Doughty, Craig (2017) Constructing a history from fragments: jazz and voice in Boston, Massachusetts circa 1919 to 1929. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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Boston is a city steeped in history. Beyond the struggle for abolition, however, the historical experiences of the majority of black Bostonians, especially during the early twentieth-century, are lacking recognition. In this respect, the Jazz Age (represented here as circa 1919 – 1929) serves as a noteworthy case-in-point. For insofar as the impact of jazz music on social, political, and economic climates in cities such as New York, New Orleans, and even Kansas have been recorded, the music’s impact on and significance in Boston is yet to be addressed in any great detail. Simply put, the history of jazz in Boston, and with it an important period for black development in the city, exists in fragments such as discographies, newspaper listings, musical handbooks, potted witness accounts among others. Therefore, the principle aim of this thesis is to piece-together these fragments to form a mosaic history that reveals instances of black struggle, resistance, and progress during a period of heightened racial (Jim Crow segregation), political (the Red Scare), and economic tension. Essential to this process is not only the need to locate the voices of Boston’s black past, whether in text, testimony, sound and beyond, but also to create the conditions to hear them on their own terms. In order to achieve this, emphasis here is placed on tracing instances of voice, and as a by-product heritage, in musical form from the arrival of the first slaves to Boston in the first-half of the seventeenth century and analysing the ways in which these voices were perpetuated through methods of adaptation, appropriation, and evolution. This approach would ultimately assist in enriching the Jazz Age with a black art form that was not only unique but a distinct form of expression for a race lacking a significant voice in America at the time. In this respect, this thesis looks at the ways in which homegrown Boston musicians, such as Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney, and frequenting players, such as Duke Ellington, used jazz music as a way to oppose standard forms of white dominance, cultural elitism, and economic subjugation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: E History America > E151 United States (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Contributors: Cushing, Kate (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2017 11:14
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2020 11:51

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