Blast From The Past:
OUR HAMITE AWARD WINNER FOR 1931:
Ida Bell Wells-Barnett
What an amazing woman Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was the very epitome of courage. Ida was born a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi just before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Ida's mother worked as a cook and was also very religious. Her father was involved in current race problems and took an interest in politics, he was also college educated but had to drop out to provide for his family.
When Ida reached the age to attend college, she went to the same college as her dad but was expelled because of her fiery temper after confronting the college president. Watch out people; This is only the beginning of Ms. Ida Bell Wells. She didn't take mess from anybody.
When she was only 16 years old both her parents and younger brother died from yellow fever. She ended up caring for the other six children. Relatives tried to separate the kids by putting them in different homes, but Ida wasn't having any of that because she wanted to keep the family together.
She had gone back to college but had to drop out. She got a job as a school teacher to support the family making $30.00 a month, while white teachers were making $80.00 per month. This disparity is what sparked her interest into politics and the betterment of her race.
Ida lived at a time where it was common for whites to falsely accuse a black man of rape, stealing, etc. and take him to the nearest tree without a trial and lynch him with mob justice. But that didn't stop Ida from speaking the truth. On one occasion Ida's friends were lynched by an angry mob of white people, and she wrote about it:
Wells emphasized the public spectacle of the lynching. More than 6,000 blacks did leave; others organized boycotts of white-owned businesses. After being threatened with violence, she bought a pistol. She later wrote, "They had made me an exile and threatened my life for hinting at the truth".
Ida took up the cause of anti-lynching, even travelling as far as Europe to broadcast what America was doing to it's citizens. It shocked many Europeans. She wanted to put the so-called Christian America on blast. Ida Bell Wells was a skilled speaker and very persuasive. She was also a writer and published many articles about anti-lynching.
This woman Ida Bell Wells was the first Rosa Parks. Perhaps Rosa had read about what Ida did some 71 years earlier because their experience was very similar. Ida was riding in the first class women's section on a train when the conductor approached her and informed her she had to give up her seat to a white patron. Ida flatly refused to do so. The conductor along with two men had to actually drag her off the train, wow what a woman!
Can you imagine the courage it took for her to stand up for her rights among a train full of priveledged, unfriendly and uncaring people? I say that because there isn't a record of one single person lifting a finger to help her. Ida promptly took the matter to the local circuit court and won a $500.00 award.
She even hired a black attorney to assist her in the trial but the railroad bought him out, and she dumped him and hired a white lawyer. Didn't that black lawyer have any integrity? We would love to mention his name if we knew it because it deserves to be published. In time the railroad appealed the decision, and it was heard in the Tennessee Supreme Court and this time they sided with the railroad and threw her victory out, and adding salt to the wound made her pay court cost.
This woman was a true pioneer. In 1895, Wells married Ferdinand Barnett. Ida started an early precedent as being one of the first married American women to keep her last name along with her husband's. They had four kids together.
She found it difficult to continue in her anti-lynching work and raise a family so in time she chose the family. Ida died in 1931 of kidney failure and this is why we decided this year to reflect on this great American and her achievements and to award her with the 1931 Annual Hamite Award which is given to African-Americans who have bravely led an extraordinary and fruitful life with the sole purpose of uplifting their own. You can read more about this remarkable women by clicking here.
Ida Bell Wells-Barnett
Ida B. Wells (author), Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, book cover, 1892
|How were blacks feeling in 1931?
Our thoughts are with those Scottsboro boys. Everybody in the black community knows they are innocent. Black kids aren't going to go around raping white women on trains. That' crazy! Got these white folks all worked up looking for an excuse to kill innocent black people again. We wish the best for the boys. It's going to be an uphill battle.
Fox Lake Resort |
Moving on up to the eastside!!!! That's what I'm talking about. We finally have a place to travel for fun and relaxation. We just hope our white American brothers don't burn it down or deny/jack up the electricity and water rates or claim eminent domain like they did with other resorts blacks attempted to set up.
Even though the average black person cannot afford to visit or live in Fox Lake, it's still nice to know some of our peoples are enjoying the life and gives us the motivation to fight even harder this high wall of racism. I ain't mad at cha!
The Fox Lake resort community was developed in Angola, Indiana specifically for African Americans in the 1930s, when such communities were quite rare. In the years between World War I and World War II, and for some time after that, African American were not welcomed to traditionally white resort communities. Fox Lake provided black families with a place of their own where they could escape the heat of the cities and enjoy the pleasures of summertime activities. The historic district contains 32 relatively modest lake cottages, most of which were constructed before World War II.
