Ragtime and Racism

From 1896 to 1920 ragtime was a popular musical style founded by African Americans. Unfortunately, Ragtime was stolen and used by whites to degrade blacks. 


This style of music was taken from the way slaves played the fiddle and the banjo for their Scottish and Irish masters. They were then able to transfer the sounds to the piano. 

Coons Songs

Coon songs are a type of ragtime that stereotyped black people. This included blackface played by white actors. “Nigger Love a Watermelon,” “Nigger Loves his Possom,” and “Oh, You Coon” are a few songs that demonstrate racism shown in ragtime.

Cake Walks

Another way that ragtime was used to degrade blacks was in cake walks. Also known as “prize-walk,” cake walk was a dance that slaves did to compete for a cake form their master. The best dancer would receive a special cake. Black dancers would have to imitate white culture.


In conclusion, Ragtime was a positive and joyous type of music created by African Americans. Whites distorted the music by creating racist and stereotypical themes. This is shown in coon songs and cake walks. Although there was derogatory impact on Ragtime, we know it’s origin, and black history and it still is loved and appreciated by many.

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