This is as much a tracing and interpretation of the Negro experience in America as it is a history of Negro music as it has developed and ranged from that experience. LeRoi Jones describes and defines the music that Negroes have produced or evolved from the time they came, Africans to America, as captives, through the period when they became Americans, taking on the values of the predominant cultures, thinking of themselves in relation to it rather than to the past of another continent's life, to the increasing identification with the American middle class, and--in the sixties--a growing alienation from the vapidity of main stream American culture, which has its stark overtones. Thus the author raises hard questions and gives hard answers as he traces the route Negro music has taken from pre-Emancipation functional songs on to the ""primitive"" blues, (""the beginning of blues (was) one beginning of the American Negroes""), ironic blackface minstrelsy, classic blues, boogie woogie, swing, bebop, jazz ""cool"" to ""third stream"". He sees a continuous re-emergence of strong Negro influences to revitalize American popular music, ""a deliberately changing, constantly self-refining folk expression"" that has extended its influence until it affects the total popular-art American experience. The actual music itself is analyzed in this light. An interesting if at times diffusely presented thesis with musicological and social pertinence.