As brilliant, controversial and even anti-semitic as Baraka Sr. could be his insights on American culture and his understanding of African American philosophy and music was and is groundbreaking. I met him through saxophonist David Murray who I was managing for a short while during the early 1980s. I spent many an evening at the bar of the long defunct jazz club, Sweet Basil's with Amiri and his wife Amina discussing music politics and America. I particularly like this section from your article Eugene Holley Jr."...Blues People argues that in their art, Louis Armstrong, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and countless other black bards confronted the forces of racism, poverty and Jim Crow. This gave birth to work songs, blues, gospel, New Orleans jazz, its Chicago and Kansas City swing extensions, the bebop revolution (which in turn spawned the so-called cool and hard bop schools), and the then-emerging avant-garde of the late '50s and early '60s, characterized by the forward-thinking artistry of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor. For Baraka, jazz is "the most cosmopolitan of any Negro music, able to utilize almost any foreign influence within its broader spectrum" — a cultural achievement Baraka says was downplayed and ignored by Eurocentric whites.
"They have to do that to make themselves superior in some kind of way: that everything has come from Europe, which is not true," Baraka says. "And if you study, you'll see [the Africanisms] even in the way Americans talk; it's quite unlike English [from Great Britain]. And certainly the music has been one abiding register of Afro-American influence."
Baraka wrote that Blues People was a "theoretical endeavor" that "proposes more questions than it will answer" about how descendants of enslaved Africans created a new American musical genre and turned "Negroes" into "African Americans" in the process. That message still resonates deeply with many scholars, including Ingrid Monson, a professor of African-American music at Harvard University and author of Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa...". This is the essence of White Supremacy. "... Monson wrote in Blues People: Amiri Baraka As a Social Theorist, a speech she delivered in 2004, "to remind my students that cultural studies and critical race theory didn't begin in the academy, but in 20th-century African-American thought and intellectual practice from DuBois to Garvey, Locke, Ellington, Ellison and Baraka..."
Black History Meets Black Music: 'Blues People' At 50 : A Blog Supreme : NPR
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