Friday, February 29, 2008

Panoramic Movie Of A Jazz Mural On Linden Boulevard In Queens

A panoramic movie of a mural on the northern side of Linden Boulevard as it passes under the Long Island Railroad. It depicts many of the jazz and entertainment giants who resided in Addisleigh Park and St. Albans, Queens

Google Maps: Ella Fitzgerald

from My Queen's Jazz Trail

Google Maps: Roy Campenella

from My Queen's Jazz Trail

Google Maps: Joe Louis

from My Queen's Jazz Trail

Fats Waller: Ain't Misbehavin'

Lyrics by Andy Razaf
Music by Thomas "Fats" Waller and Harry Brooks

No one to talk with,
All by myself,
No one to walk with,
But I'm happy on the shelf
Ain't misbehavin',
I'm savin' my love for you
I know for certain,
The one I love,
I through with flirtin',
It's just you I'm thinkin' of.
Ain't misbehavin',
I'm savin' my love for you
Like Jack Horner in the corner
Don't go no where,
What do I care,
Your kisses are worth waitin' for
Be-lieve me
I don't stay out late,
Don't care to go,
I'm home about eight,
Just me and my radio
Ain't misbehavin',
I'm savin' my love for

Fats Waller: The Joint Is Jumping

biography from redhotjazz
Fats Waller (1904-1943) was the son of a preacher and learned to play the organ in church with his mother. In 1918 he won a talent contest playing James P. Johnson's Carolina Shout which he learned from watching a pianola play the song. He would later take piano lessons from Johnson. Fats began his recording career in 1922 and made a living playing rent parties, as an organist at movie theatres and as an accompanist for various vaudeville acts. In 1927 he co-wrote a couple of tunes with his old piano teacher James P. Johnson for his show "Keep Shufflin'". Two years later Waller wrote the score for the Broadway hit "Hot Chocolates" with lyrics supplied by his friend Andy Razaf. Fats' most famous song, "Ain't Misbehavin'" was introduced in this show which featured Louis Armstrong. Fats Waller's big break occurred at a party given by George Gershwin in 1934, where he delighted the crowd with his piano playing and singing. An executive of Victor Records, who was at the party was so impressed that he arranged for Fats to record with the company. This arrangement would continue until Waller's death in 1943. Most of the records he made were released under the name of Fats Waller and his Rhythm. The group consisted of around half a dozen musicians who worked with him regularly, including Zutty Singleton. Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s Fats was a star of radio and nightclubs, and toured Europe. He unexpectedtly died on board a train near Kansas City, Missouri of pneumonia in 1943.
lyrics-which don't quite follow the version above

They have a new expression along old Harlem way,
That tells you when a party is ten times more than gay:
To say that things are jumpin' leaves not a single doubt,
That everthing is in full swing when you hear someone shout.
Here 'tis:
The joint is jumpin',
It's really jumpin',
Come in, cats, and check your hats,
I mean this joint is jumpin'!
The piano's thumpin',
The dancers are bumpin',
This here spot is more than hot,
In fact, the joint is jumpin'!
Check your weapons at the door,
Be sure to pay your quarter,
Burn your leather on the floor,
Grab anybody's daughter.
The roof is rockin',
The neighbors knockin',
We're all bums when the wagon comes,
I mean, this joint is jumpin'!
Let it be! Yas!
Burn this joint, boy!
Yas! Oh, my! Yas!
Don't you hit that chick, that's my broad!
Where'd you get that stuff at?
Why, I'll knock you to your knees!
What? Put this cat out of here!
What? Get rid of that pistol! Get rid of that pistol! Yeah! Get rid of it, yas!
Yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about! Ha, ha! Yas!
Now it's really ready!
No, baby, not now, I can't come over there right now.
Yeah, let's do it!
The joint is jumpin',
It's really jumpin'!
Every Mose is on his toes,
I mean this joint is jumpin'!
Uh-oh! No time for talkin',
This place is walkin', yes,
Get your jug and cut the rug,
I think the joint is jumpin'.
Listen! Get your pig feet, bread and gin,
There's plenty in the kitchen!
Who is that that just came in?
Just look at the way he's switchin'!
Aw, mercy, Don't mind the hour,
I'm in power. I've got bail if we go to jail.
I mean this joint is jumpin'!
Don't give your right name, no, no, no, no!

