Lift Every Voice: The History of African American Music by Burton W. Peretti

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Lift Every Voice: The History of African American Music
by Burton W. Peretti
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (rowman.com) Cloth $58; Paper or Digital $32

While Ragged but Right relives the dusty days of tented minstrelsy, Lift Every Voice examines the music of the same time period from an academic point of view.

Like many modern Americans, Burton Peretti sees minstrelsy as a racist abomination, and he takes a particularly dim view of coon songs. He prefers to point to spirituals, ragtime piano pieces, and classically trained vocal groups as the zenith of African American culture prior to and during the early years of jazz.

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Peretti, a professor of history at Western Connecticut State University, is also the author of Jazz in American Culture (1998).

He well documents the rise of jazz in New Orleans and other cities, but his dry, sometimes condescending tone betrays a distaste for the genre’s less savory sources. Nevertheless, Peretti’s scholarly approach makes Lift Every Voice an engaging complement to Abbott’s and Seroff’s treasure trove of enlightening gems from the Negro press.

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