Ragtime- The Life of A Slave is No Cakewalk

Ragtime is an interesting genre because it has been focused on in many music classes as a white genre but most music scholars clearly speak of its very black roots and history. Ragtime is a syncopated music that is often most often played with piano. At the start of the ragtime era is coon songs and cake walks. Although most ragtime sheet music is for piano, it was birthed out of the songs and dances of the slaves. Most of the sheet music written in the ragtime style was written by white people using the slaves ideas. However some of the most notable black composers of the genre were Eubie Blake and Scott Joplin who was the father of ragtime music and an extraordinary pianist. Having artists like them helped to steer the real ownership of ragtime back to black people. The cakewalk specifically has very interesting roots because the original cakewalks were a way for slaves to win a small prize (the cake) but in return they were disrespected. Even though the cakewalks were a way for slaves to mock their slave owners, the slave owners were still objectifying them all the way through it.

I wonder what it must’ve felt like to be in one of those cakewalks. Knowing that even as your openly mocking your slave owner they still laugh and are in control of you. Similarly I wonder what it was like to see white people, in black face, depict to other white people what you were really like. Most importantly I often wonder if our enslaved ancestors knew that the music they sang in cottonfields and eventually sped up to dance to, would become a whole genre of music that was used to objectify them. But, then I think, ultimately they would’ve still had pride in themselves (as they always did) because they knew their true power. And they knew that no matter what, what they created would always belong to them. Because as much as they were attacked, no one would could ever truly take their mind.

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