How popular music reveals deep histories of racial tensions in southern culture
“In this robust, clear, and pathbreaking volume, Bertrand skillfully weaves his study of history, pop culture, regionalism, race, and politics.”—Randall J. Stephens, author of The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ’n’ Roll
“An incredibly unique and engaging book. Bertrand deftly shows how popular music has consistently been used to give voice to both Black and white southerners as they navigated the intricacies of racial politics in a rapidly changing industrial South. A beautifully written necessity for all scholars and students who focus on popular music, civil rights struggles, and southern culture.”—Beth Fowler, author of Rock and Roll, Desegregation Movements, and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era: An “Integrated Effort”
Southern History Remixed spotlights the key role of popular music in the shaping of the United States South from the late nineteenth century to the era of rock ’n’ roll in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. While musical activities are often sidelined in historical narratives of the region, Michael Bertrand shows that they can reveal much about social history and culture change as he connects the rise of rock ’n’ roll to the civil rights movement for racial equality.
In this book, Bertrand traces a long-term culture war in which white southerners struggled over the region’s cultural complexion with music serving as an engine that both sustained and challenged white supremacy. He shows how rock ’n’ roll emerged as a working-class genre with biracial sources that stoked white racial anxieties and engaged the region’s color and culture lines. This book discusses the conflict over southern identity that played out in responses to jazz, barn dance radio, Pentecostal and gospel music, Black radio programming, and rhythm and blues, concluding with a close look at the popularity of Elvis Presley within a racially segregated society.
Southern History Remixed suggests that both Black and white southerners have used music as a tool to resist or negotiate a rigid regional hierarchy. Urging readers and scholars to take the study of popular music seriously, Bertrand argues that what occurs in the music world affects and reflects what happens in politics and history.
Michael T. Bertrand, professor of history at Tennessee State University, is the author of Race, Rock, and Elvis.
A volume in the series Southern Dissent, edited by Stanley Harrold and Randall M. Miller
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