A forum for writing on cultural history featuring me, Benjamin Cawthra, professor of history and associate director of the Lawrence de Graaf Center for Oral and Public History at California State University, Fullerton. The blog is named for my book Blue Notes in Black and White: Photography and Jazz and ranges freely across history, music, film, art, photography, and whatever else comes to mind. Regular readers will notice that photography, jazz, and Italy are frequent subjects.
I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and studied English and History at Walla Walla College. I completed my doctorate in history at Washington University in St. Louis and spent nearly a decade as a public historian at the Missouri History Museum. My favorite work was an exhibition called Miles: A Miles Davis Retrospective, the first large-scale museum exhibition on the jazz musician. I contributed an essay and several interviews with associates of Davis to an accompanying volume edited by Gerald Early, Miles Davis and American Culture (Missouri Historical Society, 2001). Blue Notes in Black and White (2011, University of Chicago) examines magazine, record album, and fine art photography of jazz subjects from swing era of the 1930s to the era of black nationalism in the 1960s.
I also curated the exhibition Herb Snitzer: Photographs from the Last Years of Metronome for the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis and wrote the essay for the accompanying catalogue. Recently I was project director of New Birth of Freedom: Civil War to Civil Rights in California, an exhibition at the Orange Country Nikkei and Agricultural Heritage Museum in 2011-12 in commemoration of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, and Farmers to Flyers: Marine Air Corps Station El Toro and Mid-century Orange County, on view at the Orange County Great Park until March 2013. I was also project director for an exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California called Hard Times in the OC: Voices from the Great Recession, open 2013-14, and curator of Kathy Sloane’s Keystone Korner: Portrait of a Jazz Club, a 2015 exhibition at the Salz-Pollak Atrium Gallery, CSU Fullerton. Current writing projects include the boxer Jack Johnson and documentary film and US-Italian cultural interactions during and after World War II.
I was fortunate to teach in CSU Fullerton’s six-week Study Abroad program in Florence, Italy in 2012 and 2013. Despite my wanderings, I remain a diehard Seattle Mariners baseball fan. It builds character. Or something.
For Blue Notes in Black and White bookings:
Margaret Hagan, Promotions Manager, University of Chicago Press