Black Culture Shaped American Food and Music – The Rocky Mountain Collegian

(Graphic illustration by Robbie Haynes | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All content in the opinion section reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a position taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The United States has entered a national conversation about its problematic history and how that history is celebrated. Debates over the removal of Confederate monuments and the initiative to put Harriet Tubman on the $ 20 bill demonstrate our country’s attempts to come to terms with its legacy of enslavement and systemic discrimination against African Americans.

Black History Month reminds us of the very real consequences of America’s past, but it can also give us the opportunity to appreciate our present. Celebrating how black cultures have enriched American culture at large should be an important part of this month and of our attempts to write a fairer history going forward.

Colorado State University wildlife conservation biology student Drew Hurdorn is training for his performance when Black History Month kicked off last year. (Addie Kuettner | The College Boy)

For example, American music as we know it today has its roots in the style of black musicians. Almost anyone can recognize the sounds of jazz, and some of its most important pioneers – such as Louis armstrong, Miles davis and Jean Coltrane – are now household names that carry with them the label of musical genius.

According to Smithsonian Folkways Magazine, the elements “rhythmic accentuations and call-responses” of jazz go back to African cultures. When these elements came together with European instruments and harmonies, the magazine Written, this resulted in a musical style that was “all-American, rooted specifically in early African-American styles of blues and ragtime.”

Although jazz is not exactly a pillar in everyone’s playlists today he’s had undeniable influences on the music we still love to play. Towards the end of World War II, a new sound was evolving from jazz called rhythm and blues developed by black artists. It didn’t take long before artists like Chuck berry and Sister Rosetta Tharpe took that sound and turned it into what we call today rock’n’roll.

It is important to recognize that white artists like Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones undeniably were inspired by black musicians. Both rock and jazz have roots in black culture and style, and they quickly became iconic in American music at large – innovative, energetic, and irresistibly captivating.

Even today, pop music is dominated by elements of hip hop and rap, musical styles that can be linked to urban African-American communities in the 1970s. Black artists fundamentally shaped the sound of American music from the early 20th century to the present day.

It is important to recognize that white artists like Elvis Presley and the Rolling stones undeniably were inspired by black musicians.

Besides music, food is another aspect of American culture that has deep roots in black history. The American Palace is exceptionally diverse, and while other cultures rightly claim the origins of several other food styles, African ingredients and cooking styles feature prominently in Southern and Soul cooking recipes.

According to, “Many cultures that are key ingredients in soul cuisine were not found in the Western Hemisphere before the slave trade. One of these ingredients is rice, which has been brought across the Atlantic Ocean by African slaves.

Besides this staple crop, the slave trade also brought foods like okra and blackeye peas. to America from Africa. Today, these ingredients and others like pork and cornbread make up some of the most delicious and consumed dishes in America.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a big city in this country that doesn’t have a fantastic local restaurant selling fried chicken or fish with sides of mashed potatoes or leafy greens. Restaurants like this are proof that black culinary traditions are an important part of American appetites in general.

This is evident even in Fort Collins. Places like that of Lucile and Mo Jeaux bar and grill serve classic southern (and therefore African American) dishes like red beans and rice and pulled pork with greens on the side. These restaurants are local examples of the wide reach and popular appeal that black culinary traditions have in America.

In one article for Afroculinaria, Food historian Michael W. Twitty wrote that “White America and African America are intrinsically linked.” These connections go beyond the landmass we all share; they date back decades, if not centuries, and they manifest in our common tastes for food that soothes and music that excites.

Black History Month can and should teach us more than the ugly consequences of our history. It can teach us how our culture has been and continues to be enriched by the contributions of African Americans.

Cody Cooke can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ CodyCooke17.

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