The Meaning of Jazz in African American Culture Particularly in Harlem During the 1950’s
Particularly in Harlem During the 1950’s
In the Baldwin’s story, Sonny’s Blues, the author portrays African -Americans in the urban life. Even though he writes about reconciliation of two brothers, who are trying to overcome their differences and to come to understand each other, the story shows the meaning of Jazz in African American culture, particularly in Harlem during 1950.
The urban life in Harlem has being described by many authors, including James Baldwin. The life of an African American man in this place during the 1950’s was a “disaster”, “faces and bodies” […] were “trapped in the darkness” (Baldwin n.pag). It was a time prior to the Civil Rights Movement, the time of …show more content…
One of the major themes in the story is music, especially jazz music in Harlem. The author shows that music is not only as a symbol of African American identity, heritage, and racial issues in society, but also as a means of communication between people. Historically Harlem is rich in history and culture. “Throughout its development it has seen everything from poverty to urban growth” (Hilliard n.pag). Many black people have migrated to this community, “bringing with them heritage and traditions of their own”(Hilliard n.pag). One of these traditions was music – blues and spirituals. “This tradition deeply rooted because of their African heritage provided a source of employment for many”[…]“performing on the Harlem streets, at house parties, bordellos, or just about anywhere for a meal, a dollar or two”(Hilliard n.pag). During these years many musicians who have migrated to New York helped establish the city as “the mecca for black music” (Hilliard n.pag).
In the story Baldwin tries to explain why music plays such an important role for people living in Harlem. In the opening paragraph, the narrator reads about Sonny in the newspaper while riding the subway from Harlem to the school where he teaches: "I stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway