CHAPTER 19 CULTURE AND SOCIETY IN THE 1930s AND 1940s, 1930-1949 CHAPTER SUMMARY Although the 1930s and 1940s were difficult times for many African Americans, they continued to develop their own distinctive culture, especially in urban areas. In music, blacks had to rely frequently on whites for publishing. However, the black form of bebop emerged from an impatience with the lack of improvisation in the big band swing music. Charlie Parker led the bebop sound, which included its own culture and fashion. Other aspects of popular culture during the 1930s and 1940s, on the other hand, failed to incorporate blacks, yet often provided at least some element of escapism. Radio almost completely eliminated blacks from any role, even to the point of casting two white men as the black characters in the popular Amos ‘n’ Andy series. Most blacks criticized the show heavily for stereotyping blacks, and allowing whites to laugh at black efforts. Movies were little better for African Americans. Although some achieved fame and rewards, roles remained limited to the buffoon or servant, especially before World War II. Some black filmmakers attempted to cater to blacks, with more sophisticated roles and stories. The 1930s and 1940s also saw a continuation of black literature, art, and music with the Chicago Renaissance. Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday pushed jazz limits, Thomas Dorsey popularized gospel, and Katherine Dunham choreographed for blacks. Many of the artists also incorporated critiques of racism and white society in their work. In literature, three authors, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellison, published significant, sophisticated works reflecting their views of the black experience. In sports, through men like Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, and Jackie Robinson, blacks demonstrated a talent when allowed to compete without discrimination. Two new religious movements also emerged during the 1930s and 1940s, each a reaction to continued racism and each an attempt to bring power, understanding, and control back into black people’s lives. LEARNING OBJECTIVES 1. Understand the development and importance of swing, big band and bebop in music for blacks. 2. Understand the role and presentation of blacks in popular culture, including comic strips, movies, and radio. 3. Understand the characteristics, developments, artists, and authors of the Chicago Renaissance, as well as how some participants actively attempted to better conditions for blacks as a whole. 4. Understand how sports figures contributed to black culture during the period. 5. Understand the developments of black religious culture during the 1930s and 1940s, including the Nation of Islam and the Peace Mission Movement. TOPICS FOR LECTURES/LONG ESSAYS OR PAPERS/DISCUSSION 1. Listen to an episode of The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show. How did it portray black people? Can you understand how blacks would be upset, or does the issue of discrimination seem blown out of proportion? How relevant is the show today? How are conditions for blacks actors, writers, directors, etc. different today? 2. Pick several different examples of art and literature from the Chicago Renaissance. How do they fit into the 1930s and 1940s? How were they different from art and literature before? What types of views did the participants have, and how did they attempt to change attitudes toward blacks? 3. Listen to several examples of bebop, jazz, and gospel from the period. What was the music like? What types of characteristics did it have? Why was each important to blacks? 4. What types of religious movements emerged in the 1930s and 1940s for blacks? Why did they emerge where they did? What does this tell us about the nature of religion and its importance in American and black society? LECTURE OUTLINE I. Introduction - Role of Cultural Power II. Black Culture in a Midwestern City A. Classical Music Interest B. Institutional Support C. Legend Singers III. The Black Culture Industry and American Racism A. Reliance on Others to Publish B. Political Content of Black Art C. Marketing IV. The Music Culture From Swing to Bebop A. Importance of Music B. Effect of Great Depression on Music Industry C. Importance of New York City D. Development of Big Band Swing E. Development of Bebop F. Resistance to Bebop G. Bebop Culture H. Waning of Bebop V. Popular Culture for the Masses: Comic Strips, Radio, and Movies A. Role of Mass Culture B. The Comics 1. Role of humor 2. “The Jones Family” C. Radio and Race 1. Racial restrictions 2. Amos ‘n’ Andy a. Actors b. Show details c. Movie 3. Black reaction 4. TV Show 5. Effect of Amos ‘n’ Andy 6. Eddie Anderson D. Race, Representation and the Movies 1. General Roles 2. Gone With the Wind 3. Post-World War II Films 4. Oscar Micheaux 5. Attitude in Hollywood for Marginalized Groups VI. The Black Chicago Renaissance A. Differences From Harlem Renaissance B. Prominent People C. Critics of Chicago Artists D. Class Structure of Chicago E. Black Institutions/Music F. Jazz in Chicago 1. Prominent Artists 2. Spread Across America G. Gospel in Chicago: Thomas Dorsey 1. Definition/Place 2. Characteristics 3. Prominent Singers H. Chicago in Dance and Song: Katherine Dunham and Billie Holiday 1. Importance of Dance 2. Katherine Dunham a. Training b. Characteristics of choreography c. Success/Political Protest 3. Billie Holiday a. Career b. Protest VII. Black Graphic Art A. Social Realist School B. Criticism of Capitalism C. Harmon Awards D. Effect of Federal Aid Projects VIII. Black Literature A. Evaluation B. Richard Wright’s Native Son 1. Storyline 2. Analysis C. James Baldwin Challenges Wright 1. Criticism 2. Wright’s Response 3. Second Response D. Ralph Ellison and Invisible Man 1. Storyline 2. Views of Blacks IX. African Americans in Sports A. Possibilities Without Racism B. Jessie Owens and Joe Louis 1. Owens and the 1936 Olympics 2. Joe Barrow and Boxing C. Breaking the Color Barrier in Baseball 1. Pre-World War II Segregation 2. Jackie Robinson 3. Larry Doby X. Black Religious Culture A. Definition of the “Black Church” B. Relationship Between Religious and Secular Culture C. The Nation of Islam 1. Origins 2. Beliefs D. Father Divine and the Peace Mission Movement 1. Origins 2. Beliefs/Appeal 3. Move to Harlem