Assignment Templates For Jazz Time Tale

For the template on the left the assignment involves "finding the evidence." I give still images references from the movie. On the right it's a straight comprehension assignment with movie time stamp clues.

Here is where you will find a previous post with part 1 of the movie

Here is where you will find a previous post with part 2 of the movie

Illinois Jacquet: A Last Performance

Illinois Jacquet

This is Illinois in the 1940's
from a great resource on swing music history
Although Illinois Jacquet may be best remembered as the tenor saxophonist who defined the screeching style of playing the instrument, his warm and sensitive tone may also be heard on countless jazz ballads and medium groove-tempo numbers since the mid 1940s.
Illinois Jacquet was born Jean-Baptiste Jacquet October 31st, 1922 in Broussard, Louisiana. His mother was a Sioux Indian and his father, Gilbert Jacquet, was a French-Creole railroad worker and part-time musician.
The nickname Illinois came from the Indian word "Illiniwek," which means superior men. He dropped the name Jean-Baptiste when the family moved from Louisiana to Houston because there were so few French-speaking people there.
Jacquet, one of six children, began performing at age 3, tap dancing to the sounds of his father's band. He later played the drums in the Gilbert Jacquet band but discovered his true talent when a music teacher introduced him to the saxophone.
Illinois Jacquet cut his first sides as tenor man with Lionel Hampton's newly formed big band in December of 1941. Six months later and not even lead tenor man in the Hampton big band, his energetic vibraphone playing boss asked him to supply some high-spirited blowing on a tune called Flying Home. By the time Jacquet�s work on the May 26th, 1942 recording was through, he had recorded a unique solo that would follow him a lifetime and make his career.
Years later, during an interview with Nancy Wilson on NPR�s Jazz Profiles, Jacquet explained that when he found out he would be soloing on the record he became worried about how to handle the job. When he voiced his fear to the section leader, his advice was to "play your style." It was sound advice but posed a problem in itself because at that time Illinois had yet to develop a style of his own. Later giving credit for thesolo to divine inspiration he said, "Something was with me at that moment. It all came together for some reason."
Unfortunately the recording ban of 1942 was only months away. On August 1st, 1942 only vocalists were allowed to be recorded on record per a rule laid down by James Petrillo, the head of the American Federation Of Musicians union.
With the recording ban still in place in 1943, Jacquet accepted an offer from Cab Calloway to join his band. Calloway was known to take good care of his musicians financially and although he had big shoes to fill, Illinois jumped at the chance. He was to replace one of his early idols, the phenomenal tenor man Chu Berry, who had recently lost his life in an automobile accident on the way to a Calloway outing in Northern Ohio.
Almost immediately Jacquet found himself in the middle of doing a film soundtrack with Calloway and Lena Horne for the film Stormy Weather. Although he can be seen on screen in the movie he did not solo for the film. Unfortunately due to the recording ban, Jacquet can only be heard soloing with Calloway on live broadcast transcription recordings during his short stay with the band. One of the cleanest sounding surviving examples is on a barn-burning tune called 105 In The Shade.
After leaving the Calloway aggregation Jacquet returned back to his home in Houston where his brother, trumpet man Russell Jacquet, had just broken up his own band. Anxious to move forward in their careers the two traveled to Los Angeles and Illinois began participating in small club "jam sessions" organized by jazz impresario Norman Granz.
When Granz moved jazz to the concert hall with a benefit concert given on behalf of several Mexican kids arrested under questionable circumstances during the Zoot Suit Riots, Jacquet was in the lineup. The tenor master�s screech and honk style was in full swing for the July 2nd, 1944 date considered the first ever Jazz At The Philharmonic concert. Jacquet was a crowd exciter on songs like Blues (my naughty sweetie gives to me) captured in Los Angeles that day. The concert was recorded onto 16" transcription discs and subsequently the performances, which ran well longer than the 3 minutes that would fit on one side of a 78RPM record, were broken up into 3 and 4 sides for public consumption. With Jacquet on the date were Nat Cole, Les Paul, J.J. Johnson, Jack McVea, Shorty Sherock, Johnny Miller, Red Callender, and Lee Young.
The following month Jacquet participated with fellow tenor man Lester Young in a classic short film feature that was nominated for an Academy Award called Jammin' The Blues. Young and Jacquet were both noted for their pork pie hats as much as for their innovative styles on tenor sax.
