This post was written by Jai Cross, Autumn Johnson, Alexis Poe, Robin Robinson and Jaleah Wiggins.
Treemonisha is an opera by Ragtime composer, Scott Joplin. Joplin was inspired to write Treemonisha by his second wife, Freddie Alexander. He wished to highlight the biography of the woman he loved. Alexander was educated, well read and an advocate for women’s rights and African-American culture. Women during this time period were often silenced. So Treemonisha offered an African-American woman’s voice on important issues of the time. Even today, Treemonisha can serve as an early advocate for women and African-American rights.
This opera supports the idea that music is a form of storytelling. Treemonisha is used to tell a complex story with in-depth meaning. Treemonisha was not the ideal hero. At the time of Treemonisha it was 1911 and African-Americans were still dealing with voting rights as well as Jim Crow laws. An African-American hero, especially a woman was a way to empower Black women. Proper women weren’t seen leaders within the political or public area, they were usually involved in feminist movements. Treemonisha challenged these ideologies by presenting a black woman who was educated and vocal about women and Africa- American issues.
Lumsden,Rachel, Uplift, Gender and Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, Black Music Research Journal, Spring 2015, pp.41-68