Lecture: Susan Hellauer with Clifton Boyd

Sunday, April 11, 2021, 4 p.m. ET
Online Event

Jim Crow and Zip Coon: Racial Stereotypes in American Popular Music

More than a century of musical entertainment rooted in blackface performance and the minstrel show created deep and destructive stereotypes about African Americans that persist to this day. Susan Hellauer and Clifton Boyd trace the development of these racist themes through American popular music from the first blackface hit, Jump Jim Crow of 1828, to the culture-quaking musical protests of Billie Holiday and Marian Anderson in 1939.

Estimated run time: 30 minutes, followed by a Q&A.


Susan Hellauer

Susan Hellauer is a native of the beautiful Bronx, New York, where she honed her stoopball and stickball skills. While earning a B.A. in music as a trumpet player from Queens College (City University of New York), an increasing fascination with medieval and renaissance vocal music led her to convert to singing, and to pursue advanced degrees in musicology from Queens College and Columbia University. Susan is a founding member of the vocal quartet, Anonymous 4. She is an adjunct Assistant Professor of Music at Queens College, CUNY, where she teaches courses in music history, including American Popular Music, as well as courses in writing. She has taught plainchant at Yale University, managed and coached teams for Nyack-Valley Cottage Little League, and is proud to be a volunteer with the Nyack Community Ambulance Corps. Susan has been a member of the Music Before 1800 Board of Directors since 2019.

Clifton Boyd

Clifton Boyd (he/him) is a music theorist and scholar-activist based in New York City. His research lies at the intersection of identity (particularly race and gender), politics, and social justice in American popular music. He is currently a PhD candidate in music theory at Yale University. His dissertation, “The Role of Vernacular Music Theory in the American Barbershop Community,” uses the Barbershop Harmony Society as a case study to examine how institutions instrumentalize music theory to uphold discriminatory sociopolitical values within their communities. His work has been supported by fellowships and awards from the American Musicological Society, Society for American Music, and the Music Library Association. His publications are forthcoming in Music Theory and Analysis, Theory and Practice, and the Oxford Handbook for Public Music Theory. He is also the founder of Project Spectrum, a graduate student-led coalition committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in music academia.

Lecture Recording on Demand

Disclaimer and warning: this presentation contains images and words considered offensive and unacceptable today. They are used here strictly in the interest of historical accuracy.

Free Event

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