That Takes the Cake!

By: Asia Robinson

The birth of the first syncopated genre, Ragtime, came in 1896. The popular sound that comes from ragtime was created by African-American southerners. Ragtime is most famous for its use of syncopation which in layman‘s terms is described as putting a beat in between a beat. The piano was the instrument of choice for this genre. One of the most well-known names in ragtime is Scott Joplin. His first piece in 1897 Maple Leaf Rag was the first to sell 1 million copies, earning him royalties at one cent per copy.  Maple leaf rag became the blueprint for rag music and gave Joplin the title of “King of Rag”. Joplin single-handedly popularized Ragtime and birthed Jazz.

During this time black people were making steps towards advancing our people.  However those positive steps are overshadowed by the many race riots and murders that took place in the “equal but separate” society.

Black people continued being violated by our oppressors. An example of this took place in the famous event called the cake-walk. The cake-walk has been described as an event where black people performed to ragtime music in couples to mock the white plantation owners for a prize of a cake.  To an individual who never seen a video of a cakewalk they may assume that black people were insulting or absurdly misrepresenting the plantation owners. However that was not the case.  During the cakewalk the owners were often being represented as happy go lucky and prideful. In reality the black folks were the ones being mocked by having to depict their oppressors how they [the owners] would want  to be viewed instead of how the black people  themselves viewed the owners.  If they were given a real opportunity to mock the owners it would not be a happy scene walking around to upbeat ragtime music.

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