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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.

A Jewish Welfare Board cookout for soldiers

Community Cookbooks and the Women Who Wrote Them

Before "local" became a foodie obsession, small groups of women published collections of their own recipes. And still do!
A poster for the Asian American Jazz Festival, 1984, by Zand Gee

Out of Black Liberation, Asian American Jazz

Inspired by Black artistic and political movements, musicians from diverse communities began expressing pan-Asian cultural belonging and freedom.
Alex Steinweiss

Album Cover Artwork Was Super Boring before Alex Steinweiss

Inspired by the Bauhaus and WPA posters, the midcentury designer all but invented the modern record-album cover.
The cover band "Piss"

How Tribute Bands Celebrate Music History

They're not just cheese! For some people, seeing a band play note-for-note covers of classic songs goes beyond nostalgia.
Jessie Maple (left) and Louise Tiranoff (right)

Black Camerawoman Jessie Maple’s Fight to Join a Union

Her climb into filmmaking began with programs designed to train African Americans. But to succeed, she needed to break into a mostly white male union.
Dizzy Gillespie

What Is Jazz Poetry?

The form flourished in the 1950s, as poets and musicians inspired each other to new heights.
The cover of an album by the Masked Marauders

How a Fake Supergroup Mocked the Real Thing

The Masked Marauders were the cockamamie creation of a bored rock critic. They still sold 100,000 albums.
Richard Wright sits in an armchair with his hand to his chin, 1950s.

The Haiku of Richard Wright

As he lay bedridden with dysentery, the author wrote an astonishing number of haiku. What inspired him?
Matt Robinson (as Gordon) and Loretta Long (as Susan) lean on a brick wall and speak with Roosevelt Franklin, 1970

Who Was Sesame Street’s First Black Muppet?

Since the beginning, the children's show has tried to represent the diversity of the nation. But Roosevelt Franklin was controversial.
From left to right: Arthur Davison, Marjorie Allen Sieffert, and Witter Bynner

Spectra: The Poetry Movement That Was All a Hoax

In the experimental world of modernist poetry, literary journals were vulnerable to fake submissions.
The front page of the exhibition catalog for "Womanhouse" (January 30 – February 28, 1972), feminist art exhibition organized by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, co-founders of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Feminist Art Program.

The Origins of the Feminist Art Movement

Before the Guerrilla Girls, Women Artists in Revolution pressured institutions to include women artists, inspiring similar groups around the U.S.
Four books published by Kitchen Table Press

How Kitchen Table Press Changed Publishing

Founded by and for women of color, the press issued such revolutionary works as This Bridge Called My Back.
Mary Fields c. 1895

How Mary Fields Became “Stagecoach Mary”

Born enslaved, she made her way to Montana and eventually became the first Black woman to deliver mail on a "star route."
Matilda Sissieretta Jones, known as Black Patti

The Life of Matilda Sissieretta Jones

Nearly forgotten today, Jones thrilled audiences with classical music performances at the end of the nineteenth century.
The cover of the February 1949 issue of Ebony Magazine

Black Images and the Politics of Beauty

How Black-owned charm schools and modeling agencies challenged stereotypes of African American women after World War II.
Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

How Has Hollywood Shaped the Presidency?

"Acting presidential" can mean fulfilling expectations that have been shaped by TV and the movies.
Phil Moore in New York City

The Amazing Story of Phil Moore, Hollywood Star Maker

As the first salaried Black musician at a major studio, he was a leader in shaping the sound of movies—though he was often uncredited.
Photograph: A choir at the  Billy Graham evangelist crusade at London's Earls Court sing to 20,000 crowd under the  slogan ' I am the way'.  

Source: Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images

The Conservative Christian War on Rock and Roll

Tracing an early front in the culture wars to a trio of evangelical opponents of rock music in the 1950s and '60s.
Photograph: Bahamian-American actor and civil rights activist Sidney Poitier (centre) suporting the Poor People's Campaign at Resurrection City, a shantytown set up by protestors in Washington, DC, May 1968. 

Source: Chester Sheard/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

How Civil Rights Groups Used Photography for Change

As one activist said, “If our story is to be told, we will have to write it and photograph it and disseminate it ourselves.”
English designer and typographer Roger Huddle with collaborators holding posters for 'Rock against Racism' and 'RAR/Anti Nazi League Carnival', London, UK, 27th April 1978

How Rock against Racism Fought the Right

A rising tide of violence and bigotry in the 1970s infected the British music scene. A group of musicians organized to resist.
African Phantasy : Awakening by Winold Reiss

The New Negro and the Dawn of the Harlem Renaissance

In 1925, an anthology of Black creative work heralded the arrival of a movement that had been years in the making.
Mango the Mambo dancer performs on stage with drum accompaniment, 1954

When Mambo Was King, Its Creators Were Stereotyped

As a style of Afro-Cuban music and dance, mambo was considered "primitive." And not just by white North Americans.
A postcard showing three trolleys at the Public Gardens Portal in Boston sometime before 1914

The Folk Song That Fought against Fare Hikes

"M.T.A." is a humorous ditty about a never-ending subway ride. But it began in Boston's progressive political circles.
A poster for FluxFest

You, Too, Can Screen an Experimental Film

In the 1960s and '70s, where and how a film was shown was often as important as the work itself.
From left, Desmond Bryan, Caesar Andrews, Delroy Witter and Ken Murray, in the 'Into Reggae' record shop, 3rd October 1975.

How Black-Owned Record Stores Helped Create Community

What was it like for Black American music lovers during the age of segregation to find a place they could call their own?