The impact of jazz music in America reaches far beyond the musical innovation of the genre. On today’s episode of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe speaks with Damani Phillips, director of jazz studies and associate professor of African-American studies at the University of Iowa, about the role jazz played during the fight for civil rights in the 1960s.

Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” was inspired by the 1963 bombing of the African-American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four girls.

Throughout the show, Phillips discusses the context in which jazz music became popularized. While “[jazz] is an art form that is intended to bring people together,” he says, the work of African-American artists failed to be credited by white artists who later adopted and popularized the genre. African-American artists also used the power of their musical platform to subtly, and later overtly, raise their voices against violations of the civil rights of African-Americans in the United States.


  • Damani Phillips, director of jazz studies