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Paris of the Plains

Jazz in Kansas City

Sara Berthiaume, Elise Eagan, Jackson Graves, Adrianna Pulford, Ajani Santos, Author

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Like every city, Kansas City tells an intricate story. The 1900’s were particularly critical to the development of jazz in the "Paris of the Plains", as this musical style began to take life there at the turn of the century. Kansas City’s relationship with jazz is indicative of the music’s broader relationship to the converging cultural groups it affects. There are many interesting parallels between the cultivation of jazz and the development of its associated urban spaces.

While valuable alone, the Kansas City jazz scene also hugely contributes to our understanding of race relations at the time. This project primarily analyzes the ways in which jazz provided opportunities for such marginalized voices to be heard. In the twentieth century, jazz in Kansas City created safe spaces in which racial tensions were secondary to the importance of the music itself. As a secondary point, we also argue that the experiences of Kansas City are suggestive of jazz also providing legitimacy to African Americans as performers and leaders across the country.

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