A Sound History: Lawrence Gellert, Black Musical Protest, and White Denial (American Popular Music) (Hardcover)

A Sound History: Lawrence Gellert, Black Musical Protest, and White Denial (American Popular Music) By Steven P. Garabedian Cover Image
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Lawrence Gellert has long been a mysterious figure in American folk and blues studies, gaining prominence in the left-wing folk revival of the 1930s for his fieldwork in the U.S. South. A "lean, straggly-haired New Yorker," as Time magazine called him, Gellert was an independent music collector, without formal training, credentials, or affiliation. At a time of institutionalized suppression, he worked to introduce white audiences to a tradition of black musical protest that had been denied and overlooked by prior white collectors.

By the folk and blues revival of the 1960s, however, when his work would again seem apt in the context of the civil rights movement, Gellert and his collection of Negro Songs of Protest were a conspicuous absence. A few leading figures in the revival defamed Gellert as a fraud, dismissing his archive of black vernacular protest as a fabrication—an example of left-wing propaganda and white interference. A Sound History is the story of an individual life, an excavation of African American musical resistance and dominant white historiography, and a cultural history of radical possibility and reversal in the defining middle decades of the U.S. twentieth century.

About the Author

STEVEN P. GARABEDIAN is assistant professor of history at Marist College.

Praise For…

"With this book, Garabedian enriches our understanding of the methods, outlook, and interpretive framework of folklorists of the early twentieth century, and his assessment of the politics and culture of the 1930s is first-rate."—Stephen Petrus, coauthor of Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival

"Gellert's work has not received the recognition or appreciation it deserves. In his well-researched book, Garabedian does a very good job of highlighting the significance of Gellert's song collecting."—Robbie Lieberman, author of "My Song Is My Weapon": People's Songs, American Communism, and the Politics of Culture, 1930–50
Product Details
ISBN: 9781625345295
ISBN-10: 1625345291
Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
Publication Date: October 30th, 2020
Pages: 240
Language: English
Series: American Popular Music