Occasionally big-name musicians were booked for dances at the clubhouse, which was surrounded by tennis courts, horseshoe pits, and basketball hoops. Saddle horses were available until the early 1950s. Other activities included trap shooting matches, weekly Family Night at the restaurant, and Sunday school held on the beach under the trees.
Today, Fox Lake is still a prosperous black community. Its traditions are still maintained by many second- and third-generation owners, who occupy a large number of the cottages.
What a wonderful history!!!
For the year 1931:
- Jane Matilda Bolin was the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School.
- William Grant Still was the first African-American composer to have symphony performed by leading orchestra by Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.
| Sports in 1931 |
- 1931 - The New York Black Yankees was founded in Harlem as the Harlem Black Bombers in 1931 by financier James "Soldier Boy" Semler and dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. The team was active in the Negro Leagues from 1931 to 1948.
- Rube Foster organized the Negro National League, the first long-lasting professional league for African-American ballplayers, which operated from 1920 to 1931. He is known as the "father of Black Baseball."
Foster adopted his longtime nickname, "Rube", as his official middle name later in life.
- Robert L. "Bob" Douglas founded the New York Renaissance basketball team. Nicknamed the "Father of Black Professional Basketball", Douglas owned and coached the Rens from 1923 to 1949, guiding them to a 2,318-381 record (.859). He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 1972, the first African American enshrined.
Herbert C. Hoover
| Political Scene in 1931 |
- Republican Herbert C. Hoover was the 31st President of the United States (1929–1933). He was a professional mining engineer and was raised as a Quaker. A Republican, Hoover served as head of the U.S. Food Administration during World War I and became internationally known for humanitarian relief efforts in wartime Belgium.
Analysis: I thought because of his Quaker upbringing this president might be a little more understanding of Negro problems. Quaker's were at the forefront in helping blacks fight for their freedom.
Hoover believed that African-Americans and other races could improve themselves with education and wanted the races assimilated into white culture, which would be fine if everything was fair and equal and the black person had a sliver of a chance. Whites controlled every aspect of American life and success and doled out to the Negro as they saw fit, an almost impossible situation to achieve. Now if Hoover would have created laws that made the playing field fair, he would have gotten my vote. But he just ignored that a problem even exist. This has become a political trick that leaders use to shift the blame to the blacks, as to why they are not achieving as whites. The good presidents that everyone remembers are the ones who were truly on the side of all human rights, not just the privileged because that's what America means.
1930 - the 'Black Cabinet' or 'Black Brain Trust' - was a vocal and eloquent group of highly trained and politically astute African American intellectuals who spearheaded the struggle for civil rights during the 1930s.
SOUTHERN HATE if I said it once I must say it again, these people ain't normal!|
The Civil War Is Over, Why Do You Still Hate Me So Much Man?
There were over 179,000 black soldiers who fought in the Civil War for their freedom and the right to become American citizens. Many brave souls died. They thought once it was over things would be better for the colored people. But it wasn't and especially in the South.
What the HELL! Why do these southern whites hate blacks so much and fight against our pursuit of happiness at every turn? They ain't normal, and surely not American, because if they were they would believe all are created equal, which is what our country was founded on.
Southern whites had enjoyed a lifestyle much better than their ancestors before them. Before arriving in America, most white immigrants were destitute and severely oppressed by their governments. Many were uneducated peasants and serfs not much better off than a black slave. When they finally encountered blacks in America, they showed little empathy toward them.
No longer on the bottom rung of the ladder of humanity, these white immigrants would also proclaim themselves superior and joined the higher class of whites in dominating blacks unmercifully for many years. Whites as a group was happy as a lark even the not so intelligent ones.
The North understood slavery to be a temporary situation, but in contrast Southern whites viewed it as a permanent institution that should be expanded into new territories that hadn't been admitted to the union yet. Stop the Slave Power at all cost was the North's goal. This reason the Civil War started, not because Abraham Lincoln had this burning desire to free the slaves.
Before the war, southern whites grew very comfortable with their lifestyle and after losing it blamed blacks for everything. Many were brilliant and proud people. Now can you imagine proud, intelligent white people who had dominated blacks for hundreds of years, and faced with the possibility of black equality and being governed by the same individuals they mistreated and spit on and looked upon as ignorant savage beast?
They viciously fought against equality for black people at every turn and opportunity. They considered themselves true Sons of the South, do or die.
They had to feel like the North was punishing and embarrassing them by giving blacks American citizenship and the right to vote. Southern whites would kill many blacks for what they perceived as upholding their honor. What did the North do? They made a show of attempting to help black people, but in the end, that's all it was a show. In reality, they used blacks as a pawn to teach the South a lesson in hopes that one day the southern faithful would reconcile their hearts to the Union of America as one big happy white American family.
HOW LONG WILL WHITE-AMERICANS |
SIT ON THE FENCE?
