Preston LauterbachBeale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis

W. W. Norton, 2015

by Jonathan Judaken and Justin Willingham on August 4, 2015

Preston Lauterbach

View on Amazon

Following the Civil War, Memphis emerged a center of black progress, optimism, and cultural ferment, after a period of turmoil. Preston Lauterbach joins host Jonathan Judaken for an in-depth discussion in advance of the launch of Lauterbach's latest book, Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis (Norton, 2015).

Robert Church, Sr., who would become "the South's first black millionaire," was a slave owned by his white father. Having survived a deadly race riot in 1866, Church constructed an empire of vice in the booming river town of post-Civil War Memphis. He made a fortune with saloons, gambling, and–shockingly–white prostitution. But he also nurtured the militant journalism of Ida B. Wells and helped revolutionize American music through the work of composer W.C. Handy, the man called "the inventor of the blues."

In the face of Jim Crow, the Church fortune helped fashion the most powerful black political organization of the early twentieth century. Robert and his son, Robert, Jr., bought and sold property, founded a bank, and created a park and auditorium for their people finer than the places whites had forbidden them to attend.

However, the Church family operated through a tense arrangement with the Democrat machine run by the notorious E. H. "Boss" Crump, who stole elections and controlled city hall. The battle between this black dynasty and the white political machine would define the future of Memphis.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Amber R. Clifford-NapoleoneQueerness in Heavy Metal Music: Metal Bent

July 26, 2015

Much of the scholarship on heavy metal has assumed that the primary audience is straight white males, who are likely sexist and homophobic.  In her new book, Queerness in Heavy Metal Music: Metal Bent (Routledge, 2015), Amber Clifford-Napoleone challenges these assumptions through her ethnographic study of self-identified queer performers and fans of heavy metal. She also […]

Read the full article →

Chris O’LearyRebel Rebel

June 20, 2015

Who is David Bowie? Fans and critics have debated this question throughout his lengthy and storied career. Chris O'Leary, in his new book Rebel Rebel (Zero Books, 2015) meticulously examines Bowie's earliest recordings and provides crucial insight into how Bowie wrote and recorded these songs. O'Leary considers Bowie's influences and how his desire for commercial success […]

Read the full article →

Felicia McCarrenFrench Moves: The Cultural Politics of le hip hop

June 10, 2015

Felicia McCarren's latest book, French Moves: The Cultural Politics of le hip hop (Oxford University Press, 2013) explores the fascinating evolution of this urban dance form in the French context. Following the choreography and performances of key figures from the hip hop world in France, McCarren's is a history that pays close attention to dancers and their moves, […]

Read the full article →

Alex OggDead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables: The Early Years

May 19, 2015

Discussions of punk tend to focus on groups, like the Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, and the punk scenes of New York, London, and Los Angeles. Punk, however, was a broader musical cultural movement and sprung up in multiple locations. The Dead Kennedys hailed from the San Francisco punk scene and were important punk and […]

Read the full article →

Nick CrossleyNetworks of Sound, Style, and Subversion: The Punk and Post-Punk Worlds of Manchester, London, Liverpool, and Sheffield, 1975-80

May 18, 2015

Can sociology explain punk? In a new book, Networks of Sound, Style, and Subversion: The Punk and Post-Punk Worlds of Manchester, London, Liverpool, and Sheffield, 1975-80 (Manchester University Press, 2015), Nick Crossley from the University of Manchester offers an important new perspective on the birth of punk and post-punk in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield in […]

Read the full article →

Ana María Ochoa GautierAurality: Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Colombia

April 17, 2015

Beyond what people say, what their voices sound like matters. Voice, as Ana María Ochoa Gautier argues in this marvelous new book Aurality: Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth Century Colombia (Duke University Press, 2014), was embedded in 19th-century conversations and debates about the boundaries between nature and culture, between the civilized and barbaric, between inclusion or marginalization […]

Read the full article →

Alexander R. GallowayLaruelle: Against the Digital

March 5, 2015

“The chief aim of [philosopher François Laruelle’s] life’s work is to consider philosophy without resorting to philosophy in order to do so.” What is non-philosophy, what would it look like to practice it, and what are the implications of doing so? Alexander R. Galloway introduces and explores these questions in a vibrant and thoughtful new […]

Read the full article →

Donald DeardorffBruce Springsteen: American Poet and Prophet

February 19, 2015

[Cross-posted from New Books in Pop Music] Bruce Springsteen is an American icon, known to his fans as “Bruce” and the “Boss.” Springsteen burst onto the American music scene in 1975 with the release of his classic album, Born To Run. His concerts are legendary, and his music offers keen insight on American society. In Bruce Springsteen: American Poet […]

Read the full article →

Kutter CallawayScoring Transcendence: Contemporary Film Music as Religious Experience

February 16, 2015

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] For many people, filmgoing is a moment to submerge themselves in a new world of meaning and experience a different reality. While film is prominently defined by its ‘moving images’ these alone are not usually able to fully move a viewer. Audiovisual cinema is much more compelling and music has a […]

Read the full article →