Abstract

Critics continue to debate the value of U.S. black music according to a flawed distinction between racial authenticity and social construction. Both sides have it half-right. Black music's value arose historically as the result of a fundamental contradiction in the logic of race tracing back to the slave era. As “Negro” in form, the music was constituted as the collective property of another property, a property-in-slaves. The incongruity produced a perception of black music as an auditory form embodied with fleshly substance, and this sense of racial feeling would live on despite its inconsistencies with modern ideas about race.

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