Since the beginning of American history, there's always been a battle between those in authority. The problem is that some of these authorities view democracy differently. According to the dictionary, the word truth can be described as fidelity to an original or standard. Of course, we know the popular standard for American democracy is "all men are created equal and entitled to liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness. But these authorities have disagreed for centuries if blacks should truthfully have a part in these promises.
Who's right? You be the judge.
First, we need to define democracy, and we'll let two of America's greatest Presidents do this for us by their actions and famous quotes.
Abraham Lincoln made the following quotes:
"As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."
"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races.... But I hold that ... there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Now it's very clear from the many negative comments Abraham Lincoln made against black people he wasn't likely to have blacks over for dinner, in fact, most whites shared his views. But that's okay; he lived in a different era than today. This site believes he would have changed his views if living in our time because one of his most admirable qualities was flexibility.
In contrast to Abraham Lincoln, the first President of the United States, George Washington evidently didn't share Lincoln's view of democracy.
Black slaves were actively sought and recruited to fight for America in the Revolutionary War and promised freedom after the victory. It's well recorded that slaves fought with courage and valor that ensured American success. George Washington himself made the comment:
Washington wrote a letter to Colonel Henry Lee III stating that success in the war would come to whatever side could arm the blacks the fastest.
But after victory in the war, America didn't keep its promises, and most blacks were forced back into slavery. Of course, George Washington had to know about this but did nothing. Washington had many slaves himself and didn't want to free them and damage his financial stake. He put money interests ahead of real Democracy. Washington was a brilliant soldier but failed as an upholder of truth and justice and set the tone for future race relations in our country by trivializing and compromising Democracy. It's sad to say, but Washington didn't stay in the truth.
So in a sense, Washington created the blueprint for this distorted and false view of Democracy
This blueprint became the norm in much of America's dealings with black people. Whites felt if their supreme leader thought so lowly of black people, they would also. Washington's inaction cannot be taken lightly because every single President after him would ignore the "Negro Problem" as they called it and continued with their lie by going against the lofty standard this country was founded. They actually became anti-Americans.
Lincoln had faced the "Negro Problem" issue head on and was very brave in doing so by instituting the Emancipation Proclamation. So we had two great Presidents with different opinions of Democracy and what it meant to be on the side of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. Abraham Lincoln chose to put Democracy first and his personal prejudices second, but Washington put his financial interest ahead of Democracy. This is what set these two great men apart in character.
After Lincoln's death, democracy would take a wild downward spiral. One of the most biased President in American history led the attack. His name was Andrew Johnson. He fought against Reconstruction aid for blacks tooth and nail. Every favorable bill for former slaves that appeared on his desk was immediately denied. Later, there were new illegal laws created to restrict black American citizens that worked very well. This was called the Jim Crow era. It was an all-out attack on Democracy by Anti-Americans and aided by good white Americans who remained neutral by sitting on the fence and not speaking up. Read for yourself.
There's not enough room on this web page to describe the hate and exclusion by the government and white Americans against blacks during this period. Jim Crow laws touched every part of life, all across America. Blacks and whites were kept apart as much as possible. Good jobs went to whites; blacks were given the worst with less pay. Many industries wouldn’t hire blacks. Many unions passed special rules to exclude them. All juries and judges were white; blacks were illegally denied voting rights. No blacks allowed in public pools. Many restaurants would not serve blacks, and those that did had a dirty colored section. Blacks and whites went to county fairs on different days. Blacks couldn't use public libraries.|
Simple common courtesy was rarely shown the blacks. Whites beat, tortured, raped and killed blacks with no fear of punishment. Blacks were denied credit for businesses, housing, cars by the banks. Blacks were kept out of white neighborhoods with housing covenants. Oklahoma had black and white phone booths. Texas had cities where blacks were entirely restricted from living. Blacks could not leave their homes after 10:00 pm in Mobile Alabama. Blacks could not marry whites. Georgia had separate white and black parks. Prisons, hospitals, and orphanages were segregated as were schools and colleges. Blacks and whites had to use different sets of books in school, in Florida, they couldn't be stored together. When a person was sworn in at a trial, the whites used one Bible, and the blacks had a separate Bible. For those who did complete college, a crucial question had to be answered. Who was going to be their clients?
Whites didn't engage blacks in business, and the battered black person couldn't afford their services. These laws became so entrenched in American life; even unwritten laws affected black citizenship; blacks understood to stay out of white stores and establishments. Segregation was so complete that whites did not see blacks except when being served by them. After the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, blacks have made enormous gains. This is how the United States of America became a polarized country. Each and every President knew what was going on and allowed this illegal activity for 87 years. Were they guilty of not upholding the United States Constitution in the black people behalf? Is this the reason why many other nations laugh at America with its constant claims of being on the side of good and high morality?