It was also while in Los Angeles that Jacquet first guested with the Count Basie orchestra, in September of 1944, for an AFRS Jubilee show broadcast. Transcriptions of these performances, now available on a HEP records CD release, find Jacquet blowing in fine fashion on songs like Rock-A-Bye-Basie alongside, Basie tenor man, Buddy Tate.
In November Illinois was part of a studio band that helped back Lena Horne on four sides cut for RCA Victor. It was one of the few instances of Jacquet providing backing for a vocalist in the studio. Ella Fitzgerald, Cora Lee Day and Johnny Hartman were the only other vocalists to release studio recordings with his backing although Billie Holiday was the featured vocalist on many JATP concerts subsequently released on Clef and later Verve.
Jacquet joined the Count Basie big band in earnest in 1945 just after the end of WWII. He remained with Basie until the fall of 1946. He can be heard on many of the Count�s Columbia releases like Mutton Leg, The King, Stay Cool and others. After a lot of soul searching and a good deal of trepidation he left the Count in August of 1946 to join Granz�s JATP which was by this time touring the country.
Illinois Jacquet is credited with recording more than 300 original compositions. Although he was working for Basie, then Norman Granz's Jazz At The Philhamonic, and moonlighting on other sessions, many of his tunes were conceived during the period of his career between 1945 and 1951.
Jacquet's wildly swinging improvisational forays were clearly pleasing live crowds at Jazz At The Philharmonic shows, many of which were being recorded and released on Granz's newly formed Clef record label. But there was also emerging a sensitive and swinging, softer tone on a number of studio recordings for other labels. On a Capitol all-star type session led by guitarist Al Casey on January 19th, 1945, Jacquet handled his parts in a much more subtle style. This soft and swinging, yet deep and robust, phraseology is also evident on sides cut the same day under drummer Sid Catlett�s name.
These more mellow performances set the stage for later 1940s recordings with self-led groups that cut numerous sides for a variety of labels including Apollo, Aladdin, Coral, Decca, and RCA. Robbin�s Nest and Black Velvet were both co-written and recorded by Jacquet in the late 1940s. Both songs became big hits, the former achieving jazz standard status.
Jacquet's success as a leader prompted him to ask Norman Granz for more money in 1948. However the amount Jacquet was asking was more than Granz could afford to pay. Jacquet and Granz parted ways (for the moment) with Illinois concentrating on his own band, which he led with various personnel changes until 1950.
In 1951 Jacquet signed a recording contract with Norman Granz and his Clef record label. This led to once again touring with Granz's Jazz At The Philharmonic. Under the Clef and later Verve banners Jacquet cut some superb studio sides with numerous small groups over the next seven-year period. Some of the greatest jazz stars of all time were recorded with Jacquet like old acquaintances Sweets Edison and Count Basie, Hank Jones and Art Blakey, Roy Eldridge and Ray Brown, Wild Bill Davis, Kenny Burrell, Ben Webster and others.
From 1958 through the 1960s Illinois recorded for a number of labels including Epic, Cadet, Argo, and Prestige.
In the 1970s he can be heard on several European labels including Black Lion, Black And Blue and others.
In 1983 Jacquet was invited to speak at Harvard University. The success of his lecture earned him a return for two semesters as an artist-in-residence. He was the first jazz player ever to serve a long-term residency at the Ivy League school. This inspired him to form another big band, which eventually toured Europe, drawing record crowds.
Jacquet played C-Jam Blues with former President Bill Clinton, an amateur saxophonist, on the White House lawn during Clinton's inaugural ball in January 1993. He also performed for Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
In 1998 Jacquet recorded with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra playing an incredible passage at 76 years of age on Ben Webster�s former signature song with the Ellington band called Cottontail. In so doing he gave away another one of his early influences, the tenor man known by Ellington�s people as Frog.
His last engagement was July 16, 2004 when he led his band at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Illinois Jacquet's flashy playing, which worked countless crowds into a frenzy throughout his career, will likely be what the tenor great is remembered by most. However true jazz and swing fans will also take into account his numerous sides done at slower tempi that communicate the sensitive side of the last of the big toned swing tenor saxophonists.
Illinois Jacquet died Thursday July 22, 2004 of a heart attack. Despite his fame and wealth he lived in a modest home in New York City�s borough of Queens. He was 81.

