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Sun Ra's ChicagoAfrofuturism and the City$
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William Sites

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226732077

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226732244.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

Downtown Sounds

Downtown Sounds

(p.13) 1 Downtown Sounds
Sun Ra's Chicago

William Sites

University of Chicago Press

Born in 1914, Herman Poole Blount (later known as Sun Ra) grew up in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, the urban South’s fastest-growing black community, amid an extraordinarily vibrant and heterogeneous musical culture. This chapter uses an urban-spatial approach to examine his early life in the Magic City, focusing on the importance of the black downtown as a center of African American culture and an incubator of African American utopian ideals. Led by its businessmen, fraternal officers and music entrepreneurs, early twentieth-century black Birmingham developed a semi-independent commercial culture exemplified by the architectural icons, masonic lodges and formal and informal musical activities surrounding Eighteenth Street. Growing up in this urban milieu, young Herman Blount absorbed (and sometimes wrestled with) the racial-uplift aspirations of the community as well as the musical style-mixing and showmanship that would later become an Arkestra hallmark.

Keywords:   African American, urban, spatial, musical culture, Sun Ra, Herman Poole Blount, Birmingham, Alabama, downtown

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