Language in action: Funk music as the critical voice of a post-civil rights movement counterculture

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From work songs and spirituals during slavery to the gospel, soul, and funk of the civil rights movement, Black music offers a new historicist interpretation of the African American experience. Through Black popular music, the struggles, faith, and joys of a people are expressed. More than mere entertainers, Black musicians are the village griots, the revisionist historians, and the voice of a people. African American music solidifies messages of societal concerns, offering snapshots of social conditions and defining moments within a society. This research posits that funk music was the social protest discourse of poor and working-class Black youth after the euphoria of the civil rights movement faded in "the decade of the detached." Music accompanied many prominent protest movements, including the civil rights and Black power movements. But with an apparent lull in protest activities in the 1970s and 1980s, research focused on the previous decade, leaving an absence of immediate post-civil rights scholarship. While large mainstream social protest movements were less apparent, a counter protest movement emerged through the rhetorical means of funk music. This form of creative communication used everyday experiences to challenge the dominant power structure and ideology of the time period. Consciously or unconsciously, the work of funk musicians recognized language as a form of social control, thus ending their blind consent to manipulation through language by developing a counterdiscourse that challenged accepted social norms. The functional approach to rhetorical social movements is applied to further support this claim.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-82
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Black Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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