Google Maps: Illinois Jacquet

from My Queen's Jazz Trail

Google Maps: Lena Horne

from My Queen's Jazz Trail

Google Maps: Jackie Robinson

from My Queen's Jazz Trail
After living in apartments In Brooklyn, Jackie bought this home. Later he and his family moved to Stamford, Connecticut

Addisleigh Park In Queens

a slide show I made (the original is bigger and more viewable) of many of the historic homes I pinpointed on my Queens Jazz Trail Map. The nusic is "Flying Home" by the Lionel Hampton band featuring former Addisleigh Park resident and great tenor sax player Illinois Jacquet
from a great nyc history site forgotten-ny

Southern Queens' ascendance as a mecca for jazz musicians began in 1923 when Clarence Williams, a successful musician and entrepreneur from Plaquemine, Louisiana, purchased a home and eight lots at 171-37 108th Avenue. Anticipating the increasing popularity of jazz in the north, Williams moved first to Chicago in 1920 and then to New York with his wife, singer Eva Taylor, in 1923. Desiring open spaces reminiscent of his upbringing in the Louisiana delta, Williams made his home in Queens. He would be the first in a lengthy line of jazz musicians to come to southern Queens.
Addisleigh Park is a small part of the larger St. Albans neighborhood in Queens. Addisleigh is mostly clustered in the named streets (unusual for Queens) located north, south and west of Farmers and Linden Boulevards.
There are precious few memorials to St. Albans/Addisleigh Park's jazz heritage. This now-fading mural on the northern side of Linden Boulevard as it passes under the Long Island Railroad depicts many of the jazz and entertainment giants who resided here.
Having grown up in New Jersey, Count Basie arrived in NYC in 1923 and joined Fats Waller's (see below) band as an organist in 1924. After playing with Benny Moten's band, forging a new swing-based sound in Kansas City in 1927, he returned to the big apple in 1936 as the leader of the Count Basie Orchestra, which featured Lester Young and Herschell Evans on sax, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry Edison and vocalists Billie Holiday, Jimmy Rushing and Helen Humes. Their residence at the Woodside Hotel in Harlem inspired 1938's "Jumpin' at the Woodside."
Count Basie's home on Adelaide Road and 175th Street, St. Albans
In the 50s, Basie formed a new band that included the new sound of bebop and more blues-y elements. Basie's pop hits include "One O'Clock Jump," "Blue Skies," and the #1 "Open the Door, Richard!" in 1947; in 1963 he enjoyed a Top Five album with Frank Sinatra, "Sinatra-Basie." Count Basie moved to the new neighborhood of Addisleigh Park in 1946.
"Among all of us who sing, Ella was the best". -- Johnny Mathis
"I never knew how good our songs were until I heard Ella Fitzgerald sing them."
--Ira Gershwin
Ella Fitzgerald performed for 58 years, won 13 Grammy Awards and sold in excess of 40 million records. "The First Lady of Song" was born in Newport News, VA, and was orphaned young in life. She was discovered in an amateur contest sponsored by Harlem's famed Apollo Theatre in 1934 and was soon the featured vocalist in Chick Webb's band.
Ella lived on Murdock Avenue between 179th and 180th Street. She moved to Addisleigh Park in the 1950s. "I was delighted when Ella moved here. I could go up to her bar at her house and drink up all of her whiskey, and then go through somebody's yard and go home."­Illinois Jacquet
Ella enjoyed her first big smash in 1938 with "A-Tisket, a Tasket" and led Webb's band for three years after his death in 1939. After enjoying dozens of hits on the Decca label, including "I'm Making Believe" in 1944, "I Love You For Sentimental Reasons" in 1946 and "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Louis Jordan in 1949, Ella moved on the the new Verve label in 1955 and reinterpreted classics by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and Rodgers and Hart on albums featuring Nelson Riddle arrangements.
MILT HINTON (1910-2000)
The dean of jazz bassists, "The Judge" was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi and moved to Chicago with his family in 1921. After working through the 1920s a s afreelance musician with such legendary jazz artists including Zutty Singleton, Jabbo Smith, Eddie South, Erskine Tate, and Art Tatum, he joined Cab Calloway's band in 1936, remaining with Cab for 15 years. Milt Hinton lived at 113th Avenue and Marne Place.Hinton was a Queens resident from 1950 until his death in 2000.
