Segregating Sound: Isolating folk, isolating songs

My favorite chapter in the book is the third chapter entitled “Isolating Folk, Isolating Songs”. This is probably due to this chapter being largely about the process of the movement that started much of what is discussed in the rest of the book, and my own love of learning about folk lore.

While watching the minstrel show videos and pictures in class, and from research I did on my own, I felt such a uneasy, disturbed, and utterly dumbfounded. I’m pretty sure that is similar to most people’s reaction, which is probably due to the diverse and integrated, and also more racially educated and accepting world we now live in.  Just seeing and reading about how popular minstrel shows were tells how comfortable people were with this cartoonish dehumanizing depiction of black people. Even worse and more confusing was seeing black people participate and in certain cases, like that of Billy McClain, who produced and directed their own minstrel shows. I am so stupified by all the pseudoscience of the day and how that factored into the “legitimization” of the minstrel show as some kind of vehicle of celebrating black culture, while also using the same african american folk traditions as the body of proof necessitating white cultural and racial superiority which would lead to the Jim Crow laws.  

The approach of studying southern and appalachian folk groups and culture was so contradictory.  These researchers and professors made up their rules, definitions, and theories about what folklore was outside of its actual practice and implementation of the “folk”.  They had in their mind a definition and specific picture of what they wanted and thought folk culture was, but in the course of research and meeting the “folk”, found that their theories did not follow suit.  Instead of restructuring their theories or making new more accurate ones, they omitted and overlooked aspects that did not fit into their own narrative they were trying to put forth with their research. It only makes sense to get a inaccurate fucked up thing like Jim Crow and other messed up beliefs about black southerners when the people dispatching their culture to the “civilized” world didn’t even get it right. They were trying to fit it into a frame with their own fragile, undeveloped, and preconceived notions and theories about race which were heavily influenced by popular culture.

Posted: March 6th, 2018
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