PRINT September 1989



WHEN THE WHITE CITIZEN'S COUNCIL in Birmingham, Alabama, failed in its attempts to ban rock ’n’ roll in 1956, some of its members instead went to a Nat King Cole concert, dragged him off the stage, and beat him. The White Citizen’s Council was in an uproar about “nigger music” and its corrosive influence on white youth. It’s probably nitpicking to point out that Cole did not play rock ’n’ roll. After all, he was black.

The North had its own antirock campaigns, equally racist in their rhetoric. Boston’s Norman Furman decried the “jungle rhythms,” and concerts were canceled throughout the Northeast in fear that youth would be driven to riot by the propulsive beats. New York’s Daily News was especially critical of rock ’n’ roll. The openly sexual nature of the music was threatening, and its black roots were obvious. It was one thing for blacks to have their own music, clubs, and record labels.

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