Striking out on his own in the early 1950s, Hinton went on to play on thousands of recordings and toured extensively, performing with such giants as Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, and even pop musicans such as Bette Midler and Paul McCartney. Milt Hinton was also an educator and author, teaching at Hunter and Baruch Colleges. He also became an exhibited photographer, having taken over 60,000 images from his years on the road; many were published in his his book "Bass Line."
Fats Waller was reportedly the first African American to live in Addisleigh Park. He resided at Sayres Avenue and 174th Street. His home had a built-in Hammond organ and a Steinway grand. His derby tilted rakishly to one side, Fats Waller plinked the 88s and dotted his playful, high-spirited jazz-pop songs with bawdy ad-libs. Waller, one of the 1930s' consummate crowd-pleasers, was born in Greenwich Village in 1904, was playing piano by ear at age six, and at his reverend father's encouragement, learned violin, bass violin and organ. Waller got his professional start at 'rent parties' (where admission was charged to help out with rent payments) and vaudeville. In 1927, he collaborated on his first hit show, "Keep Shufflin'", and his next show, "Hot Chocolates" contained his first big hit, "Ain't Misbehavin.'" Waller went on to score and perform in dozens of shows. His biggest hit, "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie", came in 1936, and he wrote and performed time-tested classics like "Honeysuckle Rose," The Joint Is Jumpin,'" and "Lulu's Back in Town." Waller suffered from drinking and overweight problems his entire life. He also considered himself a serious musician, but racism in the period prevented him from realizing these ambitions. Soon after finishing work in "Stormy Weather" in 1943 he collapsed and died of bronchial pneumonia.
LENA HORNE (1917-)
Lena Horne was born in Brooklyn in 1917 and has been performing since she was a teenager. She danced and later sung at the Cotton Club beginning in 1933 and made her first recordings in 1937 with Teddy Wilson's orchestra. She joined Charlie Barnet's orchestra in 1940, and while Barnet's behavior was exemplary (he was one of the first white bandleaders to hire African Americans) she tired of the draining segregation and racism that was such a constant durng that time. Upon signing with MGM in 1940, she shrewdly had a clause written in that prevented her from depicting domestics, in a jungle native role, or other cliché images. Her appearance in 1943's Stormy Weather was a sensation; her rendition of the title song was her biggest hit and remains her signature song. Lena Horne left Hollywood in the early fifties to concentrate on her singing. Like many of her contemporaries, Lena Horne resided at 178th Street between 112th Avenue and Murdock Avenue beginning in the 1940s. During the Joe McCarthy era, she was blacklisted for her left-wing associations, but in 1956 she was taken off the list and resumed her career. She found great success during the sixties and seventies. In 1981, she appeared on Broadway in her own show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which became the longest-running one-woman show in the history of Broadway. She continues recording to this day. Lena Horne lives in New York City.
Saxophonist John Coltrane, who along with Charlie Parker is regarded by many fans as the greatest jazz performer in history, lived on Mexico Street near Quencer Road; Mercer Ellington, Duke's son, who took over the Ellington Orchestra after his father's death and wrote Duke's biography, lived on 175th Street near 113th Avenue; saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Foch Boulevard near 171st Street; saxophonist Illinois Jacquet and his brother, trumpeter Russell Jacquet, in nearby houses on 179th Street near 112th Avenue; and saxophonist Earl Bostic, pianist/organist Wild Bill Davis, bassist Slam Stewart, trumpeter Cootie Williams, saxophonist Oliver Nelson, drummer James "Osie" Johnson, saxophonist Lester Young, and singer Rose Murphy also lived in St. Albans. In the 1960s, The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, lived in this house which formerly belonged to Bart Williams, trumpeter with Duke Ellington, on Linden Boulevard and 176th Street , and Brook Benton (who sung one of your webmaster's favorite songs, "A Rainy Night In Georgia", and wrote "A Lover's Question" and "The Stroll,") lived on Murdock Avenue near 175th Street.

Google Maps: My Queens Jazz Trail Map

A screen shot of my Queen's Jazz Trail: A description

Homes of Jazz Greats and other notables in Queens,NY. With an assist from
Ephemera Press' great maps, the Central Queens Historical Association and Bonus treat (those with red pins): hear a few bars of the music of these jazz greats or some video (yellow pins) Bonus also some panoramic movies (yellow movie icon)

Mary Lou Williams And Hamilton Heights

She's playing Roll Em' with the Benny Goodman Band

Hamilton Terrace/Heights

a youtube movie made by a recent resident (megruth) of this beautiful and historic neighborhood in Harlem

My new place in Hamilton Heights. It's pretty awesome to come home to a house and not hear tons of other people slamming their doors at 2am! I love it!
Hamilton Heights is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It lies between Washington Heights and Morningside Heights; it includes the neighborhood of Sugar Hill, and is itself often considered part of Harlem.[1].
It is bounded by 135th Street to the south, the Hudson River to the west, 155th Street to the north, and Saint Nicholas Avenue/Bradhurst Avenue to the east. The community derives its name from Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who lived the last two years of his life in the area when it was still largely farmland; specifically, he lived in what is now known as Hamilton Grange National Monument. It is located within Manhattan Community Board 9.
Most of the housing dates from the extension of the Elevated and Subway lines at the end of the 19th and the start of the 20th Centuries[1]. This fairly elegant housing became less desirable to white residents in the 1930s and 1940s as the population changed from white to black, even though the black residents were just as affluent as the white residents.[1]. These are spacious apartment buildings, brownstones and other row houses prominently lining the leafy eastern streets of Hamilton Heights, an area traditionally home to a substantial black professional class. Today the local population is changing again, with Hispanics and Latinos constituting a majority of the population followed by African Americans, Dominicans, West Indians and remainders of earlier time's ethnic whites.
The brownstone revival of the 1960s and 1970s led to a new movement of middle-class blacks in the area. The Latinos arrived in large numbers in the 1980s - with Dominicans making up the majority. Gentrification since 2005 has drastically increased the proportion of non-Hispanic whites, especially Irish-Americans, and Asian residents.
It is the home of the City College of New York (CCNY), Dance Theatre of Harlem, The Harlem School of the Arts, Aaron Davis Hall, a dollar store, Hamilton Palace (a department store), both intended for low income consumers, a Botánica, C Town, bodegas, hair salons and barber shops.
The neighborhood offers several parks, including the very modern Riverbank State Park, around which Riverside Park winds its way to Washington Heights and the historic St. Nicholas Park.
Historic Hamilton Heights comprises the Hamilton Heights Historic District and the Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Historic District Extension, both designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. One of the highest hills in Hamilton Heights slopes up from the Hudson River at 155th Street, and contains the Trinity Church Cemetery.[1]
The neighborhood is easily accessed via subway, the number 1 line stops at the 137th Street–City College and 145th Street stations. The famous A train on St. Nicholas Avenue provides service at145th Street. The C train services 135th Street, 145 Street and 155th street and Saint Nicholas Avenue.
The MTA-New York City Transit bus lines M4 and M5 serve Broadway, M100 and M101 run on Amsterdam Avenue, M18 on Convent Avenue; M11 on 135th Street; Bx19 on 145th Street; Bx6 on 155th Street and the M3 on St. Nicholas Avenue.

54th Massachusetts Regiment

A slide show I put together a while ago with images and information about the historic 54th Regiment along with audio from the movie Glory. Hard to see here because of the restrictions of the google video player.

About Colonel Robert Gould Shaw from wikipedia
Robert Gould Shaw (October 10, 1837 – July 18, 1863) was the colonel in command of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which entered the American Civil War in 1863. He is the subject of the 1989 film Glory.
Shaw was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to a prominent abolitionist family. His parents (who lived off the inheritance left by Shaw's merchant grandfather) were Francis George and Sarah Blake Sturgis Shaw, and he had four sisters: Anna, Josephine, Susanna and Ellen. He was a religious liberal and a Unitarian who moved with his family to a large estate in West Roxbury, adjacent to Brook Farm when he was five. In his teens, Shaw spent some years studying and traveling in Switzerland, Italy, Hanover, Norway, and Sweden. His family moved to Staten Island, New York, settling there among a community of literati and abolitionists, while Shaw attended the lower division of St. John's College, the equivalent of high school in the institution that became Fordham University. From 1856 until 1859, Shaw attended Harvard University, but he withdrew before graduating. He then went to the esteemed Kenyon College in Gambier, OH and also went to work at his uncle's business. At Harvard, he was a member of the Porcellian Club.
After Abraham Lincoln's election and the secession of several Southern states, Shaw joined the 7th New York Infantry Regiment and marched with it to the defense of Washington, D.C., in April 1861. The unit served only thirty days. In May 1861, Shaw joined the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry as second lieutenant. He served there for over two years, seeing action at the Battle of Antietam, and was promoted to captain.
He was then recruited by Governor John A. Andrew to raise and command one of the first regiments of black troops for the Union. Although he was initially unenthusiastic about his assignment, the dedication of his men deeply impressed him and he grew to respect them as fine soldiers. Upon learning that black soldiers would receive less pay than white ones, he inspired his unit to conduct a boycott until this inequality was rectified.
Shaw was promoted to major on March 31, 1863, and to colonel on April 17, so he was in charge of the 54th when they were ordered to loot and then burn the city of Darien, Georgia, on June 11, much to Shaw's dismay. The destruction of the undefended city of little strategic importance had been ordered by Colonel James Montgomery.
On May 2, 1863, Shaw married Anna Kneeland Haggerty (d. 1907) in New York City. They had decided to marry before the unit left Boston despite their parents' misgivings. They spent their brief honeymoon at the Haggerty farm in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Robert Shaw is well-known for the over 200 letters he wrote to his family and friends during the Civil War. They are currently located in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. Some may also be found in the book Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune, which includes most of his letters and a brief biography of Shaw. They are also quoted liberally by Ken Burns in his documentary miniseries The Civil War.
The 54th was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, to take part in the operations against the Confederates stationed there. On July 18, 1863, along with two brigades of white troops, the 54th assaulted Confederate Battery Wagner. As the unit hesitated in the face of fierce Confederate fire, Shaw led his men into battle by shouting, "Forward, Fifty-Fourth!" He mounted a parapet and urged his men forward, but was shot through the heart and his body fell into the fort.[1][2] When the Confederate soldiers buried the dead, they stripped him of his uniform[3] and buried him with his black soldiers, intending it as an insult. However, Shaw's abolitionist father proclaimed that he was proud that his son was buried alongside the African-American men with whom he had served and that Robert would have approved.
In 1864, sculptor Edmonia Lewis created a bust of Shaw.
The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Stanford White, was built in his memory on Beacon and Park Streets in Boston in 1897.


