Josh Friedberg
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“This Music Begins on the Auction Block”
Learning in the Twenty-First Century from James Baldwin on Music

One theme in James Baldwin’s work that has gained increasing attention in the last quarter-century is music. What has been missing from this discussion, however, has been a thematic survey of Baldwin’s writing on music and its implications for the twenty-first century. This article focuses on select music-centered texts to examine what Baldwin’s ideas about music reveal about history in our own times. Multiple themes in his writing show how racial slavery creates—in the present tense—differences in experiences and musical expression between people constructed as Black and as white. Baldwin’s writing illuminates the significance of racial slavery in American music history even beyond genres associated with Black Americans.

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