Religion made things worse
Even though the U.S. was not founded as a Christian nation and existed solely as a secular state entirely free of religious influence in lawmaking, religion would soon be thrown into the loop. This made American people feel righteous and just in their own eyes. White's believed they were "good" and made in God's image and blacks were not. In time slogans such as "In God, We Trust" were printed on money to describe people who had snuffed out Democracy by living a lie. They felt God was on their side and loved only them.
Countless movies, radio shows, newspapers, magazines and other media would consistently portray these anti-Americans as on the side of good, morally upstanding and righteous to the world. Good white Americans that were sitting on the fence had to know this was a farce because of the way its black citizens were being treated and did nothing.
But there was a relative few brave, justice loving white Americans who spoke up and got involved for democracy with some even losing their lives, but the majority did nothing. They remained on the fence because they were also partakers of the privileged American way of living and failed to realize how this was undermining true Democracy with the prospect of one day being faced with an America they wouldn't recognize.
“Ignorance of how we are shaped racially is the first sign of privilege. In other words. It is a privilege to ignore the consequences of race in America.” Tim Wise
So, what has America become?
Because of the folly of racism and privilege by anti-Americans and the lack of action to speak out by good Americans, it appears this country has morphed into another form of power. Something that is completely different than it started out as, like an insatiable, greedy, detestable and ugly monster without a soul or conscience?
"Colored Waiting Room" sign from
segregationist era United States
photo #100 -year-1878
Black Legion Uniforms with Skull-and-Crossbones
| Race in 1931 |
- 1931 - The Scottsboro Boys were nine African-American teenagers accused in Alabama of raping two White American women on a train in 1931. The landmark set of legal cases from this incident dealt with racism and the right to a fair trial. Analysis: Another miscarriage of justice for these young black men, whose lives were wasted on the false allegations of rape against them. The white women who accused them would later go on to admit they were lying, but that didn't stop the judge from keeping some in prison. But re-trial after re-trial had to take its toll on these men, and would eventually go on to ruin their lives.
- 1931 - The Black Legion was a secret vigilante terrorist group and a white supremacist organization in the Midwestern United States that splintered from the Ku Klux Klan and operated during the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1931 a chapter was formed in Highland Park, Michigan, expanding to an estimated total membership in the state estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 by the mid-1930s during the Great Depression. Its members were native-born Protestant men, many who had migrated from the South. One-third of the members lived in Detroit, which had also been an active center of KKK activity in the 1920s.
|| sLANG tALK in 1931 |
- Air out - to go, leave the scene
- Bad Hair - kinky negro hair
- Bailing - enjoying oneself, having a ball
- Bam & down in Bam - the southern parts
- Beating up your gums - not making sense when talking, big mouth
- Blowing your top - someone getting mad, to the boiling point
- Boogie-woogie - dancing, or could mean a venereal disease
- Bull-skating - a person that brags
- Butt sprung - whatever the person is wearing it doeasnt look good around the butt area
- Coal scuttle blonde - black lady
- Collar a nod - to go asleep
- Collor a hot - to get something to eat
- Conk buster - inexpensive liquor or could mean a smart black person
- Dat thing - sex of either male or female
- Diddy-Wah-Diddy - somewhere far away
- Dig - understand the meaning of something
- Dumb to the fact - don't know what you're talking about
- Dusty butt - inexpensive prostitute
- Eight-rock - super black person
- First thing smoking - a coming train
- Git up off of me - stop talking about me, leave me alone
- Good hair - white folks hair type
- Gut-bucket - a kind of music
- Handkerchief-head - a uncle tom
- I don't deal in coal - I don't hang with black females
- I'm cracking but I'm facking - I'm talking shit but it's true
- Inky dink - super black person
- Jar head - black man
- I shot him lightly and he died politely - I outsmarted him
- Jelly - term for sex
- Jig - short for zigaboo which means a negro
- Juice - alcoholic beverage
- July jam - super hot
- Knock yourself out - have a ball, enjoy yourself
- Liver-lip - black people's purple lips
- Made hair - black kinky hair that has been straightened
- Mammy - a word used to insult someone
- Miss Anne - term used for a white lady
- Mister Charlie - term used for a white man
- Pancake - agreeable black person
- Peckerwood - poor white folks
- Playing the dozens - bad talking about each others family
- Reefer - marijuana
- Rug-cutter - good dancer
- Scrap iron - inexpensive alcoholic beverage
- Solid - absolutely perfect
- Stomp - dance
- Stormbuzzard - a useless homeless person
- The man - The rule of the law or a person of authority
- Thousand on a plate - a serving of beans
- Tight head - a very kinky haired person
Movies in America
Actress Evelyn Preer
Actress Rose McClendon
| Movies in 1931 |
- Evelyn Preer was a pioneering African-American stage and screen actress and blues singer of the 1910s through the early 1930s. Preer was regarded by many as the greatest actress of her time and was known within the black community as "The First Lady of the Screen"
- 1920s - Rose McClendon was a leading African-American Broadway actress of the 1920s-30s. McClendon was a contemporary of Paul Robeson, Ethel Barrymore, Lynn Fontanne and Langston Hughes.
