First Advisor

David Johnson

Date of Publication

Summer 7-21-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Music -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century, West (U.S.) -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century, Music -- Political aspects -- West (U.S.), Music -- Social aspects -- West (U.S.), Group identity -- West (U.S.)



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiii, 118 pages)


This thesis explores the complexities of race relations in the nineteenth century American West. The groups considered here are African Americans, Anglo Americans, Chinese, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans. In recent decades historians of the West have begun to tell the narratives of racial minorities. This study adopts the aims of these scholars through a new lens--music. Ultimately, this thesis argues that historians can use music, both individual songs and broader conceptions about music, to understand the complex and contradictory race relations of the nineteenth century west.

Proceeding thematically, the first chapter explores the ways Anglo Americans used music to exert their dominance and defend their superiority over minorities. The second chapter examines the ways racial minorities used music to counter Anglo American dominance and exercise their own agency. The final chapter considers the ways in which music fostered peaceful and cooperative relationships between races. Following each chapter is a short interlude which discusses the musical innovations that occurred when the groups encountered the musical heritage of one another.

This study demonstrates that music is an underutilized resource for historical analysis. It helps make comprehensible the complicated relations between races. By demonstrating the relevance of music to the history of race relations, this thesis also suggests that music as a historical subject is ripe for further analysis.


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