1 March 2001
From the mournful melodies of the blues to the soulful sounds of jazz, the development of music in the 1920’s truly defined music as we know it today. The twenties, with their own glamour and pizzazz, gave music a newfound freedom to grow and prosper. America was credited as the “home of the jazz”, and names of influential American musicians were known from the Louisiana bayous to the streets of Paris. The unforeseen impact of the Harlem Renaissance inundated the nation while the talent demonstrated by thousands brought hope to many. The newly redefined music industry, with its new sense of style, only heightened America’s decade of prosperity.
In the early 1920’s, African Americans influenced a cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. This movement was appropriately named after the New York city where it originated. Thousands of talented musicians flooded the north, bringing with them a new style rooted in the musical tradition of southern American blacks. These performers captivated their audiences in the downtown night clubs and bars of Harlem, attracting the high society whites to the crowded night sticks of the city. The movement transformed the quiet downtown club-lined streets of Harlem that had been previously been used for prostitution and alcohol pedaling, into a major attribute for the local economy. The Harlem Renaissance, although widely celebrated, was concentrated into two downtown clubs. These clubs, the Cotton Club and the Savoy Ballroom, were known for their talented singers and musicians. Musicians and singers whom had previously established their own fame in the south now moved to the north to make guest appearances in these bustling clubs that had become such staple commodities in America’s entertainment business. Such guest performances made by Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton brought in people by the masses, of all ages and in all walks of life. African- American women were also a part of this movement. Talented singers such as Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker and Bessie Smith took their place in the jazz field and struggled with the barriers that men in the industry had structured. The entire nation took part in supporting and acknowledging these new advancements in not only the music industry, but in closing the gaps segregation had pushed between the races as well. In 1925, a New York Herald Tribune announced, “we are on the edge, if not in the midst, of what might not improperly be called a Negro Renaissance.” The causes of this renaissance as with all such movements were financial and educational. African Americans participated in the post war prosperity through the Harlem Renaissance. America received a cultural awakening as the very people who had been oppressed through the centuries were now having a larger impact on America as a whole than any other movement alone. Although the Harlem Renaissance ended in the 1930’s, Jazz...