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Ashawnta Jackson

Ashawnta Jackson

Ashawnta Jackson is a reader, writer, and record collector living in New York. She has written for NPR Music, Bandcamp, Artsy, Atlas Obscura, and GRAMMY.com, among others. You can read more of her work at heyjackson.net.

Group portrait of Christian heavy metal band Stryper, 1984

Sex (No!), Drugs (No!), and Rock and Roll (Yes!)

In the 1980s and 1990s, Christian heavy metal bands used head-banging music to share the politics and values of evangelical Christians with America’s youth.
Lucretia Newman Coleman

Finding Lucretia Howe Newman Coleman

Once a powerful voice in the Black press, Coleman all but disappeared from the literary landscape of the American Midwest after her death in 1948.
Illustration of a man catching a catfish with his arm.

Doing Some (Catfish) Noodling?

Remember to leave the hooks at home.
From the cover of The Yardbird Reader, Vol. 5

Exploring the Yardbird Reader

Initiated under the editorial directorship of Ishmael Reed, Yardbird made room in publishing for marginalized artists from many walks of life.
Joseph Bologne de Saint-George

Fencer, Violinist, Composer: The Life of Joseph Bologne

As a musician of color during the Ancien Régime and French Revolution, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, lived a life unlike those of his peers.
Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, 1992

She’s All About That Bass

It’s not your imagination: a disproportionate number of women really do play bass guitar in rock bands.
John Dyson playing the accordion, 1940

The Accordion Blues

Though many associate the accordion with polkas and klezmer, the instrument played an important role in Black music after its arrival in the United States.
Mary Ann Duignan

The Most Dangerous Woman in the World

“Chicago May” was a classic swindler who conned her way around the world in the early twentieth century. She was also a sign of hard times.
A vintage reel tape recorder on a pirate flag

Land of the Free, Home of the Bootleggers

When technology made music mobile, the American South changed from one type of bootlegging industry to another: copying and selling records.
Willie Mae Thornton

Willie Mae Thornton Deserves Your Full Attention

In a meditative new biography, DJ and scholar Lynnée Denise examines the mysteries and trials in the life of the legendary performer.
A line of five Asian American dancers, each wearing a tutu, kicking out their left legs as they perform the can-can at the Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco, California, circa 1945.

Americanism, Exoticism, and the “Chop Suey” Circuit

Asian American artists who performed for primarily white audiences in the 1930s and ’40s both challenged and solidified racial boundaries in the United States.
Father talking to son at a workbench in the home

How Hobbies Changed the Home

Basements, sheds, and workshops found their way into American homes because leisure activities pursued by men and boys were often loud and smelly.
The cover of three issues of The Brownies Book

The Short Life (and A New Revival) of The Brownies’ Book

A new anthology celebrates the life and impact of one of the earliest American periodicals written for Black children.
A photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Gilbert Wells included in the front matter of Anthropology applied to the American white man and Negro

Passing Narratives That Pre-Date Black Like Me

In 1905, Robert Gilbert Wells used a fictional character to explore the experience of being a Black man in America.
A Flying First Aid Unit. First group of its kind to be organized in the Northwest. Left to right are: Mildred Merrill, Opal Hiser, Mary Riddle, and Gladys Crooks

The High-Flying Life of Mary Riddle

One of the first Native American women aviators, Riddle leaned into stereotypes to earn a name for herself in the male-dominated world of American aviation.
Musician Little Richard performs onstage with his band as his saxophone player Grady Gaines stands on the piano in circa 1957 in scene from the movie 'Mister Rock And Roll.'

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

Rock and R&B have been considered separate genres for decades. But why?
Threat of excommunication to thieves of books in the library of the University of Salamanca

Book Thieves Take the Story and Run with It

Book theft: the books may be rare, but the crime is not.
The "world's littlest skyscraper" in Wichita Falls, Texas, 2015

Boom, Bust, and the “World’s Littlest Skyscraper”

The discovery of oil near Wichita Falls in 1911 not only brought money to the Texas town, it brought a swindler who promised the sky(scraper).
1922 Women's World Games athletes

How a Paris Meet Changed Women’s Track and Field

In the early twentieth century, women were discouraged from competing in track and field. The First International Track Meet for Women helped change that.
A cartoon of Guru Maharaj Ji on the cover of the November 1973 issue of The Rag

The Concert That Promised a Thousand Years of Peace

Guru Maharaj Ji, the teenage leader of the Divine Light Mission, was poised to usher in a new era. His huge Houston gathering proved to do anything but.
A sports page from the Pittsburgh Courier

How the Black Press Helped Integrate Baseball

In the 1930s and ’40s, Black newspapers like the Pittsburgh Courier used their platform to help break the sport’s color line.
Five views of the eagle diamond

Shine On You Eagle Diamond

The year 1893 was a big one for Eagle, Wisconsin. Workers found a huge diamond on the Devereaux farm: sixteen carats, uncut, and now, all these years later, missing.
An advertisement for a performance by Richard Potter

America’s First Ventriloquist

Richard Potter, the first American-born ventriloquist and stage magician, learned his trade after being kidnapped and abandoned as a child in Great Britain.
Scottish singer and actress Lulu listens to a small portable Rhapsody DeLuxe radio

Music Only for a Woman: The Birth of Easy Listening

A 1970s radio format geared towards the "feminine psyche" featured musical rearrangements with softer and gentler styles of the day's hits.