Mlk, Jr.: Ambiguous and Contested Icon



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Stein, Daniel

Bebop’s Politics of Style and the Changing Iconicity of the Black Jazzman

Jazz has been at the forefront of public attention in America since its very conception. First rejected as the ragtag noise-making of scandalous savages, then celebrated as a commercially viable dance music, and later regarded as the often politically and socially motivated self-expression of self-conscious African-American artists: The music and the cultures that surround and suffuse it have created an extensive iconography with the black male soloist at the center. The present essay examines the changing iconicity of the jazz musician by tracing its workings in a variety of contexts. Special attention will be given to the bebop era (circa 1940-1955) with its dominant investment with the politics of style and representation. Drawing on a number of sources (interviews, autobiographies, jazz magazines, book-length studies, the mainstream press), the essay investigates how the image of the bebopper has come into being, how the icon has served as the battlefield of clashing ideologies and understandings of jazz as culture and music, and how the image of the revolutionary, beret-wearing and drug-using musical innovator has been employed by critics, novelists, and scholars alike in their definitions of what exactly jazz and its players can tell us about American culture.

Significantly, current divisions in the budding field of jazz studies offer greatly differing conceptions of the iconicity of the black jazz player. In fact, writers and commentators such as Albert Murray, Stanley Crouch, and Wynton Marsalis whole-heartedly and proudly embrace Durkheim’s and Parson’s notion of icons as symbols of their nation’s shared democratic values and history, albeit not without neglecting a large number of musicians, styles, and ideas that do not fit their agenda. As the far less reductive and ideologically invested work of Ronald Radano, Krin Gabbard, John Gennari, Scott DeVeaux, and Brent Hayes Edwards demonstrates, jazz music and its practitioners need to be situated among and within the many discourses and pressures (gender, race, class, marketplace) that have influenced, and continue to influence, the status of jazz as both art and economic commodity.

Stein, Lisa K.


The Magical Mystery Tour of America's European Icon: Chaplin's Little Tramp, Isolationism and the Age of Free Love

This paper will examine the rise, fall, and rise of Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp persona, a sort of "magical mystery tour" of a controversial icon of the disenfranchised and misbegotten in America in the 20th century. Thomas Burke, an author and early Chaplin critic, noted the iconic nature of the Little Tramp character, "Charlie" in his book City of Encounters, "Charlie was born fully grown, and is as static, and correctly static, as the figure of John Bull or Uncle Sam. We know nothing of his past or future, nor want to know. We realize that he has none. He lives all his life in the fixed and eternal present of the day of his birth" (144).


Often labeled "everyman" or the common man or the man of the people, the Little Tramp, a blatantly European character of the Victorian period, was adopted by American audiences as one of the first and longest lasting filmic icons. Chaplin reached the height of his fame in 1915, only a year after creating the Little Tramp character at Keystone Studios in Glendale, California and was able to sustain his success until the early days of World War II, a time in American history marked by a staunch isolationism with regards to foreign affairs. With the disappearance of the Little Tramp from the screen in The Great Dictator in 1940, Chaplin and his legacy fell into disfavor--a situation that resulted in his departure from the US in 1952. Because the Little Tramp had been cast out by "the man," the counter-culture of the late 1950s through 1970s resurrected the icon for their own uses and he became, once again, the herald-bearer of everything and everyone anarchic and anti-establishment in American culture and art.

Tate, William




Black madonnas. Readings on the heroic servant


black madonnas

Let me put it this way: Have you ever gone to a cocktail party where everybody seemed to know everybody else and as you stood at the door and looked around you realized that you did not know a soul? Everybody there regarded you as an intruder----- some as something that the cat had brought in.

We feel like that guest, only more so, for we have not even been invited to the party.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

University of Cape Town

February 1983
This paper is a set of readings, findings, unearthings, and radical discoveries.
In the year 1999-2000, I participated in the architectural competition for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. The project took me into deep researches of the American civil rights history, American slave history, and apartheid in South Africa. The project generated elements specific, symbolic, and mythological. The project work begs one to confront issues of race, justice, freedom, and peace. As we live it.

I found that I was working within a crucible of uncertainty, damnation, and courage.

Good for a royal flush. That is our time.

Our entry did not win, which only means that Washington is not the immediate place for it to be built. For the ideas had merit, too strong to let lie. I have thus taken them into the deep South. Into the places of origin of the deep researches. Alabama. Birmingham. Selma. Johannesburg. Soweto. In these places I have encountered three men who are historic figures in these stories of marches and opression. And they still are involved. Now they are working on me, as an architect, as an American, as a believer. They call me to task. It is a state of subterfuge.


The three men are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. F.D. Reese, and Jonathan Daniels.
Archbishop Tutu needs no introduction. He is currently teaching at Emory University and living in the United States. Dr. Reese is a teacher and Baptist minister who was one of the principal leaders in the Voting Rights march from Selma to Montgomery. He was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. Jonathan Daniels was a martyred civil rights worker, whose death is commemorated annually in the Blackbelt of Alabama. He death and sacrifice still resonate for the people of that region.

The deep research has now gone beyond:

on Monday, 17 February 2003, I met Dr. F. D. Reese in person.

on Wednesday, 21 May 2003, I met Archbishop Tutu in person.

on Saturday, 23 August 2003, I will attend a memorial service for Jonathan Daniels in the Blackbelt of Alabama with his people.
The values I have found are those of integrity, risk, tenacity-beyond-hope, and radical vision. And each of these is based upon a definite spiritual perspective.
I propose to bring the experience, the meetings, and the questions to Graz. The paper will be a weaving of oral history, liberation theology, architecture, and stories of reconciliation. It will be about looking fear straight in the eye and saying No. That we may learn better how to serve, and how to overcome. How to endure, how to carry on, how to follow through, how to change.
The lessons here are profound; they anticipate the needs of our time. We are laden with lack, these three men are laden with fullness. As was the Madonna. Blessed art thou.
Oh that we may learn. That we may learn.
Cut out the cock-and-bull story about how you are going to change the system from within.

Be more honest and say you are in it for what you can get.

Freedom is certain and they are delaying the day of liberation when South Africa will be truly free.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

University of Cape Town

February 1983



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