Sunday, September 23, 2007

The day Louis Armstrong made noise

From today's New York Times:

Fifty years ago this week, all eyes were on Little Rock, Ark., where nine black students were trying, for the first time, to desegregate a major Southern high school. With fewer than 150 blacks, the town of Grand Forks, N.D., hardly figured to be a key front in that battle — until, that is, Larry Lubenow talked to Louis Armstrong.

On the night of Sept. 17, 1957, two weeks after the Little Rock Nine were first barred from Central High School, the jazz trumpeter happened to be on tour with his All Stars band in Grand Forks. Larry Lubenow, meanwhile, was a 21-year-old journalism student and jazz fan at the University of North Dakota, moonlighting for $1.75 an hour at The Grand Forks Herald.

Shortly before Mr. Armstrong's concert, Mr. Lubenow's editor sent him to the Dakota Hotel, where Mr. Armstrong was staying, to see if he could land an interview.
Armstrong's frank commentary on color and American culture — "The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell" — became national news. Read all about it:
The Day Louis Armstrong Made Noise (New York Times)

Related post
Louis Armstrong's advice
Invisible man: Louis Armstrong and the New York Times
Louis Armstrong, collagist
Louis Armstrong's advice
[Note: the Times article is in error when it states that Sammy Davis, Jr. criticized Armstrong "for not speaking out earlier." According to Gary Giddins' Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong (2001), "Davis said Armstrong did not speak for the Negro people, called him 'a great credit to his race,' and finally conceded that he agreed with his meaning but not 'his choice of words.'"]

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