Friday, January 16, 2009

How Jazz Helped Hasten the Civil-Rights Movement

By NAT HENTOFF

On Jan. 19, Martin Luther King's Birthday, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Rockefeller Foundation, also focusing on the next day's presidential inauguration, will present at Kennedy Center "A Celebration of America." Headlining the cast are Sandra Day O'Connor and Wynton Marsalis. As Jazz at Lincoln Center declares, Dr. King called jazz "America's triumphant music," and the presence of Mr. Marsalis is to "illustrate that American democracy and America's music share the same tenets and embody the same potential for change, hope and renewal."

This focus on jazz as well as President-elect Barack Obama (who, I'm told, has John Coltrane on his iPod) should help make Americans, including our historians, aware of the largely untold story of the key role of jazz in helping to shape and quicken the arrival of the civil-rights movement.

For a long time, black and white jazz musicians were not allowed to perform together publicly. It was only at after-hours sessions that they jammed together, as Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke did in Chicago in the 1920s...

Continue reading Nat Hentoff's article at The Wall Street Journal

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