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From Bebop to Hip Hop: African-Americans and Popular Culture Since 1945

Mary Kelley
University of Michigan
Before 2005

Through an examination of popular music, dance, language, dress and hair styles, film and television, we will critically reassess the relationship between Black politics and cultural forms emerging from within African-American communities, the commodification of those forms, and the representation of the African-American image in the mass media. Our primary goal is to explore the extent to which African-American cultural practice – particularly youth subcultures – are oppositional. Beginning with postwar jazz and its accompanying “hipster” subculture, we will explore, among other things, the African-American origins of rock and roll, the meaning of Black culture for a new generation of emergent white artists, the development of blaxploitation films, the shifting ideological meanings of hair and dress styles, the history of Soul, disco, and hip hop music in relation to contemporary social and political transformations, and the broader impact that Black working-class creativity has had on mass-mediated popular culture in the U.S.

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