[EPISODE] The History of African Americans in New York & the Jazz Age!
Join me this week for a special program during Black History Month, when we explore the history of African Americans and some of their communities in New York City, as well the Jazz Age and some of the great New Yorkers who were part of its core.
My guests will be Dominique Jean-Louis, Project Historian at the New York Historical Society; Tracy Hyter-Suffern, Executive Director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem; and Ryan Maloney, Director of Education and Programming at the Jazz Museum.
The show opens with Dominique discussing her initial interest in studying history when she first came to New York, switching from a journalism education to history one at Columbia. She continues with her journey joining the New York Historical Society transitioning to the history of African-Americans in New York, working as slaves for the Dutch in the 1620s. Dominique talks ‘The Land of the Blacks’, an area given to African-American slaves that seperated Native land and Dutch land, which today is known as Washington Square and Greenwich Village. She discusses the growing culture of slavery New York, the city being a hub for enslavement back in the 17th century, and becoming home to one of the largest black populations in the country much before the Great Migration. The segment ends with the abolition of slavery in New York and shifting economics and new organizations that provided labor jobs for freed slaves in the city making their presence a profound imprint that is still evident today.
Dominique begins this segment by informing the audience about her most recent exhibition at the Historical Society. The exhibition is about the reconstruction of New York after the Jim Crow laws. The exhibition also travels; it just opened in Atlanta. She then discusses her new exhibition, which opens up this week. This new exhibition explores the history of the U.S. Presidents. The conversation transitions to talking about the history of African American neighborhoods/communities throughout New York City. She mentions neighborhoods such as Crown Heights and Hells Kitchen. Dominique then delves into the history of slavery and its complicated relationship with New York. She talks of how racial violence made lots of Africa Americans leave New York during the Civil War. However, after that time in history, New York received a mix of African American migrates. The two discuss Harlem next, and how it’s a premier destination for African Americans. Dominique mentions how Harlem became black on purpose. Dominique chats about the history of Harlem Renaissance next. She ends this segment by mentioning a few prominent black figures from New York.
This segment introduces Tracy Hyter-Suffern and Ryan Maloney, the two discussing their histories in New York before transitioning to how they ended up working at the Jazz Museum. Tracy’s start being working at a jazz radio show back in college, being a musician herself at a time as well as art’s deep influence in her life. Ryan talks about a similar early influence of music in his life that persisted through his education and why he chose to focus on jazz specifically. This turns into a brief history of jazz itself, its West African roots that permeated through slave culture that slowly evolved with its meld with many worldwide musical forms and styles. Ryan roughly dates The Jazz Age and the implementation of new ideas that made the music standout, tracing back the seeds of this period back to World War I and labeling key figures that allowed the music to ferment and develop. He talks about a specific brand of New York jazz, the piano-focused Harlem Stride, and how it differed from other regional jazz styles at the time.
Tracy begins this segment by discussing the history of the museum. She discusses the location changes of the museum and also upcoming events at the museum. Ryan and Tracy talk about the museum’s monthly events and on-going series. Next, the two discuss the Harlem Renaissance and how it contributed to the Jazz movement in New York. Although African Americans could play at clubs, they could not be customers of the clubs. Ryan then discusses the integration of jazz clubs. After the second world war, everything changed, especially in music in New York. Ryan talks of how young musicians began to put their own stamp on the jazz music scene. The two end the segment by mentioning places you can go to hear good jazz music now.