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African American Studies Program

  • Tammy Kernodle

AFAM Studies  welcomes Tammy Kernodle as 2019 Robert Smalls speaker


AFAM Studies is excited to host another applause-worthy Robert Smalls Lecture Program.

This year’s 22nd Annual Robert Smalls Lecture Program is set for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, September 19 in the Hollings Library Program Room, and the speaker will be Tammy Kernodle, musicology professor, Miami University.

Kernodle received her undergraduate degree in choral music education and piano from Virginia State University, and her master’s and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University.

Her scholarship focuses on various genres of African American music, such as jazz, gender and popular music.

She is planning a dynamic and soul-stirring talk titled “You Better Think About What You're Trying to Do to Me: Black Women, Music, and the Performance of Black Anger in Sixties Popular Music." 

Inspiration for her subject comes from that tumultuous time in our nation’s history, that was marked by music that defined that painful era.

The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed for young girls in 1963 marked a significant shift in the black civil rights struggle. The event was the first of several violent events that would weaken the interracial, multi-generational coalition that precipitated the direct-action campaigns of the early 1960s. And, it also spawned different musical and artistic reactions.

While most of these were commensurate with the rituals of mourning and death, there were some black women musicians that reacted in anger.

Using selected performances by Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin, this interactive presentation examines how black women musicians were significant in shifting the lyrical, ideological and performative aspects of sixties protest culture.

Kernodle said, “I want to inspire and challenge people to look and listen differently to the civil rights movement, and particularly look at women’s voices differently. Their voices are often embedded in that movement---which was very male-centric. Music was the way for African-American women to insert their struggles into the rhetoric.”

Birgitta Johnson, associate professor in AFAM Studies and music, is Kernodle’s friend and industry colleague.

Dr. Kernodle is a dynamic speaker and powerhouse champion of the musical contributions of black women in American society. Her talk will illuminate the prophetic aspects of music by soul icons Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin that were often were hidden in plain sight of the mainstream pop music industry. This year’s Robert Smalls Lecture will be a multimedia exploration of the praxis and performance of Black women’s anger during the early years of the Civil Rights Movement,” Johnson said.

Kernodle is the author of the biography “Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams” (Northeastern University Press); served as the associate editor of the three volume “Encyclopedia of African American Music” (ABC-CLIO, 2011), which is the first monograph to survey the history of African American Music from 1619 until 2010; and was the senior editor for the revision of “New Grove Dictionary of American Music.”

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