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How Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Count Basie rose to the top despite Jim Crow

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Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Duke Ellington revolutionized jazz and brought it into the homes of Americans across the nation. This helped ease tensions between Black and non-Black Americans by humanizing Black people through music and their appearance on the silver screen.

Their journey to the top came with the harsh realities of the Jim Crow era. This means that Armstrong, Basie and Ellington risked their lives every time they toured around the country. The three had to know which hotels and restaurants allowed Black people, and which would potentially injure or kill them because of their race. They would also receive racist reviews that would use derogatory language to describe their appearances and failed to take into account the actual merit of their performances.

Despite this, the jazz men persisted and eventually made it on the silver screen. They went on to collaborate with icons like Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. So, how did they do it?

Guest: Larry Tye is the author of the book, "The Jazzmen: How Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie revolutionized America."

This episode will be available on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.

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