizational activity that occurred during the period of the Black Arts movement, the thrust of which corresponded to the larger goals and modes of expression of that phenomenon. The first chapter interrogates definitions of the Black Arts movement, and contextualizes the emergence of black consciousness themes arising in jazz in the 1960s and 1970s by considering the history of racial appeals and identity assertions in the music prior to this period. The second chapter documents the musical activities of the Black Arts era, identifying major tropes and analyzing and historicizing specific modes of carrying this Afrocentric message. The third chapter examines the rise of a generation of African American jazz critics, who sought to define the meaning of the music, and its relationship to black communities and the social and political movements engendering fundamental changes in the perception and practice of race in America. The fourth chapter engages the theme of African American community sponsorship of jazz. The relationship of jazz, and especially experimental jazz, to black communities has been considered largely a nil one. Focusing on the Black Experience in Sound concert series of The East, this chapter challenges the notion and presents evidence that many African Americans were quite invested in the music and its use as a nation-building tool. The conclusion briefly addresses organizational manifestations of self-determination in jazz, and makes an argument for a more expansive view of the Black Arts movement in assessing its achievements and lasting masterworks.

Subject Area

African Americans|Black history|Music

Recommended Citation

Tkweme, W. S, "Vindicating karma: Jazz and the Black Arts movement" (2007). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3275741.