#Flawless : black female musicians as agents of social change.
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Black American female musicians have been at the crossroads between sexism and racism now and in the past. This binary illustrates the constraints of an ideological system of both gender and race roles. My thesis will place into juxtaposition the Black female musicians of the early 20th century and today, and how they have and continue to reshape the prescribed image of female Black Americans in the entertainment industry. I first consider female Black musicians in Jazz Age America. Artists like Josephine Baker and Ada “Bricktop” Smith were highly influential as self-governing icons during the early 20th century. They asserted their agency by departing the US for Europe when faced with racial prejudice in the music scene, and flourished with considerable success; in doing so, they propagated a new perception of female Black musicians. Fast-forward to contemporary times, musicians such as Beyoncé and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot act as influential pop-culture icons to women today, analogous to Black female musicians of the Jazz Age. Through both a historical and contemporary approach, I investigate sexuality, iconography, and public reception as major components in the identity of these musicians. For artists from both time periods, I will consider these components through the use of images and media resources, such as advertisements, newspapers, magazines, interviews, and film to gain a sense of public perception and self-representation. These research methods will enable me to compare similar trends for Black female musicians in pop-culture from one century ago to now. In doing so, I seek to illuminate the major influence and impact of Black female musicians as agents of social change in the liberation from limitations created through oppression, prejudice, and stereotypes.
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