135-65 Million years ago, shallow seas covered much of what would later be constellated as the Southern States. More specifically, the ancient North American coastline corresponded with what is now termed the Mississippi Delta. As a result, the soil there, in a fairly narrow crescent, was particularly fertile due to the deposits of chalk and other alkaline elements. So fertile, in fact, that cotton production flourished to a greater degree there than anywhere else on the planet.
Then, at the turn of the nineteenth century, as a result of the invention and refinement of the Cotton Gin, production of the crop increased exponentially. To facilitate this one of the most ignominious acts in human history occured. According to Wikipedia, “The number of slaves rose in concert with the increase in cotton production, increasing from around 700,000 in 1790 to around 3.2 million in 1850.” These causes not only precipitated the Civil War but were large factors in the acceleration of the Industrial Revolution.
Slavery has been a fact of human existence since the rise of Agriculture. Yet the greed that fueled African-American Slave trade, and was a watershed event in American history was unprecedented in scope and dimension. Never before had so many been taken so far in such oppressive terms. Later, after Emancipation, an equally unprecedented migration occurs. This vast Northward movement gives rise to a new multiculturalism, with many unexpected effects.
One of the more striking elements of this complex symphony derives from the fact that displaced Africans carried their music inside them, embedded as part of their identity and survival instinct. As this creativity became expressed in the Delta, and on stops along the way, jazz, ragtime, and auspiciously for everyone everywhere, the Blues, take form. Ethnologists claim The Blues arose from call and response field holler in cotton fields, a practice that was well established in Western Africa long ago,
Were it not for the Old Coastline, European Conquistadorial Imperialism, Barbaric Opportunism…the Blues, which came into recognizable form around a century after the cotton Gin, may never have come to be. There would be no Robert Johnson, no Howling Wolf, no Muddy Waters, no Elvis, no Chuck Berry, No Chess Records…no Rock and Roll…no Beatles…no Summer of Love…The Counter Culture, and much of pop Culture as we know it, and Techno Culture with its rapacious sampling, might not exist.
Tracing these trends back over hundreds of millions of years is an exercise in reductionist hindsight. It also shows how trapped in the historical moment we are. We can look back across Eons and make all sorts of connections, but who can say what will happen a hundred years from now. Even ten years seems impossible to predict. Even tomorrow, other than for the Sun Coming out, remains an open question.