During the Civil Rights Movement, Thelonious Monk became an active advocate for rights while also reaching peak popularity in his jazz career. Not only did he use his career platform to help advocate for change, but he also became well known for his views within the movement. However, historical discussions often stop at stating the actions jazz musicians did to help the movement rather than ever measuring and analyzing the impact that they had. Because Monk did so much for the movement and its culture, it is possible to analyze his actions and measure the impact that they had on Civil Rights culture. Explaining the impact which Monk had can help others to form hypotheses on the link between social movements and artistic expression.
The main problem is that most histories regarding musicians like Monk is that they tend to shy away from commenting on any measurable impact that they may have had on the culture, population, and finances of the Civil Rights Movement. Instead, most histories only focus on the actions themselves and do not analyze much further. Due to an abundance of secondary sources, data and interviews with Monk himself, it is now possible to make inferences regarding a tangible influence he had over the movement.
Using quotes from Monk, it is possible to measure his intentions and how he envisioned his role in the battle for Civil Rights. In addition, Ingrid Monson’s article “Monk Meets SNCC” is rich in primary and secondary sources as well as conclusive data measuring certain outcomes of rallies that Monk played. These measurements include categories like voter registration numbers and money raised at benefit concerts played by Monk. In order to measure the impact from the evidence provided, one must also look at the correlation between Monk’s popularity or the state of his career and the rising involvement of the masses in the Civil Rights Movement.
Once taken into consideration, it is possible to see that Monk’s growing popularity peaks during key moments in the Civil Rights Movement. Likewise, at times of peak tension in the movement, Monk uses his elevated platform for charity to the cause resulting. By being one of many spokesmen for black musicians during the Civil Rights Movement and providing favors in the form of benefit concerts for Civil Rights groups, Monk was able to solidify his position as a Civil Rights activist. Not only did he solidify his position, but he made it possible to measure and argue the impact that his position had on the culture and finances of the Civil Rights Movement.
Timothy White is a fifth year student at Kent State. He is completing a major in History with a Minor in Russian studies. He also has completed a certificate to teach english as a foreign language. After graduating, Tim hopes to either teach english abroad or work at the U.S. Department of State. He enjoys reading, outdoor recreation, music and traveling.