Alain Locke, Harlem Renaissance Scholar, on Blind Tom

Alain Locke wrote about Blind Tom Wiggins in his 1936 book, The Negro and His Music.

His recognized that Blind Tom deserved a place in the black musical canon -- in contrast to a number of early black music historians who simply ignored him.

For instance, Will Marion Cook was one of the first people to categorize black music into distinct phases -- the minstrel era, the musical comedy era, ragtime, jazz. However in his many newspaper articles for the black press, Cook made no reference to Blind Tom, despite the pianist's considerable national fame.

Nor does Blind Tom appear in Tom Fletcher's, 100 years of the Negro In Show Business. Like many, Cook and Fletcher struggled to reconcile Tom's eccentric behavior with ideas of "race progress".

Granted, Blind Tom was not part of close-knit world of black show business. His white managers kept him isolated; he performed one man shows, seldom appearing alongside other entertainers, either black or white. Nevertheless he was a household name, one of the country's best known pianist in the decades after the Civil War.

Alain Locke was in no doubt to Blind Tom's place in the black musical lineage, describing him as a musician operating on an "art level, at a time when even folk music had not yet broken through to recognition".

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