In the early decades of the twentieth century, Brooklyn welcomed a new wave of black residents, recently arrived in New York City in search of better lives. In those pre-integration years, the black enclaves of Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights stood out as self-reliant cultural strongholds, with music integrated into every aspect of community life. A remarkable number of jazz musicians were nurtured and schooled in the neighborhoods. By mid-century, the number of local jazz venues in Central Brooklyn had outdistanced the number in Harlem.
The oral histories in WLJSB's Collection tell complicated, interwoven stories about the landscape that nurtured some of the most significant artistic innovations in modern history. Illuminating the connections between Brooklyn and places reaching from within the city to around the world and persist in myriad forms to this day.
Many of these same networks and legacies are discernible-albeit with different contours and emphases-in the work produced by those whose oral histories comprise the WLJSB Collection. Exploring that which remains with us today, especially recorded music, adds additional voices and dimensions to the stories archived at Weeksville.
The WLJSB series contains twenty-seven recordings of oral history interviews, and features interviews with club owners, jazz journalists, presenters, and musicians. While mapping the physical locations of these "lost shrines," the oral histories also map a cultural history: What happened at these places? Who performed there? Who did these places bring together? How did Brooklyn residents experience them? What was their relationship with other local, regional and national jazz scenes and various jazz communities? What was the impact of jazz in Brooklyn on the area, New York City, and beyond? Presented here are the recordings of three interviews from the Collection.
Curators and Research: Megan Goins-Diouf, Lisa Stewart Garrison, and Anika Paris