MJ Symposium

Michael Jackson: The Original Post Racial Soul Brother


Dr. Ricky Vincent, City College of San Francisco

Michael Jackson emerged in the 1970s, when black popular culture was straddling the contradictory impulses toward the celebration of an essentialized black identity and the desires of many for non-threatening - non-racial - popular acceptance. As Dr. Ricky Vincent argues, Mr. Jackson was to become the world’s greatest interpreter of black styles, from soul to disco to pop and even hip hop, a great unifier, utilizing the talents of popular stars from outside of the black music world such as Paul McCartney, Eddie Van Halen and Vincent Price on Jackson’s landmark “Thriller” album.

Michael Jackson emerged in the 1970s, when black popular culture was straddling the contradictory impulses toward the celebration of an essentialized black identity and the desires of many for non-threatening - non-racial - popular acceptance. As Dr. Ricky Vincent argues, Mr. Jackson was to become the world’s greatest interpreter of black styles, from soul to disco to pop and even hip hop, a great unifier, utilizing the talents of popular stars from outside of the black music world such as Paul McCartney, Eddie Van Halen and Vincent Price on Jackson’s landmark “Thriller” album.

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Who's Bad?: Michael Jackson's Movements

Meghan Pugh, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley English Department

Meghan Pugh, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley English Department, explores Jackson's dancing in the context of debates about race, gender, and American dance history. Jackson drew on a rich tradition of black vernacular dancing stretching back to the nineteenth-century, when Billy Kersands first did the Virginia Essence—the sliding, backwards step Jackson would make his own as the moonwalk—on the minstrel stage. Jackson also channeled the thrusting pelvis and wobbly hips of Elvis, a white man famous for singing like a black man.

Meghan Pugh, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley English Department, explores Jackson's dancing in the context of debates about race, gender, and American dance history. Jackson drew on a rich tradition of black vernacular dancing stretching back to the nineteenth-century, when Billy Kersands first did the Virginia Essence—the sliding, backwards step Jackson would make his own as the moonwalk—on the minstrel stage. Jackson also channeled the thrusting pelvis and wobbly hips of Elvis, a white man famous for singing like a black man. See a full slideshow of Meghan's retrospective of Michael Jackson and dance here:
http://www.ew.com/ew/package/0,,20288349_20289412,00.html

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Profit Without Honor: Michael Jackson In & Out of America, 1984-2009

Regina Arnold, Stanford University

Regina Arnold reflects on the politics of rock concerts and Michael Jackson's performances in the U.S. and abroad. She asks why Jackson, a rare African American rockstar who could sell out stadiums, didn't pursue more concerts in America as a source of profit.

Regina Arnold reflects on the politics of rock concerts and Michael Jackson's performances in the U.S. and abroad. She asks why Jackson, a rare African American rockstar who could sell out stadiums, didn't pursue more concerts in America as a source of profit.

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