In lost on Africans, the unfamiliarity of the

In chapter one, Jones argues that
slavery was not a new concept to the Africans that were brought to the United
States as slaves. He argues that many tribes in sub-Saharan Africa often used
slaves for labor to further the efforts of their own tribes much like the
whites did in America. I identified with Jones’ words because as an African
coming from a smaller tribe in Ghana, where the Akan are the dominant group, I
have herd many accounts from my grandfather of how Akan warriors would battle
smaller tribes, like mine – the Ewe. If the Akan won the battle, they would
collect and capture people from thd other tribe to use as laborers or slaves to
help develop and harvest the large amount of forest land they occupied. I would
argue however, that those slaves were not treated as inhumanely as the slaves
in the U.S. were, as many slaves or laborers married and assimilated into the
Akan tribe. Jones’ thesis in chapter one states that as the concept of slavery
was not lost on Africans, the unfamiliarity of the United States caused a lot
of the suffering American slaves faced. In America, they were unfamiliar with
the terrain, climate, language, and difference in skin color which made them
easily distinguishable from their European counterparts and introduced a belief
system of white supremacy as the construction of race began.

Chapter two examines the concept of
black people simply as property. It details the transformation process that
turned Africans to African Americans. Drawing a comparison between African
Americans and ethnic groups like the Irish and Italian, Jones contrasts that
the Irish and their Italian counterparts came to the United States on their own
accord. Like I mentioned previously, they came armed with their culture through
things like their names, their music, and their traditional foods. Africans
rather, were forced to assimilate to American culture and abandon their roots. However,
they were able to maintain spiritual, religious, and artistic values from
Africa. Most pertinent to his book being the music traditions that survived to
influence many other music genres. Jones’ emphasis in much of chapter two was
on assimilation – the process by which many Africans lost their cultural
identities but however, built their own unique one. Chapter three, centers
around the birth of African American music as its own entity, as he laid an
explanation behind the its departure from classical African traditions by way
of Assimilation. Emphasizing his overarching theme of the unique African
American identity that blues music was founded upon.

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Chapters four, five, and six, delves
into African American existence in the United States within historical context.
Chapter four specifically addresses the introduction of Christianity into the
African American musical tradition, forced to give up the spiritual practices
of their African tribes as a byproduct of assimilation, and their white masters
seeing Christianity as a way to justify their inhumane slave practices, they
turned African Americans to the religion. In Christianity, African Americans
could find peace and solace regardless of the harsh realities they faced at the
hands of slavery. This translated to the uplifting music sung while performing
hard labor. Chapter five addresses the transitional years slaves faced after slavery;
Reconstruction. Sharecropping, Jim Crow segregation, and hate groups like the
KKK emerged to take the place of slavery, they created a new host of problems,
yet the African American music tradition never faltered. However, the host of
problems blacks faced during reconstruction introduced the notable blues music
we know today. Chapter six, further explains the development of blues and jazz
music and its distinction from slave music, as blacks had more freedom to
experiment with instruments and create new sounds because they no longer had to
depend solely on vocal range.

The black narrative defines much of
blues music and its descendants. To identify the narrative of blues music, you
must examine black existence. Chapter seven, eight, and nine are a testament to
this. Chapter seven explains how great classical blues artists forced white
Americans to pay attention to the African African narrative they had easily
ignored for so long. Blues music’s wild popularity in America changed the lives
of many African American’s as it became recognized into American popular
culture. Chapter eight details black migration and its assistance in spreading
the popularity of blues and jazz music to the north. As Ford Motor company
employed African Americans due to their large expansive nature, more African
Americans moved to the north, taking the music they had worked to hard to
cultivate with them. The simple music once played on work fields, became the
centerpiece performance in swanky New York bars and lounges accompanied by even
swankier looking instruments. Chapter nine, touches on the success of blacks
which lead to the establishment of a middle class, causing black music to
change. This time African Americans were not forced to assimilate, they did it
for their own advancement. This embodies jones’ insistence of the black
narrative accompanying the black music. It has evolved overtime, yet still
manages to be a reflection of the very group that cultivated it.

Finally, chapters ten, eleven, and
twelve represent the later stages of black development. A raising black middle
class meant that social class was established within the black community. The
“new negro’s” invention and his aspiration to compare to whites, left those in
the lower class to be alienated thus creating a division in jazz music. Louis
Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke are examples of this, as one – a white man, was
considered to perform white jazz music, while the latter reflected the
traditional essence of jazz music. Chapter eleven emphasizes the formation of
larger modern blues jazz bands to replace the more traditional blues, as jazz
music could be commercialized, which lead to swing music. The final chapter,
entitled “the modern scene”, discusses the adoption of jazz music as an
“American” genre of music relating to a much broader audience with large
commercial success. Yet regardless of its ability to cross over, connecting
back to Blues People’s central “for
us, by us” theme, the African American narrative provides the back group for
jazz, blues, spirituals, and their predecessors and can’t be removed from its
newly emerged “American” recognition.

Blues People
is void of major break troughs. It leaves many open ended questions to be
debated today. It rather serves as a catalyst for black thought in regards to
traditional music. Its futuristic outlook still makes it a relevant book to
discuss black history’s past, past present, and future fifty-five years after
it was first published. Its emphasis on assimilation’s effect on blues and jazz
music was eye opening. The forced assimilation African Americans faced,
contrasted to their voluntary assimilation to white American culture once they
began to enter the middle class was unexpected to me. Prior, I had assumed
black tradition music had always been cradled in African American culture, as
it was cultivated out of struggle, but seeing many the changes it underwent instils
a great respect in me, as I see how strong of a tradition had been developed
because it has changed along with the history of blacks, which I believe is Jones’
message.