Early American Music and the Construction of Race: An Interdisciplinary Workshop

Co-organized by Glenda Goodman (University of Pennsylvania) and Rhae Lynn Barnes (Princeton University)

Sponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies; the University of Pennsylvania Department of Music; the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts; the University of Pennsylvania Office of the Vice Provost; and School of Arts and Sciences.

Oct. 11-12, 2019 at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

Racial ideology is baked into the cultural and music history of early America. Native peoples and colonists heard each other’s music as indicators of difference, friendliness, or danger. The regulation of song and dance was integral to the subjugation of enslaved people. And, in the United States, a vested interest in forming a nation of white citizens was underpinned by pious and genteel repertoire. This workshop seeks to provide a space for the cultivation of new areas of inquiry into the intersection of race, music, and American cultural history. While the interrelated relationship between race, modernity, and American music is of enduring interest to scholars–especially those focused on the twentieth century to today–this workshop is dedicated to tracing these long-term themes in the earlier period from colonial encounter to the Civil War.

This workshop will feature papers from scholars at all career stages using a wide variety of sources, including archival and/or ethnographic work, material artifacts like historical instruments, sheet music, theatrical ephemera, photography, journals, and all forms of print media. Participants will be asked to pre-circulate their 20-page paper and respond to another presenter’s work in this intensive two-day workshop. Bonnie Gordon (University of Virginia) is scheduled to give a lecture for participants on Friday. Support for travel and lodging will be provided for accepted participants.

Questions may be directed to organizers Glenda Goodman and Rhae Lynn Barnes: EarlyAmericanMusicAndRace@Gmail.com


Travel & Accommodation

Philadelphia is easily accessible by plane, train, or automobile. Amtrak service is frequent on the Northeast Corridor line between Washington and Boston. Most major airlines serve Philadelphia International Airport. SEPTA commuter trains, various limousine services, and taxis provide quick transportation from the airport to Center City or University City.


Club Quarters
1628 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103


Hilton Inn at Penn
3600 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 222-0200
(800) 445-8667


Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia-Midtown
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1305 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 735-9300


The Warwick Hotel-Rittenhouse Square
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220 South 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 735-6000


Sheraton University City Philadelphia
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36th and Chestnut Streets
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 387-8000


Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square
1800 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Rhae Lynn Barnes is an Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton University (2018-) and President-Elect of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. She is the co-founder and C.E.O. of U.S. History Scene and Executive Advisor to the documentary series "Reconstruction: America After the Civil War" (PBS, 2019).