“I think there are only three things that America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music and baseball. They're the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced.” – Gerald Early
Ask ten Americans what they consider to be the three greatest aspects of the great American legacy, and you’re likely to get three wildly different answers to consider. That’s because each of us has our own idea as to what makes America great. For American culture critic and essayist, Gerald Early, those three things were baseball, jazz, and the Constitution.
Here we’ll take a closer look at each of these three things and examine why they’re such iconic pieces of American culture and history. We’ll also discuss how you can cultivate your own appreciation for these time-honored concepts, each an indelible part of the American legacy.
The Cultural Significance of Baseball
To some, baseball is just a game. However, to true students of American culture, it really is the great American pastime. That’s because, as social commentator Jacques Barzun once stated, baseball is truly a reflection of the heart and mind of America.
Baseball is the ultimate testament to the power of teamwork, a concept that is absolutely synonymous with America itself. In America, every man and woman has a role to play. This is just as much the case on a community or family level as it is on a national level. On the baseball field, we’re seeing the spirit responsible for American progress and innovation itself right there in living color. What’s more, baseball continues to bring people of all colors and walks of life together in solidarity over and over again.
You can explore this concept for yourself when you explore the history of baseball with regional interest books on baseball history. Discover the special role baseball has played in communities and cities across America. Research the history of the Negro Baseball League, study the backstories of baseball greats throughout history, or uncover the history of baseball as it relates to your own hometown.
The Cultural Significance of Jazz Music
Jazz as a genre has its roots in the African American communities of late 19th and early 20th century New Orleans. However, any music lover that appreciates the legacy of jazz will tell you that its appeal is limitless, and with good reason. Jazz is a living, breathing thing with the capacity to speak to us all.
Modern jazz music is what we get when we seamlessly blend traditional and popular music styles, as well as multiple cultural traditions, together to create something truly unique – something that is its own entity altogether. Like America, jazz is something of a melting pot. Over the years it’s been influenced by many different communities. It also contains a little bit of every genre, from early brass band marching music, to French quadrilles, to the improvisational blues of Kansas City and the surrounding areas.
As was the case with baseball, you can gain a deeper understanding of the American legacy when you undertake the study of jazz music in America. This is especially the case if you study it on a regional level. Discover how jazz influenced communities across the nation – everywhere from Charleston, to Pittsburgh, to Los Angeles. Explore the many ways jazz has evolved through the ages as well.
The Cultural Significance of the Constitution
To understand why the U.S. Constitution is so inherently precious, you only have to imagine what it must have been like to live in a time that predates it. Central government is having a difficult time when it comes to far away states. Riots are breaking out. The country’s in debt because of war, and the economy is failing.
The Constitution laid the groundwork for improvement in all of those areas. It even states the intention to do so right there in the opening line: “We, the People, in order to form a more perfect union …” The Constitution helped to solidify one of the most important pillars of our country – our government. It also remains a poignant reminder that our perfection as a nation is an ongoing goal. American progress isn’t a means to an end. It’s the whole point in and of itself.
That said, no study of American culture is complete without studying the Constitution and its history. Explore the histories of our founding fathers, the development of America’s first cities, and more.