Week 8: Great! Another white guy explaining black culture!

For my digital scavenger hunt, I wanted to search more into the terms “white people, black people, country music.” When I used Ngram, country music had no correlation to either white or black people but, when I switched country music to folk music, black people and folk music crossed paths around 1933 and again in 1964.  I found it interesting that white people and folk music never intersected. I even swapped white people for Caucasian yet, nothing changed. I think the reason for the crossing paths in 1933 was because the 1930s was when “race records” started to begin. Black people, like Muddy Waters and Sons Sims, started to sing and perform songs that were mostly folk because black people “looked” the part.

For finding an early article, I switched black people for negro because that term was more commonly used. The earliest article I could find in the Chronicling America that made sense was from the New-York Tribune on December 17, 1893. The author explains a lecture given by a man named H.E. Krehbiel, who explains that black people did have a part in the creation of the folk song but, only because folk music required a “genuine naïve disposition,” which black people apparently had. I did some research on Krehbiel and he was a musical critic and had a vast amount of musical knowledge. He even wrote a book, Afro-American folksongs: a study in racial and national music. Great, another white guy explaining black culture. Fortunately, through Google books, I found that his book is fully available on archive.org so, I got to skim some pages. He basically is saying that black people are too incompetent to create their own music and can only imitate or copy. He tries to give black people “credit” but, makes sure he demeans them right after.

A year later another article was written by the Democratic Press from Ohio in 1894. The writer says that negroes had their own type of music and were “merely imitations of Scotch and Irish folk songs and folk dances…” I’m pretty sure folk music from Europe was completely different than folk music in the United States. The author ironically continues to write “… brought over by immigrants of those nations, who were so widely scattered through and became so valuable an addition to the population of the American colonies.” Really? So… white European immigrants are valuable but, any other race isn’t? That makes sense (sarcasm).

I tried to use ProQuest but, its vast amount of information overwhelmed me. I couldn’t find anything that really stood out to me. Maybe it’s because my capacity for researching is at its maximum. However, this research quest left me with more questions than I started with. When did the shift from the term folk turn into country? When did country music become a white thing? Probably because when black people were doing it, the music became a success and white people didn’t want any credit going to the black people so, they stole it, just like everything else. Harsh thought but, very rational.

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