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The Sounds of Slavery: Discovering African American History through Songs, Sermons, and Speech Paperback – April 1, 2006
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" Shane White and Graham White's book is a joy."--Branford Marsalis
"A fascinating book . . . that brings to life the historical soundscape of 18th- and 19th-century African Americans at work, play, rest, and prayer . . . This remarkable achievement demands a place in every collection on African American and U.S. history and folklife. Highly recommended."--Library Journal
"The authors have undertaken the difficult task of bringing to contemporary readers the sounds of American slave culture . . . [giving] vibrancy and texture to a complex history that has been long neglected."--Booklist
"The book's strongest point is its attention to detail . . . [it] will not only be valuable to young scholars, but . . . to young performers and composers, especially with the explosion of interest in 'roots music,' looking for new sources of original and searing music."--Ran Blake, Christian Science Monitor
"A lyrical and original treatment of the musical and spoken culture of American slaves. This book is moving testimony to how scholarship can penetrate the transcendent spirit once considered exotic or unknowable, how historians can trace social survival to the human voice in slavery's heart of darkness."--David W. Blight, professor of history, Yale University, and author of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
"A seminal study of a neglected aspect of Southern and African-American culture . . . and the approach to the topic is both creative and resourceful. The book is highly recommended."--Michael Russert, The Multicultural Review
Top Customer Reviews
This book goes beyond the music created by enslaved Africans/African Americans (such as work songs and spirituals) to explore other forms of sound expression (including sermons, drumming, field hollers and storytelling) placed within a historical context to create a soundscape of African American slave life from the 1700's to the 1850's.
The written sources generally fall into two broad categories: the written observations of whites (letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles by travelers, missionaries, even slave owners themselves) and the testimony of former slaves collected by the WPA Federal Writer's Project during the 1930's.
With only three exceptions, the sound sources on the 18-track CD are field recordings by John, Ruby and/or Alan Lomax from the late 1930's. By that point, the sounds had been "tainted" by pop culture (many are the times I have tracked down one of my father's rural childhood favorites from the 1920's, only to discover that this "old folk song" his grandma sang was actually an 1890's parlor tune) but alas, this is as close as we're going to get to listening in on a time which preceded sound reproduction devices. And as there are few things more frustrating than trying to understand sound by reading about it, the CD alone would be worth the price of the book.Read more ›
This is a useful and practical book. As I type, I am in the home of a friend who is an accomplished jazz and blues singer who is working out a blues to sing at a memorial meeting for the songwriter who wrote it. Serious stuff. The ideas about the nature of African American expression in general, musical and vocal expression in particular, and even what we do when people pass here, animate both the ideas that come to me, to her, and her sister, and memories on how to do this both from musical sources and our grandparents. This is that kind of book.
The level of scholarship here is excellent. Everything is noted well, as such it provides an entryway to folks looking to get into serious sources on African American history, culture, and life. I like the fact that they refer to the 1930s WPA interviews with survivors of slavery as the "ex-slave" interviews instead of slave narratives as others do.Read more ›