Della Reese in the 1950s
Billie Thomas as Buckwheat in "Our Gang Follies of 1938"
Kim Hamilton, Ivan Dixon and Steven Perry
| Famous Birthdays in 1931 |
- January 5, 1931 - Alvin Ailey, African-American choreographer and activist.
- January 16, 1931 - Ellen Holly an American actress.
- January 17, 1931 - James Earl Jones an American actor who in a career of more than 60 years has become known as "one of America's most distinguished and versatile" actors.
- January 22, 1931 - Sam Cooke was an American recording artist and singer-songwriter, generally considered among the greatest of all time.
- January 30, 1931 - Charles Lenard Neal was an American second baseman in Major League Baseball.
- January 31, 1931 - Ernie Banks, nicknamed "Mr. Cub" and "Mr. Sunshine", is a retired American professional baseball player.
- February 18, 1931 - Toni Morrison, African-American novelist.
- March 12, 1931 - William "Billie" Thomas, Jr. was an African American child actor best remembered for portraying the character of Buckwheat in the Our Gang (Little Rascals) short films.
- April 6, 1931 - Ivan Dixon was an American actor, director, and producer best known for his series role in the 1960s sitcom Hogan's Heroes.
- April 19, 1931 - Etheridge Knight, an African-American poet who made his name in 1968 with his debut volume, Poems from Prison.
- May 6, 1931 - Willie Mays, nicknamed "The Say Hey Kid" is an American former professional baseball player.
- May 31, 1931 - Shirley Verrett, an African-American operatic mezzo-soprano who successfully transitioned into soprano roles.
- June 6, 1931 - William Percy Miller Jr. former minor league baseball player who broke the color barrier in the Carolina League.
- June 14, 1931 - Marla Gibbs an American actress, singer, writer and producer.Gibbs is best known for her role as Louise and George Jefferson's feisty maid, Florence Johnston, in the long-running CBS sitcom, The Jeffersons.
- July 6, 1931 - Della Reese, an American actress, singer, game show panelist of the 1970s, one-time talk-show hostess and ordained minister.
- July 15, 1931 - Rockne Booth Tarkington an American stage, film and television actor.
- September 19, 1931 - Brook Benton, an American singer and songwriter who was popular with rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and pop music audiences.
- November 5, 1931 - Gilbert R. "Gil" Hill a former President of the Detroit City Council.
- November 5, 1931 - Ike Turner, an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer.
- November 6, 1931 - Arthur W. French, Jr. an American actor and director best known for his work in the theatre.
- December 13, 1931 - Wycliffe Nathaniel "Bubba" Morton was an American right fielder in Major League Baseball.
| Famous African American Quotes |
William "Billie" Thomas, Jr. a.k.a. Buckwheat of Our Gang (Little Rascals)
In later life Billie was offered many film and stage roles, but had no desire to return to Hollywood as an actor, he explained shortly before his death in 1980.
"After the Army, I wasn't really interested in the hassle of performing," Even the big stars had to chase around and audition; it seemed like a rat race to me, with no security."
(TOP: Jimmy Johnson (bass), Bolden (cornet), Willy Cornish (Valve Trombone), Willy Warner (Clarinet) BOTTOM: Brock Mumford (Guitar), Frank Lewis (Clarinet).
Daniel Hale Williams
| Famous Deaths in 1931 |
- March 22, 1931 – Sarah Blair was a business woman and the only African American female to own a utility company (water).
- March 25, 1931 - Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, and an early leader in the civil rights movement.
- August 4, 1931 - Daniel Hale Williams, an African-American general surgeon.
- August 17, 1931 - A'Lelia Walker was an American businesswoman and patron of the arts. She was the daughter and only child of Madam C.J. Walker, popularly credited as being the first self-made woman millionaire in the United States and one of the first African American millionaires.
- November 4, 1931 – Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden was an African-American cornetist and is regarded by contemporaries as a key figure in the development of a New Orleans style of rag-time music, which later came to be known as jazz.
