Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power by Bryan Wagner

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By Bryan Wagner

W. C. convenient waking as much as the blues on a teach platform, blood brother Bolden eavesdropping at the drums at Congo sq., John Lomax taking his phonograph recorder right into a southern penitentiary—some foundational myths of the black vernacular stay inescapable, at the same time they arrive below expanding strain from skeptics. In stressful the Peace, Bryan Wagner revises the background of the black vernacular culture and provides a brand new account of black tradition by means of examining those myths within the context of the tradition’s ongoing engagement with the legislation. Returning to a few general examples (trickster stories, outlaw legends, blues lyrics) important to prior reviews of the black vernacular expression, Wagner makes use of an analytic framework he has constructed from the ancient language of the legislation to provide new and superb analyses. Wagner’s paintings attracts either on his deep realizing of background and on a wealth of basic resources that variety from novels to cartoons to renowned ballads and early blues songs to newspapers and courtroom studies. via his leading edge engagement with them, Wagner supplies us a brand new and deeper knowing of black cultural expression, revealing its foundation within the relational workings of African american citizens within the social global.

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Extra resources for Disturbing the Peace: Black Culture and the Police Power after Slavery

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When Hurston produces her pathbreaking ethnography on the juke joint, or collects blues by migrant fruit-pickers during her fieldwork with Alan Lomax, she is guided by principles that are generally shared by folklorists at the time. When Gellert classifies his informants as vagrants who fall as “easily as small change” into the pockets of the police, he means something different from what Will Thomas means when he says the worst employees make the best songsters. Gellert means something different, but he has the same person in mind.

He emerges as if from a dream, a phrase that never leaves the vagrant’s reality in doubt even as it strips the background that would bring him into focus. As the meeting is accidental, it involves no criteria for selection, no 27 D I S T U R B I N G T H E P E A C E preconceptions, and no intercession of categories. In the present moment, the songster is unaccountable, like his music. The scene is supposed to stand as an example of pure induction—at least that is how it is performed in retrospect.

28 By paying attention to the details of this history, we can begin to grasp the resistance that conditions black expression. Importantly, we can also come to appreciate that the unavoidable fact of this resistance does not mean that black expression is impossible, unknowable, or unrecoverable. 20 I N T R O D U C T I O N Primo Levi’s proviso that the drowned, or those lost to history, are the only complete witnesses may be incontrovertible in the abstract, but it cannot comprehend the movement that has kept the black tradition going since its inception.

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