Steve Waksman

Steve Waksman is Associate Professor of Music and American Studies at Smith College. He is the author of This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk (winner of the 2010 Woody Guthrie Award given by IASPM-US) and Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience. Currently he is researching a cultural history of “live music” in the U.S. and co-editing the Sage Handbook of Popular Music.



"On the World Stage: The Fisk Jubilee Singers and the World's Peace Jubilee "

The Fisk Jubilee Singers have been celebrated by Paul Gilroy and others for having opened black musical culture to global channels of circulation and production. Before they entered the world stage proper, though, the Fisk Singers foreshadowed the international dimensions of their impact with their appearance at the World’s Peace Jubilee, an enormous festival organized by bandleader Patrick Gilmore and held in Boston in the summer of 1872 that was one of the most grandiose musical events of the nineteenth century. Ostensibly designed to commemorate the ending of hostilities in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, Gilmore’s World’s Peace Jubilee was the sequel to his National Peace Jubilee of three years earlier, and was structured by two ruling tensions: between militarism and pacifism, on one hand, and between American patriotism and Eurocentric internationalism on the other.

Eileen Southern treated the appearance of the Jubilee Singers at Gilmore’s Jubilee as a milestone in African American music history, observing that “for the first time black singers were included in a big musical production in the United States.” Yet the fact that the Singers made their first appearance at the event on a day designated “Russian Day” suggests that the terms of their inclusion were far from straightforward. Rather, over the course of three separate appearances on three days of the festival, the Jubilee Singers enacted their position as simultaneous insiders and outsiders to the terms of American nationalism as they stood in the Reconstruction era, giving public shape to the ambivalence that W.E.B. DuBois would later describe as double consciousness (using the Fisk Singers as one of his models).

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23

9:00am EDT