During the Harlem Renaissance, jazz was the soundtrack of daily life during a time when black Americans were exploring what it meant to be both black and American. From Duke Ellington and Fats Waller to Fletcher Henderson, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, music permeated every aspect of existence. Compositions like Cotton Club Stomp, Harlem Airshaft, and many more were written through the inspiration musicians gained from the sights, sounds, and general life struggles of living in New York during the 1920s. With jazz as the soundtrack, writers like Langston Hughes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Zora Neil Hurston provided the script.
Harlem’s Renaissance will begin with a discussion by Dr. Gerald Early, Merle King Professor of Modern Letters at Washington University, of writers from the Harlem renaissance, and their depictions of life and jazz during that time. Following the discussion will be a performance of works from the Harlem Renaissance from artists including Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, Bessie Smith, and Louis Armstrong.