New Orleans at the turn of the century experienced a unique set of circumstances unlike any city in America. The great plantations up and down the Mississippi River began to fold and thousands of plantation workers arrived in the city with their dreams, determined to create a better life for themselves. Housing was scarce, work became a privileged endeavor for only a few. The streets were crowded with natives, immigrants, seamen, trappers, gamblers, musicians, planters. American and European scholars, huddled all together creating a venturous frontier atmosphere. It was in this vacillatory setting that Buddy Bolden discovered and harnessed the free spirit of Jazz. This spirit was quick to spread throughout the city. Uptown, Downtown, people were dancing everywhere. For twenty years, the free spirit of Jazz flourished in New Orleans. Musicians like Joe Oliver, Papa Jack Laine, Buddy Petit. Bunk Johnson, Freddie Keppard. Larry and Harry Shields, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet all contributed to this wondrous developing art form.

With the closing of Storyville in 1917 musicians began leaving New Orleans for cities throughout the country and abroad London, England, Paris, France, Hamburg, Germany each taking a small part of the spirit with them. When Buddy Bolden harnessed that glorious spirit of New Orleans Jazz it was with a very unique set of tools; so unique that without their pressence it is impossible to recreate the sounds needed to invoke the spirit. Cornet, clarinet, trombone, banjo, bass, violn, drums, each one representing one or more aspects of the human spirit. When properly synchronized in a New Orleans fashion, the sound these instruments create will compel your spirit to soar. Like the voices of Congo Square, the cornet leads, the clarinet answers, the banjo struts, the trombone moans, the bass violin dances, while the drum drives the pulse.

In order to fully understand the development and evolution of the jazz cultural art form, one must first gain a better understanding of the people who contributed to the creation, development and cultivation of America's first contribution to world culture "Jazz". While this list only scratch the surface of the topic at hand, it will provide a solid foundation to stimulate further thought and inquiry into the subject matter.

Africans in Colonial Louisiana

Although a number of important studies of American slavery have explored the formation of slave cultures in the English colonies, no book until now has undertaken a comprehensive assessment of the development of the distinctive Afro-Creole culture of colonial Louisiana. This culture, based upon a separate language community with its own folkloric, musical, religious, and historical traditions, was created by slaves brought directly from Africa to Louisiana before 1731. It still survives as the acknowledged cultural heritage of tens of thousands of people of all races in the southern part of the state. In this pathbreaking work, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall studies Louisiana's creole slave community during the eighteenth century, focusing on the slaves' African origins, the evolution of their own language and culture, and the role they played in the formation of the broader society, economy, and culture of the region. Hall bases her study on research in a wide range of archival sources in Louisiana, France, and Spain and employs several disciplines--history, anthropology, linguistics, and folklore--in her analysis. Among the topics she considers are the French slave trade from Africa to Louisiana, the ethnic origins of the slaves, and relations between African slaves and native Indians. She gives special consideration to race mixture between Africans, Indians, and whites; to the role of slaves in the Natchez Uprising of 1729; to slave unrest and conspiracies, including the Pointe Coupee conspiracies of 1791 and 1795; and to the development of communities of runaway slaves in the cypress swamps around New Orleans.

The Forgotten People Cane Rivers Creoles of Color

Out of colonial Natchitoches, in northwestern Louisiana, emerged a sophisticated and affluent community founded by a family of freed slaves. Their plantations eventually encompassed 18,000 fertile acres, which they tilled alongside hundreds of their own bondsmen. Furnishings of quality and taste graced their homes, and private tutors educated their children. Cultured, deeply religious, and highly capable, Cane River’s Creoles of color enjoyed economic privileges but led politically constricted lives. Like their white neighbors, they publicly supported the Confederacy and suffered the same depredations of war and political and social uncertainties of Reconstruction. Unlike white Creoles, however, they did not recover amid cycles of Redeemer and Jim Crow politics.


First published in 1977, The Forgotten People offers a socioeconomic history of this widely publicized but also highly romanticized community—a minority group that fit no stereotypes, refused all outside labels, and still struggles to explain its identity in a world mystified by Creolism.

Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War

by James G. Hollandsworth

Early in the Civil War, Louisiana's Confederate government sanctioned a militia unit of black troops, the Louisiana Native Guards. Intended as a respond to demands from members of New Orleans' substantial free black population that they be permitted to participate in the defense of their state, the unit was used by Confederate authorities for public display and propaganda purposes but was not allowed to fight.

James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., associate provost and lecturer in history at the University of Southern Mississippi, is the author of Pretense of Glory: The Life of General Nathaniel P. Banks and An Absolute Massacre: The New Orleans Race Riot of July 30, 1866.

LSU Press

Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization

by Arnold R. Hirsh and Joseph Logsdon

This collection of six original essays explores the peculiar ethnic composition and history of New Orleans, which the authors persuasively argue is unique among American cities. The focus of Creole New Orleansis on the development of a colonial Franco-African culture in the city, the ways that culture was influenced by the arrival of later immigrants, and the processes that led to the eventual dominance of the Anglo-American community.

Essays in the book’s first section focus not only on the formation of the curiously blended Franco-African culture but also on how that culture, once established, resisted change and allowed New Orleans to develop along French and African creole lines until the early nineteenth century. Jerah Johnson explores the motives and objectives of Louisiana’s French founders, giving that issue the most searching analysis it has yet received. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, in her account of the origins of New Orleans’ free black population, offers a new approach to the early history of Africans in colonial Louisiana.

The second part of the book focuses on the challenge of incorporating New Orleans into the United States. As Paul F. LaChance points out, the French immigrants who arrived after the Louisiana Purchase slowed the Americanization process by preserving the city’s creole culture. Joesph Tregle then presents a clear, concise account of the clash that occurred between white creoles and the many white Americans who during the 1800s migrated to the city. His analysis demonstrates how race finally brought an accommodation between the white creole and American leaders.

