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Kansas City Jazz and the Early Civil Rights Movement


Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 02:00 to 03:15

Kansas City jazz thrived on diversity: just as it melded and reshaped African and European musical traditions, it also gained energy and vitality from the talents of musicians of all races. This presentation explores how musicians such as Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, and Lester Young drew national attention to the need for racial harmony by touring with integrated bands and writing songs that advocated equal rights in the early years of the Civil Rights movement.

Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State University and edits Flint Hills Review. A jazz drummer and poet, he has four books inspired by jazz including Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book.

“Jazz helped fuel the American Civil Rights movement and affirm and exalt African American identity in a changing world,” said Rabas. “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of racial identity as a problem for a multiracial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.’”

“Kansas City Jazz and the Early Civil Rights Movement” is part of the Kansas Humanities Council’s Humanities Speakers Bureau, featuring presentations and discussions that examine our shared human experience—our innovations, culture, heritage, and conflicts.

For more information about “Kansas City Jazz and the Early Civil Rights Movement” in Leavenworth contact the Leavenworth Public Library at 913-682-5666 or visit

Kansas City Jazz and the Early Civil Rights Movement

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