Jazz & The New Negro: A Curated Playlist

UNIA Rally Harlem 1920In the first few decades of the 20th century, African Americans in scores of cities across the country were busy forging a new collective identity, known as the “New Negro,” as expressed in the visual and performing arts, political protest, and economic enterprise culminating in the Harlem Renaissance. Thanks to several historians the political activism of the literary component of the Harlem Renaissance is well known. Unfortunately, few have made the same connections in regard to the musicians of the period. Jazz made its own Great Migration on the backs of a cadre of grass roots musician leaders whose political awareness has yet to be fully appreciated. These considerations suggest that a deeper analysis of jazz, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, and the political activism of musicians beyond 135th Street and Lenox Avenue is necessary to uncover the “New Negro” of black music.

Sidney Bechet “Blue Horizon”

Sidney Bechet “Summertime”

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band “Canal Street Blues”

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band “Dipper Mouth Blues”

Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five “West End Blues”

Louis Armstrong & Nolan Welsh “The Bridwell Blues”

Louis Armstrong “St. Louis Blues”

Bessie Smith “Back Water Blues”

Duke Ellington “Echoes of Harlem”

Duke Ellington “The Mooche”

Ethel Waters “I’ve Got Rhythm”

Count Basie “Jumpin’ at the Woodside”

Count Basie “Lester Leaps In”

Billie Holiday “Strange Fruit”

Billie Holiday “God Bless the Child”


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