This project seeks a better understanding on how blackness has been peripheral to our understanding of the term Southerner. The purpose of this work is to examine an area where the intersection of race and region exists to more fully understand how blacks in the South have presented their sense of Southern identity. The chosen area of examination is the music of rhythm and blues. Rhythm and blues as a genre rose to prominence in the years following World War II. The main reason for analyzing rhythm and blues as an intersecting point of race and region is that the music is both a reflection and celebration of the Southern black musical tradition. Along with the sound there is an aesthetic to rhythm and blues that is distinctly of the black South. Within the scope of this work, the examination of rhythm and blues was done by first understanding the genres of music it was built upon; as a way to show the continuity of the Southern black musical tradition. From there, this work chose to identify three prominent rhythm and blues artist (Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and Nina Simone) as a means to connect people, music, and region. The point in highlighting these artists is to demonstrate how aspects of black identity and Southern identity have intertwined through an institution like music. Through the prism of rhythm and blues there is evidence that Southern blacks did not see themselves absent of regional identity. In highlighting a point of intersection between blacks and the South that prioritizes their experience and sense of identity, this research represents a step in the importance of fully incorporating blacks into our understanding of the term Southerner.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Davis, Jennifer, "How Change Started to Come: Examining Rhythm and Blues and Southern Identity" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6472.