Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Sotiropoulos, Karen

Subject Headings

Rock music, Music, Race, Prejudices, Civil rights, Cleveland (Ohio), Rock and roll, Music, Cleveland, Race, Prejudice, Civil rights


This thesis is a social and cultural history of young people, race relations, and rock and roll music in Cleveland between 1952 and 1966. It explores how the combination of de facto segregation and rock and roll shaped attitudes about race for those coming of age after the Second World War. Population changes during the Second Great Migration helped bring the sound of southern black music to northern cities like Cleveland, and provided fertile ground for rock and roll to flourish, and for racial prejudice to be confronted. Critics blamed the music for violence, juvenile delinquency, and sexual depravity, among other social problems. In reality, the music facilitated racial understanding, and gave black and white artists an outlet through which they could express their hopes and frustrations about their lives and communities. Through the years, the music provided a window into the lives of "the other" that young Americans in a segregated environment might not otherwise experience. The civil rights movement was already creating a national debate about race in American society, but when rock and roll took over the hearts and minds of teenagers across the country the public discourse reached another level. Original oral histories conducted with music fans, performers, and deejays as well as other Cleveland-specific primary sources provide the basis for my argument about rock and roll's black roots providing a cultural education for a generation of music fans, including those who adhered to the racial prejudice of their parents this cultural education also inspired fear in many adults for the change that a liberalization of racial views and sexual mores brought with it. Rock and roll was carried to the North with the Second Great Migration, and along with technological advances in radio and the recording industry, changed the way music was heard and how Americans perceived one another. As important as rock and roll was to young Americans, however, its influence would only go so far in changing racial attitudes and i

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