Zora Neale Hurston
| Famous Divorces in 1931 |
- Author Zora Neale Hurston and jazz musician Herbert Sheen were divorced.
| It's a Party in 1931 |
- Back in the early 1900s because of prejudice and racial discrimination, black entertainers had to be very careful where they traveled. They weren't always welcome in various venues, so they created what's called a Chitlin Circuit. They named it Chitlin Circuit because of blacks typical love for soul food with chitlins being near the top as favorite. So, in other words, they understood there would be love on the circuit. They knew that the clubs, juke joints, theaters, etc. in the circuit were welcoming of the black race and safe to visit. This way of life existing from the early 1900s - 1960s. Noted theaters and entertainers on the circuit included:
The Fox Theatre in Detroit; the Victory Grill in Austin, Texas; the Carver Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama; the Cotton Club, Small's Paradise and the Apollo Theater in New York City; Robert's Show Lounge, Club DeLisa and the Regal Theatre in Chicago; the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.;the Royal Peacock in Atlanta; the Royal Theatre in Baltimore; the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia; the Hippodrome Theatre in Richmond, Virginia; the Ritz Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida; and The Madam C. J. Walker Theatre on Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis.
Early figures of blues, including Robert Johnson, Son House, Charley Patton, and countless others, traveled the juke joint circuit, scraping out a living on tips and free meals. These entertainers provided much-needed joy and happiness for black folks. Once the band's gig was over, they would leave for the next stop on the circuit. Sounds like a lot of fun and an exciting life!
Many notable performers worked on the chitlin' circuit, including Patti LaBelle, Count Basie, Hammond B-3, Jeff Palmer, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Sheila Guyse, Peg Leg Bates, The Supremes, George Benson, James Brown & The Famous Flames, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Dorothy Dandridge, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ella Fitzgerald, The Jackson 5, Redd Foxx, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, John Lee Hooker, Lena Horne, Etta James, B.B. King, The Miracles, Donna Hightower, Moms Mabley, The Delfonics, Wilson Pickett, Richard Pryor, Otis Redding, Duke Ellington, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Little Richard, Ike & Tina Turner, The Four Tops, Tammi Terrell, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Muddy Waters, Flip Wilson and Jimmie Walker.
Jitterbugging in Negro juke joint,
Saturday evening, outside Clarksdale, Mississippi
An African American couple dance the jitterbug in front
of a crowd. Los Angeles California.
Thomas "Fats" Waller
Mildred Rinker Bailey
| Music in 1931 |
Billboard Top Hits:
March 3, 1931 - Cab Calloway records "Minnie Moocher" (Jazz's first million seller)
Popular Soul Dances:
- Houston Two-Step
- Lindy Hop
- The Foxtrot
- The Hully Gully is a type of unstructured line dance often considered to have originated in the sixties, but is also mentioned some forty years earlier as a dance common in the black juke joints in the first part of the twentieth century.
- Shim Sham Shimmy, Shim Sham or just Sham originally is a particular tap dance routine and is regarded as tap dance's national anthem. For swing dancers, today it is a kind of line dance that recalls the roots of swing.
- 1931 - The Oklahoma City Blue Devils was the premier Southwest territory jazz band in the 1920s. Originally called Billy King's Road Show, it disbanded in Oklahoma City in 1925 where Walter Page renamed it. The name Blue Devils came from the name of a gang of fence cutters operating during the early days of the American West. The Blue Devils disbanded in 1933, after which Basie recruited most of the group's members to join his group, which had begun in 1931, but then changed the name to the Count Basie Orchestra.
Musical Happenings in 1931:
- Muriel Rahn was an American vocalist and actress. She co-founded the Rose McClendon Players with her husband, Dick Campbell and was one of the leading black concert singers of the mid-20th Century. In 1929, she launched her professional career in New York City. She is perhaps best known for her starring role in the original Broadway production of Carmen Jones.
- William Grant Still's Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American" is premiered by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Howard Hanson; this is the "first time... that a major orchestra had performed a black composer's symphony", and the first symphony to incorporate blues and jazz.
- The Mills Brothers are the first to use jazz instrumentation and orchestration in the singing of an African-American quartet.
- Mildred Bailey, the first "female to sing with a (jazz) band", and the vocalist for Paul Whiteman's band, records "I Like to Do Things for You" with Frankie Trumbauer.
- William Llewellyn Wilson is the principal cellist at the debut of the City Colored Orchestra in Baltimore, conducted by A. Jack Thomas. Wilson will go on to become a long-term fixture in the African-American Baltimore music scene.
- Thomas A. Dorsey and Theodore Frye organize the first gospel choirs, at Chicago's Ebenezer Baptist Church. With Magnolia Lewis Butts, Dorsey and Frye also organize the Chicago Gospel Choral Union.
- Katherine Dunham organizes the Ballet Negre, establishing the African-American concert dance tradition.
- 1930s - "Fats" Waller was an important contributor to the popular stride piano style.
