Encounters with Eighteenth-Century Music – 19 November, 2021 “Hearing Outside the Lines: Black Music in Eighteenth-Century Virginia”

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Emily H. Green, George Mason University, and Bonnie Gordon, University of Virginia

In 1792 slaveholders in Virginia tried to silence news of uprisings in what is now Haiti. A year later slaveholder John Randolph heard whispers of enslaved people outside his Richmond window and felt the tremors of revolution. By 1800 governing bodies in slave societies across the Global South tried to shut down communication between colonies. The archive paints a clear picture of John Randolph himself and a detailed sketch of his and others’ mechanisms of control. Predictably it leaves few traces of those who whispered outside Randolph’s window, what they whispered and how they whispered.

Only a handful of sources from before the civil war preserve written transcriptions of music played by Black Americans; many accounts written by both White and Black observers are vague, highly mediated, and rooted in White supremacy. This presentation introduces a collaborative project based at three public institutions in the state of Virginia that joins others engaged in amplifying the Black music of early America through teaching, performance, and research. 

The free Zoom meeting will be held Friday, November 19, 2021, 12:00-1:30pm EDT. Registration is required.

For more details, visit encounters.secm.org/events/hearing-outside-the-lines

For more on the entire series, visit Encounters with Eighteenth-Century Music: A Virtual Forum.