Farewell to Storyville

Black History Month

The Musical Diaspora

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This music we know as Jazz was started by African-Americans in New Orleans and the southern states and first spread across the country when white orchestra’s formed and got the press attention and radio time black musicians wouldn’t receive till much later.

Beginning in 1915 two things occurred that began a mass migration of black musicians to the northern states.

The first condition that led to this migration was simply the treatment and discrimination endured by black people in the southern states.

The term “discrimination” is actually a gross understatement and included government-aided lynchings, the violent destruction of entire communities, and the actual post-Civil War continuation of slavery cloaked in indefinite prison terms at hard labor for made up offenses like “loitering” and “vagrancy” as documented in the recent book “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas Black.

The second event that led to the mass migration of black musicians from New Orleans north to Memphis, Chicago and other places was the Navy’s closing down of Storyville in 1917

Storyville

Storyville was a center of music and entertainment located near the French Quarter of New Orleans, so prosperous and dense with opportunity for musicians that pianist Jelly Roll Morton recalled routinely making $100 and up per night which translates to $2,000 in 2010 dollars.

Today’s video is from the movie “New Orleans” made in 1947. It features Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday singing about having to leave the place they loved and called home. Nearly 100 years after the events portrayed, people still feel the same way about the place.

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