End the duopoly

12 Nights of Freedom: A Political Jazz Playlist

Louis_Armstrong // Public Domain, Library of Congress Alright, this summer has our attention. All this social turbulence—a kind our nation hasn’t witnessed in generations—has a long tradition behind it. Revisiting some of our nation’s most treasured protest songs can help remind us that this fight isn’t new.

This list is a soundtrack of freedom expressed through jazz—Afro-America’s great art form to the United States. They are protest songs. But their forms of protest range from the social to the uniquely personal.

With jazz, we encounter a peculiar and unique American story. The story is sort of a riddle, and it goes like this: how did a formerly enslaved, systematically persecuted group of people maintain their dignity in the face of such degradation and sorrow?

These artists responded to that question with their own grammar of defiance, decency, and even joy. Louis Armstrong, “ Black and Blue” (1929)

Armstrong didn’t write “Black and Blue,” but his version is its most iconic. The song’s power rests in its brilliant usages of racial double-entendres: I’m white inside but, that don’t help my case
‘Cause I can’t hide what is in my face… This type of wink and nod towards the racial politics of […]

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