Using an innovative multimedia archive spanning 100 years of American history (1845-1945) and several artistic genres—the slave narrative, opera, the novel, so-called “dialect stories,” folk and blues, early sound cinema, and radio drama—The Sonic Color Line explores how black thinkers conceived the cultural politics of listening at work during slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. By amplifying Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, Charles Chesnutt, The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ann Petry, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Lena Horne as agents and theorists of sound, Stoever provides a new perspective on key canonical works in African American literary history. In the process, she radically revises the established historiography of sound studies. The Sonic Color Line sounds out how Americans have created, heard, and resisted “race,” so that we may hear our contemporary world differently.
“The Sonic Color Line will open up new vistas for thinking about sound, race, and identity, and for understanding how racism is enforced through both sounding and listening. Painstakingly researched and written with verve, Stoever’s book will shape the way scholars of American and African American culture and history think about sound, even when our primary texts, like photographs and literary works, are seemingly silent.”
—Gayle Wald, author of It's Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television
“A gripping read and a rousing call to political attunement by way of sound, The Sonic Color Line investigates scenes of racialized audition from Civil War times to the Civil Rights era. This theoretically rich and passionately argued book made me wiser about the social relations that define sound, the resonant events that suggest how the ear is disciplined, the racial politics of listening that extend into every corner of the republic.”
—Eric Lott, City University of New York Graduate Center
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