Political Science’s Najja K. Baptist Publishes on Black Music as Black Activism in National Journal

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Najja Baptist

Najja K. Baptist, assistant professor of political science, published “Politics in the Key of Life: Black Music as Black Activism” in the April 2022 edition of the National Review of Black Politics, which focuses on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and how civic activism in the arts inspired a political movement to get the holiday federally recognized.

Baptist, who also teaches in the university’s African and African American Studies Program, said, “Black art, namely Black music, embodies the most influential and ubiquitous political socialization agent among average citizens.”

“As Walton (1985) contends, the ‘African American political socialization was different from that of whites and that the process has at least three steps, including resocialization as well as counter socialization’ (55). The existing literature suggests that music functions as a vehicle of expression in Black culture, public opinion, race, identity, and gender (Rose 1994; Ibrahim 1999; Bennett 2000; Bonnette 2015),” he said.

“Such an assumption can lead to critical questions regarding the relationship of Black music to politics: Does Black music also influence political attitudes and preferences? Can Black artists engage in activism to shape policy outcomes?” Baptist asked. “If so, then the influence of Black music and artistry on political behavior appears to have been more significant than what Holden (1966), Walton (1985), and Walker (1991) believed,” Baptist said.

In his study, Baptist also said he also “utilized a descriptive textual analysis and archival documents of the song ‘Happy Birthday,’ written by Stevie Wonder, his subsequent tour, rally and testimony that aided in the passage of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.”

“In addition, I explored the origins of artists who engage in activism by examining literature that connects Stevie Wonder’s efforts to Black social movements,” Baptist said. “Finally, this study provides insights into the future intersection of musical genres found within the Black community (e.g., rap and pop music) and social movements.”

Baptist’s article can be read in the National Review of Black Politics (2022) 3 (1-2): 33-49A subscription may be required to access the journal online.

About Najja K. Baptist: Baptist, a 2022 Connor Faculty Fellow, has served with the University of Arkansas’ Department of Political Science and African and African American Studies Program since the fall of 2020. His research frequently deals with the topic of the influence mass media, particularly Black entertainment, has on the American political system. Additionally, Baptist is currently travelling and establishing research teams around the country to conduct research on COVID’s impact on Black communities and the ways trauma shapes the Black experience in the United States.

About The National Review of Black Politics: The National Review of Black Politics is a product of the University of California Press and copyrighted by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page.


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