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“New Orleans” Birthplace of Jazz
Early Settlement • New Orleans was essentially French in character: • changes in politics listed below did not change its character: • Louisiana given to Charles III of Spain. • Napoleon forced the Spanish to return the territory in 1800. • US purchase in December 1803.
Voluntary colonists: • Capuchin monks, Jesuits, and Ursuline nuns - late 1720s. • Germans (just above the city). • "Casket girls.” • Acadians. • settlers from Spain, Africa, the West Indies, British America, Ireland, and Italy. • Slaves. • at least a few "free blacks" lived in New Orleans by 1722.
Pierre Cavagnial de Rigaud de Vaudreuil (1743-1753) • New Orleans became a multidimensional community. • parties, banquets, parades, and balls. • Latin Catholics' tendency to celebrate heavily before Lent. • Mardi Gras. • New Orleans was a city of pleasure, "a kind of hedonistic binge with style; a style probably unmatched to this day" (Buerkle and Barker, p. 5)
Creoles of color • Upper class men desired to carry on a tradition of their forebears - the keeping of mistresses. • the bals du Cordon Bleu – patrons (eligible young men) and ladies (often "octaroons" - ladies of one eighth black ancestry) could meet. • mistress typically provided with a house (a number of which were located on Rampart Street) and servants. • African Americans enjoyed a much higher degree of freedom in New Orleans than in almost anywhere else in the US.
Creoles of color (cont’d.) • "By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Creoles occupied a position very near the top of the social order a nd though excluded from certain areas of white interaction, they had created their own social units, equal to and often vastly superior to all others in the community" (ibid., p. 8-9). • A few owned cotton and sugar plantations with numerous slaves.
Creoles of color (cont’d.) • Spain freed many of the slaves during its rule. • slave revolt in Haiti (1791-1804), free people of color took refuge in Cuba; most were forced out in 1809, and many of them came to New Orleans. • The Vieux Carré (often called the "French Quarter") – home to French families, their servants, and Creoles of Color. • many Creoles were successful business people. • figured prominently in the Carré's cultural activities. • French-speaking "downtown" families were significantly higher on the social ladder than those on the other side of Canal Street.
Cultural distinctions: • Although true that most of the "uptown" people of color had darker skin than their "downtown" counterparts, neither skin color nor physical features defined the two communities. • primary language French vs. English. • Catholic vs. Protestant background. • access to formal (including music) education. • Creole musicians: • musical performance was a "hobby.“ • participated in opera and symphonic performances as well as the numerous brass bands.
Congo Square • After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, slaves were allowed some limited freedom: • many not required to work Sundays and certain religious holidays. • allowed to assemble in a 4-block area near Orleans and Rampart Streets behind the French Quarter called "Congo Plains" or "Congo Square.“ • free expression of African culture and customs.
War Between the States (April 12, 1861) • followed by Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction eras. • events and changing economic and political circumstances gradually changed the social strata of New Orleans. • Public segregation by race reimposed 1877. • "Act 111 of the Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature" - the first of the so-called "Jim Crow" laws - was enacted in 1890; separate cars were required for black and white patrons traveling first class. • separate waiting rooms in railroad depot. • outlawing of interracial marriages.
Economic hardship • Both black and white workers experienced economic hardship in the 1880s and 1890s. • A huge influx of immigrants competed for available work. • industrial machinery replaced large numbers of workers. • unions organizing many trade/craftsman positions. • Many Creole artisans found themselves completely out of work or operating on a much smaller scale.
Music in New Orleans • Music – once a hobby became the primary source of income for many. • skilled "downtown" musicians found work playing for social events and, occasionally, the professional orchestras. • new blues-based musical style challenged the livelihood of the Creole musicians.
Storyville • Alderman Sidney Story, in attempting to confine the trade of prostitution to a limited area, established a 38-block area that became known as Storyville. • primarily devoted prostitution and “related businesses.”
Music in Storyville: • wide variety of music ranging from string trios to ragtime pianists to the blues. • a loss of social status within the community. • work was steadier and money was a little better. • musicians listened to each other and adapted their own styles. • music in Storyville was clearly functional. • Early jazz was considered “tainted” by critics both by venues in which it was performed and by the “unpolished,” improvisatory nature of the music.
Closing of Storyville • In August 1917, the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy issued orders forbidding open prostitution within five miles of Army or Navy posts. • After much protest, operation of a brothel became illegal anywhere. • prostitution driven underground, large numbers of musicians lost their jobs. • contributed to the ongoing emigration of musicians from New Orleans.