The era of Ragtime can be estimated to be from the 1890’s to the 1920’s, during a time where African Americans were still very much oppressed in America and faced many racial struggles. During this period of time more people were buying pianos, as well as published sheet music; giving way to artist such as Scott Joplin and Eubie Blake to make a name for themselves and their sound.
Ragtime is upbeat, very fast paced, and uses lots of syncopation. In fact, the syncopation aspect of this genre is extremely important because most music before this time was on the beat, which made ragtime extremely intriguing. This music (similar to most music created by African Americans) was also exploited and used for the personal gain and entertainment of whites during the time. Coon songs, for example, were sung by whites-whom sometimes performed in black face, to portray negative stereotypes of black people. These songs incorporated the same syncopated rhythms of ragtime music and were popular until the 20th century when the songs began receive criticism [from whites] for their racist content. Plantation owners would make their slaves do cakewalk’s, which involved them dressing up like their masters and performing parody’s of their masters lifestyle. The performances were often over dramatized and simply to provide the master and his family with entertainment. After competing with other slaves to determine the best skit, the winner would receive a cake, hence the term “cakewalk”. The ragtime styled music played to these performances was very upbeat, and “happy”, which was purposeful as well as contradictory to the realities of these slaves.
In conclusion, our ancestors were strong, talented and dedicated to survival. Throughout the exploitation of black people and their music, has always been resilience. A characteristic that has followed for future generations to come and has allowed for the prosperity of [African] American music for centuries.