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Flagler Professor's ‘From Civil Rights To Black Power In Rock’ Lecture To Air On C-SPAN

James Brown performing in the Musikhalle of Hamburg, in February 1973.
Heinrich Klaffs
/
Wikimedia Commons
James Brown performing in the Musikhalle of Hamburg, in February 1973.

Editor's Note: The lecture referenced in this story has been rescheduled for Saturday, Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. Reairings are scheduled at midnight and 6 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20.

A Flagler College Professor will deliver a lecture called “From Civil Rights to Black Power In Rock” from his Rock and Roll History class on C-SPAN this month.

Kenan Distinguished Professor of History and Director of the African-American Studies minor Michael Butler said this class embodies a lot of what his academic career has focused on — race, region and culture.

“Whether that culture is music, whether that culture is the Confederate flag, whether that culture is the way that people are perceived on screen, that’s a topic that really fascinates me,” Butler said.

The way Butler describes it, the C-SPAN lecture will explore how African-American music progressed in the post-Civil Rights era from themes focused on acceptance and integration to a wider critique of America. “Black popular music becomes much more individualistic, it becomes much more expressive, it becomes much less concerned with winning large scale white approval than it was in the early 1960s,” he explained.

During the lecture, Butler will use artists and bands like Sly and the Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic to show how music was changing to reflect what was happening in the black freedom struggle, mirroring an overarching theme of the class, and most of the classes that Butler teaches: “And that is that you can't separate the African-American experience from the American experience because they're one in the same,” Butler said.

“In introducing the music and the changes that occur within a popular genre, all of which falls under the rock and roll heading, it teaches students about the historical context of the time and maybe exposes them to historical topics and trends that they would not have otherwise considered,” he explained.

Butler started teaching the Rock and Roll history class about 12 years ago and it has consistently been one of the most popular courses that he teaches. “But it's also the one with the highest withdrawal rate,” he said, laughing. “It's not just a course where we listen to music and discuss our favorite artists. It's actually one that you use as sort of a gateway into the bigger questions, things and patterns that a study in history entails.”

Butler is thrilled to have the topic elevated by C-SPAN, especially because of how he thinks popular culture studies tend to be received within academia.

“I think that there is the perception that popular culture studies, particularly within the historical discipline, doesn't have the intellectual weight or significance that other topics may have. So it's dismissed as fringe or frivolous,” he said.

But Butler argues that’s not the case. “Cultural history is often the most important kind of history to examine because it's accessible to a variety of different people,” he said.

Evidence of that accessibility is something he has seen time and time again throughout his career. “The biggest compliment that I can get is when I have a student who says that, ‘Before this class, I would have never taken a history class,’ and they enrolled in another much more ‘serious’ class the next semester,” he said.

And Butler believes that accessibility is one of the reasons C-SPAN was drawn to the class.

The lecture is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28 on C-SPAN3.

This is the third time a Flagler professor has been featured in C-SPAN’s “Lecture in History” series.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.