The Lady With The Rag Time Walk Analysis

African Americans have been a part of music since the beginning of time, and not always in the best way possible. From the crude and grotesque humor of minstrelsy to the ridicule and appropriation of ragtime, African Americans have been the punchline to a longstanding joke of stereotypes in pre-1920’s music. With the introduction of sheet music creating a tangible and efficient way to distribute music, the racist representations of African Americans were forever preserved and widely perpetuated as a means of generating popularity and revenue. This is especially true in the case of how composers presented African American women during this period. From 1890-1920, the depictions of African American women in sheet music capitalized upon the public’s …show more content…
The lyrics fetishize the African American woman, treating more as an object to catch a man’s attention rather than a part of her race. The language used to describe her versus the language used to describe the black men vary in connotation. Words such as “hypnotized”, “excels”, and “captures” are used when referring to the effect that Liza Jane, “the lady with the rag-time walk”, is making upon the men she encounters. The diction that the composer uses to define her is perceived as complementary, presenting her beauty as enrapturing, making it hard for all the men to resist. Conversely, the diction used to portray the black men is derogatory. The line “She does the real coon jine, the nigs all sigh” clearly demonstrates the separation between Liza Jane and her black male counterparts. As previously stated, the disrespectful terminology is common of this era to demean African Americans, and does so to the men, referred to as “nigs”, in this line. However, the use of the word “real” gives the insinuation that she is not among the same ranks of the other African Americans mentioned in the song, and is thus separated from the other members of her race. This dissociation between her as a figure of attraction from her as an African American woman ultimately leads to the destructive fetishization of black women portrayed in American popular sheet music. To further appeal to the wealthy, white male demographic, the visual on the front of the sheet music channels the Zip Coon character, this time in his normal male form. This relates back to using the mockery of African Americans to supplement the affirmation of ingrained white

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