Seattle in the 1960s: Music, Identity, and the Struggle for Civil Rights

Rylan Kafara

Abstract


During the 1960s, the American civil rights movement fundamentally altered the identity of Seattle’s black community. During the proceeding decades, its process of identity formation hinged on a shared appreciation and understanding of Rhythm and Blues music. Artists like Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix benefited from this rich musical tradition. However, the intensification of racial discord politicized the African-American community. Black music became infused with overt political melodies. While remaining a key factor in shaping black identity, it also served to mobilize the broader community against racial inequality. This article explores the role of music in the construction of black identity, a process that indelibly altered the Emerald City. By drawing upon a diverse range of contemporary sources, as well as more recent literature written on thePacific Northwest, this article highlights the ways in which a specific community relates to, and is shaped by, one of its own cultural constructs. Ultimately, the article examines 1960s Seattle as a case study of the transition within black identity that occurred all across America.

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