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Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa by Ingrid Monson

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While it is difficult at times to completely follow Harvard University professor Ingrid Monson’s every shifting thesis in Freedom Sounds: Civil Rights Call Out to Jazz and Africa, this is a very enjoyable read. It is, I assume, intentional that the book feels improvisational, and free like the jazz she discusses. The book, more accurately, is like gumbo because it combines many historical, cultural, and political strains to make a point about the black experience, political struggle, and black cultural expression in the modern era. Monson simply follows jazz through time, mainly through the time when black people in America sought their freedom and equality.

Freedom Sounds begins with the famous story of Louis Armstrong basically denouncing President Eisenhower for his failure to protect the black students integrating the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas and this is a fine example of everything Monson wants to do. Armstrong, criticized often during his career for being uninterested in the black struggle for equality and for low level accommodating posture, got it right in the heat of the moment that time.

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