The third section centers on the evolution of the city’s race relations during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Joseph Logsdon and Caryn Cossé Bell begin by tracing the ethno-cultural fault line that divided black Americans and creole through Reconstruction and the emergence of Jim Crow. Arnold R. Hirsch pursues the themes discerned by Logsdon and Bell from the turn of the century to the 1980s, examining the transformation of the city’s racial politics.

Collectively, these essays fill a major void in Louisiana history while making a significant contribution to the history of urbanization, ethnicity, and race relations. The book will serve as a cornerstone for future study of the history of New Orleans. 

Storyville, New Orleans

by Al Rose

Drawing upon interviews and research, the author investigates New Orleans' experiment with legalized prostitution between 1897 and 1917

In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz

by Don M. Marquis

The beginnings of jazz and the story of Buddy Bolden (1877-1931) are inextricably intertwined. Just after the turn of the century New Orleanians could often hear Bolden's powerful horn from the city's parks and through dance hall windows. He had no formal training, but what he lacked in technical finesse he made up for in style. It was this--his unique style, both musical and personal--that made him the first "king" of New Orleans jazz--inspiration of such later jazz greats as King Oliver, Bunk Johnson, Kid Ory, Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet.

For years the legend of Buddy Bolden was overshadowed by myths about his music, his reckless life-style, and his mental instablility. "In Search of Buddy Bolden" overlays the myths with the substance of reality. The result is as complete a biography of Bolden as is likely ever to be written.

Mr. Jelly Roll

by Alan Lomax

This book is a classic of jazz biography and oral history. It was first published in 1950, based on the recordings and interviews conducted in the end of the thirties by Allan Lomax for the Library of Congress, where he, together with his father John Lomax, created the Archive of American Folk Song and were responsible for innumerous and important interviews and recordings of American folk music, blues and early jazz, with a large number of its original practitioners that, in most cases, would have remained in total obscurity without their endevour. Jelly Roll Morton, born in 1890 in New Orleans, was the first great jazz composer, arranger, and band leader, and its first recorded great pianist, famous for his boastful claim of having "invented jazz in 1902". He was also a pool player, a gambler, and a pimp. Having achieved some notority in the twenties and early thirties with a wonderful series of recordings for RCA Victor with his Red Hot Peppers, he has gone down oblivion by the time Lomax interviewed him, and this book was largely responsible for his postumous recognition as one of the great early jazz creators. His colourful life and the lively first person speach of most of the chapters turned the reading of this book into a deligthful time. And to listen to his RCA Victor recordings and to his Library of Congress music recordings published by Rounder while reading the book was a very enjoyable experience indeed.

Treat It Gentle: An Autobiography

by Sidney Bechet


A legend on both the clarinet and the soprano saxophone, one of the most brilliant exponents of New Orleans jazz, Sidney Bechet (1897–1959) played with such fellow jazz legends as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Jelly Roll Morton. Here is his vivid story written in his own words. Expressive, frank, and hilarious, this classic in jazz literature re-creates a man, a music, and an era.

Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz

by John Chilton

Fifty years after hearing Sidney Bechet (1897–1959) in 1923, Duke Ellington recalled, "I have never forgotten the power and imagination with which he played." The first great jazz soloist, Bechet was a genius of the clarinet and the notoriously difficult soprano saxophone. In a career that spanned five decades and two continents he worked with Bunk Johnson, King Oliver, Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong. He was a giant in early New Orleans jazz and a pioneer of improvisation whose contribution to the music, from the traditional to the avant-garde, has been a vital and lasting one. This biography reveals with insight and precision the man and his music, and illuminates the many events obscured by Bechet's own highly readable but factually suspect autobiography, Treat It Gentle

Louis Armstrong: SATCHMO My Life in New Orleans

by Louis Armstrong

”In all my whole career the Brick House was one of the toughest joints I ever played in. It was the honky-tonk where levee workers would congregate every Saturday night and trade with the gals who'd stroll up and down the floor and the bar. Those guys would drink and fight one another like circle saws. Bottles would come flying over the bandstand like crazy, and there was lots of just plain common shooting and cutting. But somehow all that jive didn't faze me at all, I was so happy to have some place to blow my horn.” So says Louis Armstrong, a tough kid who just happened to be a musical genius, about one of the places where he performed and grew up. This raucous, rich tale of his early days in New Orleans concludes with his departure to Chicago at twenty-one to play with his boyhood idol King Oliver, and tells the story of a life that began, mythically, on July 4, 1900, in the city that sowed the seeds of jazz.

New Orleans Jazz: A Family Album

by Al Rose, and Edmond Souchon

Concise biographies of prominent New Orleans jazz musicians together with photographs of individual performers and groups

I Remember Jazz: Six Decades Among the Great Jazzmen

by Al Rose

Al Rose has known virtually every noteworthy jazz musician of this century. For many of them he has organized concerts, composed songs that they later played or sang, and promoted their acts. He has, when called upon, bailed them out of jail, straightened out their finances, stood up for them at their weddings, and eulogized them at their funerals. He has caroused with them in bars and clubs from New Orleans to New York, from Paris to Singapore -- and survived to tell the story. The result has been a lifetime of friendship with some of the music world's most engaging and rambunctious personalities. In I Remember Jazz, Rose draws on this unparallelled experience to recall, through brief but poignant vignettes, the greats and the near-greats of jazz. In a style that is always entertaining, unabashedly idiosyncratic, and frequently irreverent, he writes about Jelly Roll Morton and Bunny Berigan, Eubie Blake and Bobby Hackett, Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong, and more than fifty others.