The JP UP Date: Black History Month: Scott Joplin

Andrew BarnesThe JP UP date

Number 260                      February 9, 2024                            St. Louis


February is Black History Month

Black History Month celebrates the rich heritage, resilience, and contributions of Black people throughout history. It emphasizes education, awareness, and celebration of Black culture and achievements, honoring trailblazers and icons who have made significant impacts in various fields. Rooted in the struggles against racial oppression and injustice, Black History Month reflects on the history and cultural legacy of the Black community, inspiring empowerment, unity, and advocacy for racial equity and social justice. It encompasses diverse experiences, traditions, and voices, highlighting the importance of recognizing and amplifying the contributions of Black individuals and communities to global culture and progress.

The influences of movements like Black Power and Black Lives Matter have further shaped the cultural landscape, inspiring activism, solidarity, and cultural expression within Black communities and beyond. These movements have raised awareness about systemic racism, police brutality, and the ongoing struggle for racial justice, emphasizing the importance of empowerment, resistance, and centering Black voices and experiences in discussions about social change. Famous figures of Black History Month, ranging from civil rights leaders to artists and athletes, have left a lasting impact on society, inspiring generations with their achievements, resilience, and advocacy for equality and justice, contributing to the ongoing legacy of Black excellence and empowerment.

Each week, we’ll highlight a narrative showcasing a local hero or notable figure who has made significant contributions to the advancement of African Americans.

This week, we take a look at Scott Joplin. 

Scott Joplin, a luminary figure in American music history, emerged from the rich cultural tapestry of Texas before making his mark in the bustling city of St. Louis, Missouri. Born in 1868, Joplin’s legacy as the “King of Ragtime” was solidified posthumously, nearly a quarter of a century after his passing in 1917, a year eerily foretold by the maestro himself.

While Joplin was fortunate to be born free from the shackles of slavery, he was keenly aware of the societal constraints placed upon African Americans of his time. Determined to transcend these limitations, he set out to carve a path for himself in the world of music. Through his innovative compositions and virtuosic piano performances, Joplin not only established himself as a musical trailblazer but also became a beacon of inspiration for fellow African American musicians.

Among his most notable creations are timeless classics such as the “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer.” These compositions not only captivated audiences with their infectious rhythms and intricate melodies but also showcased Joplin’s unparalleled skill as a composer.

His pioneering spirit and unwavering dedication to his craft paved the way for future generations, encouraging countless others to pursue their musical dreams. Scott Joplin’s enduring legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of art and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Berlin, Edward A. King of ragtime: Scott Joplin and his era. Oxford University Press, 2016.

American composer and pianist Scott Joplin (1868 – 1917). An originator of ‘Ragtime’ music (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)

If you want to read more about Scott Joplin, the book King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era by Edward A. Berlin would be an excellent place to start.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to help us reach this remarkable milestone! 

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