(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Jim Crow

“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”*…

 

Lindy Hop

 

In Atlanta’s historic Vine City neighborhood, hidden among the trees overgrowing the lot at the corner of Sunset and Magnolia, is a barren concrete slab. On this spot, in the heart of an early-1930s African American community, Atlanta was first introduced to what would become “America’s National Dance”: the Lindy Hop.

Teenagers from all over the Westside would flock to the Sunset Casino and Amusement Park. The cavernous pavilion, which had been converted to a dance hall, featured a rotating cast of local talent along with the best swing bands in the world — Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald. The Sunset also held Saturday afternoon dances and weekly Jitterbug contests. At the Sunset, for just 25 cents, the city’s black youth could briefly escape the ravages of the Depression and Jim Crow and dance their cares away…

Swing Dance is a modern umbrella term that describes a range of partner dances associated with swing music. But the realest swing dance is the Lindy Hop. The Lindy Hop was an art form invented by black dancers at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem during the late 1920s, and almost the entire history of African American dance was its source material. The dance is based on a core move called the “swing out,” in which two partners engage in a reciprocally counterbalanced swinging movement around each other. The dancers then layer on infinite embellishment and elaboration, including the acrobatic “air steps” for which the dance is known. Lindy hoppers may use rehearsed choreography when competing or performing. When dancing socially — as we normally do — Lindy Hoppers, like jazz musicians, improvise all their movements in real time, creating a wholly new dance at each moment on the floor.

The Lindy Hop evolved through the growing popularity of big bands in the mid-1930s, especially as dance troupes began touring and appearing in Hollywood movies. The term “jitterbug” was introduced to the lexicon by a Cab Calloway song in 1932 and became the preferred term for young Lindy Hop dancers, ultimately becoming synonymous with the dance itself. By the time that LIFE magazine belatedly proclaimed the Lindy Hop to be “America’s national folk dance” in 1943, the dance had been a part of cultural and social life in African American communities across the country for well over a decade…

In the South of 90 years ago, young African Americans started dancing the Lindy Hop.  It was an act of resistance, an assertion of freedom against the discrimination and violence of the time.  Today, swing dancers across the South — black and white together — pay proper tribute to that legacy: “Jitterbugging With Jim Crow.”

* music by Duke Ellington, lyrics by Irving Mills (1931)

###

As we trip the light fantastic, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr. became the first African American to rise to the rank of General in the U.S. Army.  His son, Benjamin Oliver Davis, Jr., was the first African American General in the U.S. Air Force, a rank he attained after commanding the famous Tuskegee Airmen.

Benjamin_o_davis

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., in 1944

source

 

Written by LW

October 25, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare”*…

 

griffith

Dorothy and Lillian Gish and D.W. Griffith at the White House, 1922. Library of Congress

 

The year 1915 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Civil War. Monuments to Confederate and Union heroes were being dedicated all over the country. Woodrow Wilson, a fan of Jim Crow laws, was president. He had allowed federal workplaces to segregate again.

Enter Thomas Dixon Jr., Wilson’s classmate from Johns Hopkins. A film had just been made of Dixon’s second novel, “the true story” of the South under Reconstruction. Would the president, he wondered, be interested in viewing it? (He would.)

“History written with lightning,” Wilson declared of The Clansman, the second film ever to be screened in the White House. It was an endorsement guaranteed to head off resistance from town censor boards charged with shutting down entertainment deemed unsuitable or incendiary to the public…

The Clansman was a silent movie with title cards. It depicted whites as victims and blacks as villains. Benevolent former masters were denied votes and subjugated by newly freed blacks taking over the country. In an early scene, black legislators sit at desks, shoeless and drunk, too busy stuffing their faces with fried chicken to work. The title card read: “An historical facsimile of the State House of Representatives of South Carolina in 1870.” South Carolina had been the first state to elect a majority-black legislature and that the card implied that the apish behavior depicted was historically accurate, too.

In a later scene, the white heroine (played by Lillian Gish) is threatened by a black man unable to contain his urge to “mongrelize” the white race. Before she is ravaged, a savior army rides in: The Ku Klux Klan. The title-card copy comes straight from the president’s five-volume History of the American People, published in 1902:

440px-wilson-quote-in-birth-of-a-nation

More of this sad story, and its aftermath, at “Hatred Endorsed by a President.”

* Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

###

As we ruminate on recurrence, we might send never-ending birthday greetings to August Ferdinand Möbius; he was born on this date in 1790.  A German mathematician and theoretical astronomer, he is best remembered as a topologist, more specifically for his discovery of the Möbius strip (a two-dimensional surface with only one side… or more precisely, a non-orientable two-dimensional surface with only one side when embedded in three-dimensional Euclidean space).  See ““It might help to think of the universe as a rubber sheet, or perhaps not.”

 source

 source

 

Written by LW

November 17, 2018 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: