Harlem Jazz Genesis of Jazz: Essay

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The roots of such music can be traced back still further to the gospel hymns, work songs, and field calls that developed amongst slave populations in the south during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Scholastic 2011). The Southern and decidedly African-American sounds of blues and early jazz were brought along with the Great migration, where New Orleans styles like Dixieland met with the calmer strains of the Mississippi blues and other styles (Scholastic 2011). In New York, with the greatest concentration of African-Americans, new collaborations and iterations sprang up quite rapidly.

The Harlem Renaissance, named for the neighborhood in Manhattan where the African-American community was concentrated and centralized, was an explosion of artistic, literary, and musical expression largely because it represented the first major community of African-Americans located in a small geographical area (McDougal & Littell 2008). The jazz music that developed in New York as a part of this Renaissance was especially dependent on the concentration of African-Americans from different parts of the South, with their own musical traditions and styles, as it was the blend and evolution of these combined styles that led to the styles and sounds of what can now be thought of as Jazz proper (McDougal & Littell 2008). With only white audiences allowed in the most popular clubs, the sounds of Jazz became popular outside of the African-American community and developed into mainstream styles that persisted for decades (McDougal & Littell 2008).

From the early blues of the 1900s to the jazz that began to develop in the South, through its coalescing in the Harlem Renaissance and through the sounds of 1940s swing and even into the rock n roll of the 50s and beyond, the evolution of American music has meant the evolution of African-American music. This is a part of the American tapestry that is not often acknowledged in an explicit or meaningful way, and one that deserves greater attention and awareness. It is strange to think that the vicious abuses of human rights practiced upon African natives should be the ultimate cause of this musical progression; one can see this as tragic or as ultimately uplifting and redeeming.


McDougall & Littell. (2008). Creating America. Accessed 6 June 2011. http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Kw-WjacYGhEJ:www.quia.com/files/quia/users/nygardgeo/RoaringTwenties/The-Jazz-Age-and-the-Harlem-Renaissance+jazz+harlem+rennaissance&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiTwUV7ZR1UBvIK6Wk5zZj1K7s9dsOtMZZ6U19HXCPtpQ_GchKhK8HsMmQd0Ib5OHiIHJZ7qB5DfaCxk-krvFwwG8-j9-TKWEbF3mkOJwo4-Gn-nejkpsjMWjvQjS66vTchyieT&sig=AHIEtbRLiTwGmw1QGRN1drC4BnuJ9VD4bw

Mintz, S. (2006). The Great Migration. Accessed 6 June 2011. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=443

Scholastic. (2011). History of Jazz. Accessed 6 June 2011. http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/bhistory/history_of_jazz.htm

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