Ragtime was a genre that originated in the late 19th around 1896 and began to decline in popularity in the 1920s. Ragtime was one of the first that genres that created the syncopations of tunes and syncopated marches. The melody was very fast and upbeat, becoming one of the first genres to go mainstream in the united states. Ragtime also was used in order to exploit and depict black folk in a negative light. There were large events such as called “Cake Walks” and minstrel shows that showed African Americans dancing to ragtime tunes in order to entertain the whites. 


Ragtime was a syncopation of marches into one melody. A pianist would perform this using their right hand which is also known as their weak hand and their left hand to perform bass notes. These syncopated marches became known as rags and they had a sound that was very jolly and upbeat. 

Social Implications 

Even though ragtime was a genre that was very popular and something liked by many Americans, it conveyed blacks in a degrading way. This was a time when whites were referring to blacks “Coons” and the term became very popular among whites. “Cakewalks” was another trend that consisted of slaves dressing up elegantly and mocking their masters while dancing to ragtime tunes. To whites, this was considered the only “approved” form of mocking and was seen as entertainment. During these cakewalks, blacks would compete as a couple, and whoever won would be rewarded with a cake as their prize. 


Some African Americans would perform cake walks at minstrel shows in order to get income, even though it was degrading and inhuman towards blacks, it allowed them to make money. White folk loved to see blacks dance to ragtime, and were willing to pay to see it, so in a way, blacks were trying to take advantage of what they could obtain. One of the classics of ragtime is a  composition that was created by a black composer named Scott Joplin. He created the composition and titled it “Maple leaf rag”. This put Joplin in the spotlight and became the model for other compositions to come. 



                                               Racists antics such as blackface and the term “coon” was very common during the ragtime era.


Performers and composers like Scott Joplin and Eubie Blake were all influences ragtime. Scott Joplin was a composer who was known for his composition “Maple leaf rag” and became known as the king of rag. Eubie Blake was a well known black pianist and composer who appeared on Broadway in 1978. One of the compositions he was known for “Charleston Rag”. Below is a video of him performing live in 1972.


Ragtime established the foundation genres like blues, jazz, and even R&B. Ragtime was the syncopation of tunes. Jazz music was heavily influenced by rag, as you listen to jazz you can hear different instruments and tunes all coming together.