Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Dr. Naomi Zack
"First you are a jazz musician, then you are black, then you are a female. I mean it goes down the line like that. We're like the bottom of the heap." - Melba Liston (pg 2) The historiography of jazz has consciously and unconsciously excluded women. This exclusion is exacerbated when one examines the intersection of race and jazz for black women. This essay argues that due to overwhelming societal expectations, gendered language, and physical threats of sexual assault and violence, black women had to create alternatives spheres of affirmation and musical expression because jazz culture stymied their access to musical knowledge. Furthermore, the stereotypes associated with black women, such as their inability to work together intelligently, or to have relationships with black men outside of a romantic context, hinders our collective remembrance of women in jazz and systemically excludes them from the historical narrative. These issues are examined using the experiences and musical career of twentieth-century black woman arranger, composer and trombone player, Melba Liston as a lens.
Smith, Victoria E., "Listen to Liston: Examining the Systemic Erasure of Black Women in the Historiography of Jazz" (2020). CUNY Academic Works.