GC, copyright transferred 1911, sheet music, with racist illustration on front cover of black man with banjo. *+*Africans gave the banjo to America. For most of its life, this instrument has been identified with African Americans in our own playing and in the popular imagination. So it is no surprise that over the past two hundred years, images of the banjo have reflected American society's racism toward Black people. Many images of Black people associated with the banjo are grotesque and dehumanizing. Others are simply embarrassing. Some seek to make slavery or lynch-law segregation seem sentimental, happy days. Some deny the wisdom of Black freedom. Still others seek to justify the discrimination against and exploitation of African Americans. Yet, such images are part of the real history of the banjo, of African Americans, and of the USA. Omitting them from the record of the images of the banjo, omits not only this negative feature of American culture, but the struggle that African Americans and many others have waged to resist these images and the racism and discrimination that produced them. We note this feature not to excuse the evil in these images, but to make sure the sad story they tell will never be forgotten. (Tony Thomas * Black Banjo Then and Now & Association of Black Traditional String Players)*+*
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