Womens Fashions in the 1930s
Womens Fashions in the 1930s
Mens Fashions in the 1930s
Charles Spurgeon Johnson, sociologist and first black president of Fisk University. Dressed to kill!
Mens Fashions in the 1930s
Jazz bandleader Tiny Bradshaw
| Fashions in 1931 |
The lighthearted, forward-looking attitude and fashions of the late 1920s lingered through most of 1930, but by the end of that year the effects of the Great Depression began to affect the public, and a more conservative approach to fashion displaced that of the 1920s. For women, skirts became longer and the waist-line was returned up to its normal position in an attempt to bring back the traditional "womanly" look. Other aspects of fashion from the 1920s took longer to phase out. Cloche hats remained popular until about 1933 while short hair remained popular for many women until late in the 1930s and even in the early 1940s.
For men, the most noticeable effect of the general sobering associated with the Great Depression was that the range of colors became more subdued. The bright colors popular in the 1920s fell out of fashion. Musicians and other fashion experimenters adopted the most extreme form of the drape, the zoot suit, with very high waists, pegged trousers, and long coats.
Feminine curves were highlighted in the 1930s through the use of the bias-cut in dresses. Madeleine Vionnet was the innovator of the bias-cut and used this method to create sculptural dresses that molded and shaped over the body's contours as it draped the female form.
Through the mid-1930s, the natural waistline was often accompanied by emphasis on an empire line. Short bolero jackets, capelets, and dresses cut with fitted midriffs or seams below the bust increased the focus on breadth at the shoulder. Most women wore skirts at or near knee-length, with simply-cut blouses or shirts and square-shouldered jackets.
Pullman porters, who were mainly black, are widely credited with contributing to the development of the black middle class in America. Before the Civil War, sleeping cars were not in use. George Pullman came up with the brilliant idea of making rail travel a memorable event with servers to cater to whites every need.
During slavery, most whites didn't own slaves, and this gave them an opportunity to experience that. Pullman became the number #1 employer of blacks in the country. He was a tight businessman though because the pay was lousy with the porters working over 400 hours a month. Porters also had to purchase their clothing and accessories. They received most of their income by tips.
But the job was steady work and that meant alot for black families. Famous porters of old included, Thurgood Marshall, Oscar Micheaux, Malcolm X and the photojournalist Gordon Parks.
How did "acting" Cool begin for African Americans?|
It seems like it's been around forever and
expected of every black kid growing up
For most blacks, cool started on the southern plantations. Opportunists slavemasters devised a way for slaves to work harder and reap the benefits of their labor. During the year at a chosen plantation slave masters would hold a "Corn Shucking Festival." Slaves from nearby plantations would also join this event with their owner's permission, so it was almost like a community gathering of all the local slaves, with greedy slavemasters making all the money.
The slave who shucked the most corn won an award, sometimes cash or a suit of clothes. Anyone who found a red ear of corn also received a reward - perhaps a kiss from a young woman or a jug of whiskey. It was at these events that the term Shuckin' and jivin' came into existence by the slaves while working and telling tall stories, talking smack, and joking around with each other.
These gatherings, even though involving hard work had to be an event looked forward to by the slaves, because it was one of the few times during the year blacks had a chance to interact with one another. Shuckin' and jivin' would become a tool the slaves would use to convince their masters of an untruth, and even among themselves. It was an early form of being cool.
After slavery blacks were free (sort of) to do as they pleased. Most blacks wanted to assimilate into American culture very much but were shut out by the white racist. African and European culture met head on in what was supposed to be fair in America guaranteed by our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but blacks didn't stand a chance.
Why, what happened?
Because most whites banded together by breaking the law and made blacks second class citizens and would go on to murder, lynch, rape, humiliate them all the way until the 1960s Civil Rights movement. After Lincoln, every single United States President was aware of this and did nothing. Whites achieved like crazy and prospered while blacks lagged far behind and got along the best way they knew how.
Blacks disliked whites very much for this terrible treatment and instead of violent disobedience, they protested by living their lives opposite of white culture. I mean let's face it, why would blacks want to imitate or become a part of a race of people that hated them?
This is when being cool became a symbol of white resistance and protest. Being cool would show you were down with the struggle. During slavery, we had already created our language which was AAVE and many blacks communicated this way. Any black that did not use it was looked down as trying to act white, joining the enemy sort of speak.
We developed our own way of walking with a proud gait, (George Jefferson strut) our own style of music, our own style of dance, our own style of food, our own style of worship, that didn't have anything in common with white folks and that suited blacks just fine. We were poor, but we were proud and cool and everyone who practiced these traits was cool and a part of the resistance.
In the process, we were creating a new culture that was admired over the world. Blacks have always had a remarkable ability to create something out of nothing. But sadly there was significant risk with this lifestyle in a great country such as America.
