Graduation Year


Graduation Month


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department




Faculty Mentor

James Randall

Faculty Mentor Department


Faculty Reader(s)

James Randall


Black, Music, Michael, Brown, Community

Subject Categories



Music is an art form linked to identity, both of the self, and of one’s role in culture and society. In many social movements, music has been one of the tools used to unite a group in its message by allowing individuals to express themselves via a larger social unit. My presentation uses anthropological theories to examine this phenomenon through one of the latest and more pressing issues in our culture, the racial conflict in the US following the killing of Michael Brown, in which an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer, who was not charged for any crime. Artistic voices of the black American community, including D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, and J. Cole, used music to address and begin a discourse about the oppression and violence against black Americans at the hands of white police officers. My presentation will detail how these musical responses share certain traits, and how they unite the listeners by representing and embodying the various emotional and social states associated with grief, unity, and resistance to oppression My presentation examines the musical responses of these prominent artists in an attempt to discover the commonalities contained in the music, and how they affect the listener. My methods used will be a two-part analysis, the first being an examination of the lyrical content of the pieces, the second aspect being a sonic analysis of the musical components of the pieces, based on the concept of Thomas Turino’s 3 categories of semiotics: symbol, icon, and index. This presentation will illustrate how people of America have responded, both as the self-identifying individual and the social self as defined by Dr. Turino, to the killing of Michael Brown and the events that followed. The conclusions of this presentation will address the significance of the cultural cohort created by identifying with and relating two the musical examples, and how that unity can have a healing affect for those involved.

Honors College Research Project




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