The early twentieth century was a period of extreme segregation and discrimination
in America--the era of the "color line." One of the few arenas
in which African-Americans were allowed to demonstrate their talents was
in show business, including the then-new recording industry. In this program
we hear a selection of popular songs written and/or performed by African-Americans,
some folk-based, some spirituals, some from vaudeville, Broadway or the
minstrel show, and some featuring the exciting new music called "ragtime"
(which would eventually give birth to jazz). The artists range from George
W. Johnson, the first black recording star (in the 1890s) to white vaudevillian
Al Bernard, "The Boy from Dixie," who popularized the work of
black composers in the 1920s. Also heard are the world-famous Fisk Jubilee
Singers in one of their earliest recordings. - Tim Brooks, author of
Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919. (University
of Illinois Press, 2004).