With a Banjo on My Knee: A Musical Journey from Slavery to Freedom (Single Title: Social Studies)

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9780531117477: With a Banjo on My Knee: A Musical Journey from Slavery to Freedom (Single Title: Social Studies)
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Traces the evolution of the banjo within the African-American community from slavery through emancipation, minstrelsy, segregation, and civil rights, and includes portraits of performers.

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From School Library Journal:

Gr 7 Up-Ellis celebrates the banjo as an instrument that initially defined African-American music. However, that association led to its use in minstrel shows, in which white performers appeared in blackface. Consequently, the instrument became maligned in the African-American community as a symbol of racism. The author points out that black people did perform in the shows, too, but also highlights the dangers they faced because of segregation. He speaks frankly about lynchings, and makes clear how the topic of African-American music and the banjo has to be understood from a social perspective in which violence against African Americans was commonplace. The second half of the book is devoted to performers who made the banjo their own. They are not widely known, and their stories are enlightening. There are numerous black-and-white historical photos and illustrations; some stereotyped portrayals of African Americans are included within the context of the discussion of minstrelsy. While Ellis is clearly passionate about his subject, and has done an enormous amount of research, the book's narrow focus and scholarly tone may limit interest. A book for libraries needing to expand music collections.

Tim Wadham, Maricopa County Library District, Phoenix, AZ

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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