At the end of the semester you will turn in an essay for this class. It is 20% of your
For Writing Assignment #2, you will be writing an Essay Proposal. The description for
the proposal is below, as is the description of the essay requirements.
Writing Assignment #2
Your first task for the essay you will be writing for this class is to compose a single
paragraph describing what musical work you wish to focus on. This paragraph should
provide the following details:
• Title of the musical work
• Specific recording or performance details (dates, location, recording info, etc.)
• Names of key people or groups of people who will figure into your essay
• Your current historical perspective and thoughts on the subject
This writing assignment is to be submitted to the course website in PDF form on or
before the due date.
General Essay Information
Your final paper will be graded according to the following criteria:
Students will compose an analytical essay placing a significant work (i.e., a recording or
performance of Black American Music), or set of works, in historical context, including a
discussion of aesthetic, social, cultural, economic, and political dimensions. The paper
should consider both synchronic and diachronic historical perspectives, situating the
recording/performance in its particular historical moment as well as showing how it
speaks to time-spanning trends of tradition, innovation, influence. Connecting specific
musical features to historical forces, your essay will examine the ways that artists’
aesthetic choices can be understood in historical context.
Each paper should aim to contribute to our discussion of the course’s core concerns
and themes, including but not limited to: the maintenance and transformation of African
core conceptual / aesthetic priorities and values, the impact of the “color line” on
American music (and vice versa), the strategic embrace or militant refusal of wearing
the the “mask” of minstrelsy, the jook continuum, sacred and secular interplay, migration
and regionalism, Afro-modernism and Black Arts movements, “racial uplift” and
assimilationist efforts, interracial exchanges and coalitions, appropriation and
exploitation, integrationist and anti- racist movements, black nationalism and selfdetermination, the long struggle for Civil Rights and economic justice.
Final essays will be 1,500 words in length, typed, and double-spaced. Include a Works
Cited list without annotations. It is expected that you should have more citations than in
your preliminary bibliography. Use the format of MLA, APA, or Chicago; I tend to use
Chicago/Turabian (see: Kate Turabian’s book “A Manual for Writers”), or look at the
Purdue University OWL writing help website for help.
Final draft of your essay, turned in on the course website in PDF form, no doc formats,
Your final draft will be graded upon (1) formal coherence and writing style; (2) upon
general understanding and application of African diasporic musical and cultural history
to the topic at hand; (3) upon the depth and appropriateness of musical analysis and
explication of key musical performances/works; and finally, (4) upon the essays ability to
provide a combination of well informed insight and historical context.
Other writing assignments will help in your preparation of this essay:
o Writing Assignment #3: Preliminary bibliography
o Writing Assignment #4: Musical examples and theoretical framework.
o Writing assignment #5: Engaging critically with sources
o Writing assignment #6: Thesis statement refinement and essay outline.
As the syllabus states, the six writing assignments are each worth 5% of your course
grade, and 30% in total.