BHM 4 – The Birth Of Jazz Black History Month

Black History Month Celebration #4 – 2021 The Birth Of Jazz. This series will cover those making history and historical Black Figures, events, activities and of course music related if possible. We should remember and not lose what we accomplished. Enjoy Black History Month

The Birth Of Jazz in 2 Minutes

Leading up to the 1920s, African American music came to the attention of the white music industry and white music audiences.  In 1912 W. C. Handy became the “Father of the Blues” with his composition, Memphis Blues. His inspiration for the style came from an African American musical practice of singing away one’s sorrows to move on and up away from them.  W. C. Handy and “Ma” Rainey both recalled having heard the blues being sung by amateur singers in this tradition, but their ability to translate this country form into a performance style is what brought it to the attention of white audiences and the music industry. 

What made New Orleans the birthplace of Jazz? Jazz at Lincoln Center’s curator Phil Schaap explains to you why this city was unique, and how so many cultures came to influence its development.

Jazz was likewise rooted in Southern African American music, yet it was a band of white musicians, billing themselves as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, who first recorded jazz music. By the 1920s, “jazz” was being played around the country by both African American and white bands and eventually became the sound we associate with the Roaring Twenties. The ’30s ushered in the Swing Era with Duke Ellington, his Orchestra, and other Big Bands.  

Ellington first rose to fame at Harlem’s “whites only” Cotton Club in the 1920s. There, the only mingling of black and white happened on the piano keyboard itself, as black performers entered through back doors and could not interact with white customers

The popularity of African American performers with white audiences brought about a number of racial conflicts.  For example, The Cotton Club, well know for billing popular swing and jazz artists, only allowed white patrons.  In another incident, Marian Anderson was invited to sing by Howard University, but the venue they wished to book, Constitution Hall, was owned by the Daughters of the Revolution, who refused to allow her to perform because of her skin color.  The incident prompted Eleanor Roosevelt, then First Lady, to publicly resign from the DAR, and ultimately Anderson performed instead in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  

During all of this time, of course, African American musicians were continuing to play their music for African American audiences, dancers, families, and churches, just as they had always done.

Read more:

African American Music Jazz and Blues

Duke Ellington’s carried his message of social justice

Uncovering America: Harlem Renaissance

Print Friendly, PDF & Email