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Acknowledging the Black roots of swing and jazz

by swingadmin

We acknowledge that the core dance we share comes from African American culture, as does the jazz music we love. We are deeply grateful to be able to experience this amazing art form.
We endeavour to continue educating ourselves about the history and social context from which jazz and lindy hop grew, and in which it exists today, because that understanding helps us to honour the roots of the dance, as we experience it today.

Here are some useful links for examining the history and social context of swing dancing and jazz music as art forms that originated in African American culture.

• Lindy Hop is a Black American Dance – by Laura Glaess, on YouTube

Swing History 101:
SoCal Swings (1935-1939-ish)
and Swing History 101: Lindy Comes to SoCal (1937-ish-1945) – from Bobby White’s “Swungover”, on the early days of swing dancing in southern California.

• Anti-racism resources for white people – a document intended to serve as a resource to white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work.

Resources Shared during The More You Know Workshop by Odysseus Bailer (June 2020)


The More You Know Slides/Resources by Odysseus Bailer
How it Feels to be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston – someone on Sunday night wanted to share stanzas 11 and 12 with their breakout group

List of Books/Literature

Jookin’: The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African American Culture by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon
Steppin’ on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance by Jacqui Malone
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang
Blues Legacies and Black Feminism by Angela Y. Davis
Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography By Zora Neale Hurston
The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
The Language of Blues: From Alcorub to Zuzu by Debra Devi
Jazz City: The Impact of Our Cities on the Development of Jazz by Leroy Ostransky

Book List by Shelby Johnson – This is a Patreon page, there are a lot of interesting posts to check out on Shelby’s page
Book List by Damon Stone – Damon’s blog is also accessible via this link
Blues and Jazz Dance Book Club – private Facebook Group
European Library of Blues, Swing and Black Culture – run by Isabell Mugai and Rosie Myan-Keogh (UK)


Jack Dappa Blues Radio
Unlocking Us – Brene Brown
• Episode: Austin Channing Brown – Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Do the Work series – Rachel Cargle
Criminal – Podcast about true crimes; #142 is about Robert Smalls (slave who liberated himself)
1619 – Podcast about enslaved people in the US, historical, personal stories; by Nikole Hannah-Jones


These were discussed or brought up: Some of these songs were discussed as potentially problematic to play for social dancing. So the suggestion here is to listen to them closely, not to add to your DJ playlist
Get Back by Big Bill Broonzy
Another Man Done Gone By Vera Hall
Monkey Face Blues by Otis Spann
Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday
Strange Fruit: Throughline – NPR podcast detailing how closely the government watched/monitered Billie Holiday
St. James Infirmary by Louis Armstrong

Songs of the Underground Railroad
Innocent Fun Isn’t Always Harmless – Blog post from Obsidian Tea about “Wade in the Water” and how songs can be/have been used without knowledge of context
• Grey’s lecture regarding song lyrics; and the Spotify playlist to accompany the lecture
• Please donate to Grey for creating this content if you’re able!
Songs You Need to Think About a list by Nalla Kim, Lindy Hop Instructor in Seoul Korea (Website)
Political Blues – playlist by Ben Gladnikoff


Frankie Manning: Never Stop Swinging
JoYsS Youtube Channel – Dancer (Swing and Blues)
Dawn Hampton and John Dokes at Frankie Manning Memorial
Harriet (2019) – biopic about Harriet Tubman, a ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad
Malcolm X (1992) – biopic that covers significant events/changes in his life from youth to death
Bamboozled (2000) – “A frustrated African-American TV writer proposes a blackface minstrel show in protest, but to his chagrin it becomes a hit.” Directed by Spike Lee
UK Jive – Vintage clip about Jive being introduced in the UK
Jive Dance – video that shows “elegancing” jitterbug for European ballrooms and presenting it as a jive


Hidden Messages in Spirituals
Jack Dappa Blues Heritage Preservation Foundation
• Run by Lamont and Denise Pearley (NYC) the foundation has plenty of articles pertaining to African-American culture and history, and a podcast about the blues and blues people. (Can also follow Facebook page)
Talking About Race
Obsidian Tea – Blog by Grey Armstrong
Dance Communities and Time Travel – regarding the love of vintage and idealizing the Jazz Age
Swungover – Blog by Bobby White
Theatre Owners Booking Association (TOBA)
Dancing Star International – Resources for Lindy Hop by Deborah Huisken – Volume 2, Issue 1, At The Feet of the Elders

Educators of Interest

Tom Attah – UK based Blues Musician; lectures at Leeds Arts University about music
Damon Stone – Blues Dancer and Instructor

Resources in Languages Other than English (Regarding Racism)

Exit Racism by Tupoka Ogette (German) (author also has a podcast)
Was Weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen, aber wissen sollten by Alice Hasters. (excellent anti-racism reading for a German context, author also has a podcast)