What were the downfalls?
Oscar Micheaux felt it was wrong for blacks to live this way in America. Oscar was an African American author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 movies and he is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the twentieth century and the most prominent producer of race films. He produced both silent movies and "talkies" after the industry changed to incorporate speaking actors.
Oscar felt that blacks should become aggressive and use their brainpower in achieving instead of just settling for what the white man doled out. This man lived in some of the most racist times in American history, but he didn't let that stop him from fulfilling his dreams and doing it the legal way.
Evidently, Oscar had a brother who was the very cool type and was content on just putting up a show, or a front as living a successful life. We all know the type. A person that was living beyond his means. Blacks of his day called this way of living “the good life.”
Oscar didn't like it and was very upset with his brother. He later wrote in his book and discussed the culture of doers who want to accomplish, and those who see themselves as victims of injustice and hopelessness, and do not want to step out and try to succeed, but instead like to dress up, act cool and pretend to be successful while living the city lifestyle in poverty.
Oscar understood that education doesn't belong only to white people, it's a gift for all humanity to better ourselves, and honestly the best-proven way. Chinese, Japanese, Middle-Eastern and all other non-white nations understand this and have prospered by education. It's one of humanities treasure to learn.
But many blacks associated education with white and stayed far away from it, to continue with their cool lifestyle. A foolish mistake, and just what racist whites want you to believe.
Early Europeans completely dominated the Africans because they were better educated. They had guns we had spears, you do the math. In Africa our ancestors didn't value education, but traditions and silly ones at that. But that didn't save them. Education would have, though.
So without a doubt, it is entirely wrong to associate teaching and learning to white people. Many of us would look down upon another black who tried to better himself through education by saying they were trying to act white, and it wasn't cool. Racist whites laughed at us for believing this way because they knew we would always be behind.
After the 1960s, when our full Civil Rights were finally restored, many blacks chose to live the more standard American way by attending school to learn. But many also wanted to remain trapped in time with the old AAVE living in what they still perceived as defiance to the white American way of doing things. But were they only hurting themselves?
Later in time, being cool had become so prevalent in the black community it confused many kids, because they didn't quite understand if they were going to hang out with the cool kids or the so-called boring kids who liked to read and learn. At an early age, they are at a critical crossroad. Taking the cool route may seem easier, and a lot of fun, but would be a devastating mistake.
After the Civil Rights era we now have the opportunity to attend school and achieve as much as we can, but being cool has snatched many of the black kids and locked them into a culture hating education and in the process ruining their young lives.
Many entertainment figures reap much money from this cool culture by portraying cool as, well cool. They tell impressionable ones what's cool to hear, talk about, wear, eat, etc. and at the same time padding their cool humongous bank accounts.
These even get on television and flaunt their riches in a youngster's face never explicitly teaching on how they might be as successful, without being dishonest, stealing or selling drugs. Education is not cool for them to preach.
One thing is for sure, being cool can be a lot of fun and there's no denying that. Everybody wants to be liked, and it seems like cool people are respected and admired the most, from the clothes they wear to the type of songs they listen to the way they talk, the effortless way they seem to accomplish every task is amazing.
They possess incredible confidence. But truthfully everything they've accomplished wouldn't have been possible without the sacrifices of our wonderful ancestors. So don't you agree we owe a particular moral responsibility to them?
Kids should remember cool is not the real deal, It's a game we can't get caught up in. Our ancestors endured so much so we could achieve. We should never forget that. That's what this site was created. Browse through its pages, and you're going to read stories of amazing blacks.
They made it possible for us, and we're sure they would advise us to achieve through education first and foremost and save the cool for the weekends, and I ain't Shuckin and Jivin!
By White House (Pete Souza) / Maison Blanche (Pete Souza) (The Official White House Photostream) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Senate Office of Richard Lugar [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
United States Census for African Americans
in the 1930s
American jazz violinist Eddie South
with a conk hairdo.
| Our Community in 1931 |
Newsworthy Events in the Black Community:
- 1931 - In the 1930s, some believed the conk hairdo served as a rite of passage from adolescence into adulthood for black males. Because of the pain involved in the process, the conk represented masculinity and virility within the community. Many of the popular musicians of the early to mid 20th century, including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, James Brown, and the members of The Temptations and The Miracles, were well known for sporting the conk hairstyle.
- The United States Population is 122,775,046 with a total of 11,891,143 being African Americans.
#100 - Public Domain image - By Gale Agency, Inc. (management company) (eBay item photo) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
#101 - Public Domain image - By Mary GarrityRestored by Adam Cuerden [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
#102 - Public Domain image -
See page for author [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer, William C. Greene [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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