Going Through the Storm

Going Through the Storm : The Influence of African American Art in History

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Upon his arrival in the North, Frederick Douglass found, to his utter astonishment, "persons who could speak of the singing among slaves as the evidence of their contentment and happiness." As late as 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois observed that African American spirituals had led naive whites to believe that "life was joyous to the black slave, careless and happy." While these misconceptions have largely disappeared, the history of African American culture--and its importance to American history as a whole--is still a subject little understood by the majority of Americans. In Going Through the Storm, Sterling Stuckey offers a compelling look at one of the world's richest cultural traditions. He traces the fertile legacy of African American art from its roots in tribal myth, through its blossoming in slave music and dance, to its fruition in the great gospel-singing movements of the 1960s. In the process he shows how this tradition, grounded as it was in adversity, represents one of the great triumphs of the human spirit: slaves and their descendants, by way of Negro spirituals, the blues, and jazz, transformed the pain of oppression into a transcendent and timeless beauty. And, as he explores these various styles, Stuckey reveals that the development of a distinctive African American aesthetic follows (and helps illuminate) the course of the nation's history. In a series of engaging, lucidly written essays, Going through the Storm covers the entire spectrum of African American culture, offering along the way many fresh and important insights. Within the context of slavery and slave music, Stuckey presents a new look at the foundations of black nationalism and the civil rights movement. In his eloquent reflections on Paul Robeson, he shows how black art offers a commentary on the human spirit so genuine and resonant that its appeal has reached across the boundaries of race to touch most of humanity. Writing of Herman Melville, he demonstrates how the great novelist was struck with the importance of African culture in history--and the reciprocal relationship of history to African culture--and carefully explored this theme in Benito Cereno. Frederick Douglass is presented for the first time as a major theorist of African American culture, one whose thought is profoundly relevant to our current debates on culture and race. And, perhaps most important, Stuckey explains that because black artists have been deeply interested for so long in the question of oppression, their art is of particular use to historians. In what amounts to nothing less than a revolutionary approach, Stuckey considers the uses of music as history, arguing that an easing of barriers between academic disciplines will lead to a better understanding of human life in general. A timely, readable, and often moving volume, Going Through the Storm not only expands our understanding of black music, dance, literature, and folklore, but provides a new vantage point from which to view the entire landscape of American culture.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 160 x 237.2 x 17.5mm | 507.6g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 019508604X
  • 9780195086041

Review quote

"Stuckey skillfully explores the lives and/or cultural theory of significant personalities...to reveal crucial African cultural connections in the New World that are vital to African survival and transcendence."--Journal of American Ethnic History"Sterling Stuckey's Going Through the Storm, even more than his great 1987 work, Slave Culture, provides a depth of understanding of the oneness of African American history and the arts: dance, song, poetry and music. There is a kind of poetry in his own expression of his ideas about the great thinkers in African American history. Melvilleans will be astonished at the knowledge that illuminates (review continues into next Sel Reviews field -- too many characters)Benito Cereno and at the insight Stuckey gives us into new aspects of the novella and of Melville's readings about Africa that light up much that is elusive or previously ignored in the work. Stuckey's two chapters on this masterpiece of American literature are a gift to Melville studies. Stuckey's emphasis in Going through the Storm is on African culture and its sources in Africa as well as in the "New World" but his concerns, like those of Paul Robeson whose evolving thought he studies in the final two chapters, are universal."--Joyce Sparer Adler, Professor, Emeritus, University of Guyana (or--author of War in Melville's Imagination)"Plenty of history and culture of all Afro-American artistic endeavors is included in a study which will attract readers seeking to link Afro-American culture and history with artistic evolution."--Diane C. Donovan, The Midwest Book Reviewshow more

Back cover copy

Going Through the Storm covers the entire spectrum of African American culture, presenting a new look at the foundations of black culture and the civil right movement within the context of slavery and slave music. In an eloquent reflection of Paul Robeson, he shows how black art has reached across the boundaries of race to touch most of humanity.show more

About Sterling Stuckey

Sterling Stuckey is Professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of California, Riverside. He is also the author of Slave Culture (Oxford, 1987).show more

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