Duke Ellington Symphony In Black African American Essay


Duke Ellington: "Symphony in Black" Symphony in Black, A Rhapsody of Black Life" is Duke Ellington's second motion picture. The film was directed by Fred Waller at Paramount Pictures and then was released during the mid-1930s. One of the most thought-provoking features of this short film is the lack of stereotypical, racist representations of African-Americans which deface earliest jazz movies. This motion picture showed Ellington as composer that was on the same level as other famous composer of "Rhapsody in Blue." In the film, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra are depicted as skilled, and a dignified performer. With that said, this essay will discuss how Richard Wright's characters in Down by the Riverside, or Long Black Song reflect both the version of history that Ellington describes, and the idea of history that Conn sees as so essential to 1930s American culture.

Richard Wright's characters in Down by the Riverside, reflect both the version of history that Ellington describes in many ways, such as through oppression and discrimination during the Jim Crow laws which was the same in Rhapsody in Blue." For example, in Down by the Riverside the character Bob was in the wrong to thieve another person's boat. But then again his actions were partially justified for the reason that the soldiers would have declined to send a boat to help out a black family. More than likely, Heartfield needed a boat to get to safety, too. But then again being white and being the postmaster almost assured that he would have aid if he demanded it. Heartfield, alternatively, was defensibly angry when Mann showed up in his boat. Nevertheless, Heartfield had no right to try to fire his gun at Mann just for robbery. In spite of everything, had the condition been the other way around racially, and the Heartfields were in the minority as far as race, the soldiers would have told them to be thankful that they are still alive exactly like Mann...


. . You should be happy you're not dead lying in some river" (80). The characters in the story are victims of tragedy, but then again it highlights how the objective of protecting your family is sometimes difficult when you are a black person.
Ellington was the personification of good taste. It is clear that a lot of the jazz films of the 1930s feature imageries of African-Americans that have to be forgiven so as to escalate the melody. And in Ellington's "jungle music" historical & with imageries to exemplify the blues or spiritual piety or a night out on the town, it would have been all too relaxed to fall into the acquainted stereotypes of other films. Duke portrayed a time in the North that was still plagued by prejudice. Down by the Riverside showed the racism and oppression that went on in the south during the same era. Even though they are in different locations, and the north may have been a little off, the situation of being a minority stuck in an oppressed society during an oppressed era was a lot.

However, it might have been justified in the times because of the racism, very much like Duke Ellington times because in the first few scenes, it shows black men being oppressed by hard labor. On the look on their faces was disenchantment as though they were doing a job that they regretted but had no choice to get. It showed how the oppression effected the lives of black families. Duke at his small private studio hard at work at his piano, besieged with the final touches for the titular symphony in four key areas. The scene in the film of him alone working forms part of the first movement "Laborers," a slow powerful march rhythm inspired by field hand work songs (Walker). These scenes expressed how life was hard in the Jim Crow era for a person of color to pursue their dreams. Duke Ellington showed how times were rough during the times…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Schuller, Gunther. The Swing Era. New York:: Oxford University Press, 1989. p.94.

Springer, Mike. Duke Ellington's Symphony in Black, Starring a 19-Year-old Billie Holiday. 9 January 2015. http://www.openculture.com/2013/05/duke_ellingtons_isymphony_in_blacki_starring_a_19-year-old_billie_holiday.html. 13 March 2016.

Symphony in Black. Dir. Fred Walker. 1935. Paramount.

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