Carissa Kowalski Dougherty explores how album covers moved from the purely functional to graphic works of art that conveyed the tone, mood, and feel of the lyric-less jazz music contained within. Dougherty also investigates how race is designated on the covers, an item, she says, that is inextricably linked to the music itself.

During the postwar period, African-American artists and musicians were confronting the same issues in their respective fields: how to retain their identity as black Americans while being recognized as skilled artists regardless of race; how to convey their own personal experiences; how to overcome discrimination; how to succeed in their field, and how to express pride in their African heritage—all without the aid of words.

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