Chapter

Reaction

in Subversive Sounds

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780226328676
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226328690 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226328690.003.0004
Reaction

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From the beginnings of the African presence in New Orleans, authorities feared the potential of unsupervised black music making. Whites dreaded the possibility that the disrespectable music and dance would spread to the broader population, threatening racial purity. The same fears came to the fore during the time of the birth of jazz. The milieu that gave birth to jazz was a compound consisting of lower-class blacks, sensual dances, and “ratty” music. These three elements together constituted a whole ethos, and defenders of purity and the Protestant ethic directed their wrath at each of them. However, in the eyes of the authorities, the most objectionable feature of these clubs was their facilitation of racial mixing. The push for racial purity and respectability even pervaded the disrespectable red light district, Storyville. The attack on jazz came from two emerging strands of ideology: the idea that the poor, immigrants, and people of color lack reason and self-control, the capacity for “labor and self-denial,” and the notion that mass culture appeals to base, anti-social desires.

Keywords: New Orleans; black music; racial purity; jazz; sensual dances; lower-class blacks; ratty music; racial mixing; Storyville; people of color

Chapter.  11683 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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