Music has been used both as a vehicle for reform and repression during the pursuits of American ethnic and racial justice. Using historical sheet music, broadsides from local theaters, and musical recordings and performances, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania explores the various ways Philadelphia popular culture has depicted American ethnic groups throughout the past two centuries with Sights & Sounds of our Multiethnic Past. Far from “high culture,” these musical and artistic characterizations were often irreverent and poked fun at the proclivities and habits of different ethnic or racial groups living in Philadelphia. However, these materials also document prevailing prejudices and bigotry, offering a sneak peek into the development of social attitudes via popular music and theater. Collection materials from the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies – many not seen for decades – will also be on view.
For information about cost of admission and registration, visit the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Memories & Melodies web page.