from wikipedia

Glory is a 1989 Academy Award-winning drama based on the history of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment during the American Civil War. The 54th was one of the first formal units of the U.S. Army to be made up entirely of African American men (apart from the officers). The first was the 1st South Carolina
Robert Shaw is a determined leader who is hard on his troops. Even through his hard training, Robert will go to great lengths for his men. Colonel Shaw storms the office of the division supply officer, demanding 600 pairs of shoes and 1,200 pairs of socks. He sacrifices himself to inspire his men to stand up to storm the ramparts and charge the enemy at the Battle of Fort Wagner.
Though shot, he bravely continues to charge until he is shot 2 more times. His death causes his men to stand and charge, with Major Cabot Forbes and others yelling "Robert!" as they do so.
Major Cabot Forbes
Joined with Thomas and Shaw into the 54th regiment shortly after its creation. Shaw had asked Cabot to be the executive officer (second-in-command) of the regiment after the Governor and Frederick Douglass offered the position of commanding officer to Shaw. Forbes feels Shaw is too hard on his men, protesting Shaw's actions on multiple occasions. Forbes led the attack on Fort Wagner after Shaw was shot down, and his fate (death, capture by the Confederates, or departure from the battlefield) is not revealed in the film, although it is suggested that he is killed by cannon fire.Trip is an escaped slave who enlists in Shaw's regiment.
Private Trip
Trip is depicted as an embittered and angry escaped slave who is in the Army for the opportunity to take revenge on Southern slave owners. Trip is fearless, arrogant, callous, and so anxious for combat that he wants to fight anyone. He takes delight in teasing Searles, whom he resents for being a well-educated black man and calls him "Snowflake" because Thomas has not experienced slavery or hard work, and because he is a close friend of the regiment's commander. During basic training Trip sneaks away from camp, desperate for shoes. He is brought back under the premise of a deserter and is whipped. As the movie progresses, Trip is unrelenting in his harassment of Thomas, in an effort to provoke Thomas into a fight. He almost succeeds, but the altercation is stopped by Rawlins. Trip berates Rawlins for being a high ranking black soilder and ordering everyone around, he insults Rawlins by calling him the "white man's dog". Rawlins then proceeds to slap Trip in the face and lectures him about what it means to be a soldier. Trip gradually changes his attitude as the regiment finally starts seeing combat. He is killed during the charge on Fort Wagner.
John Rawlins is a middle-aged former slave. He is first seen by Colonel Shaw digging graves after the Battle of Antietam. Rawlins is one of the many African Americans who answer the call to arms by enlisting in Shaw's regiment. As the movies progresses, Shaw looks to Rawlins as a leader amongst the black soldiers, as well as a source of information on their feelings and needs. Rawlins is soon promoted to Sergeant Major making him the highest ranking enlisted man in the regiment.
Private Jupiter Sharts
An African American man who is unable to read, but throughout the movie gets help from Thomas. One of the best shooters in the regiment. His fate at the battle of Fort Wagner is unknown like Forbes, Rawlins, and Searles.
Corporal Thomas Searles
A childhood friend of Shaw and Forbes, he is the first to volunteer for the 54th. Because he is educated, can read and speaks "like a white man," Trip makes mean fun of him. Throughout the film Searles has a rocky relationship with Trip but just before the battle of Fort Wagner they become friends. His fate at the battle of Fort Wagner is unknown.
* The film depicts the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry training through the Christmas holidays of presumably 1862 (after the September 1862 Battle of Antietam,) but the real 54th Massachusetts did not organize until March 1863, and they were engaged in their first battle on James Island, SC on 16 July 1863, and then Battery Wagner (the final battle in the film) on 18 July 1863.
* The film suggests that most of the black soldiers were former slaves from Southern secessionist states who wished to fight for the abolitionist North, but in fact the majority were born free in the North, although some did escape from slavery.
* Of the major characters in the movie's version of the regiment, only Robert Gould Shaw was a real person. The rest are composite characters. The name of Shaw's executive officer (Cabot Forbes) is a combination of the first name from one of the real Shaw's friends and the last name of another.
* In the film, Shaw is offered and accepts the job to be the commanding officer of the 54th on the same day. In reality, he rejected the offer once and accepted only after many days. Shaw is also shown as promoted directly to colonel, whereas his record indicates he was a major for several months as the regiment grew in strength and was at last promoted to colonel just prior to the regiment being deployed.
* Flogging was banned in the Union Army in 1861. Pvt. Trip would not have been whipped, at least not by someone as by-the-book as Col. Shaw.
* The incident just before the charge into Fort Wagner in which Colonel Shaw points to the flag bearer and asks "If this man should fall, who will lift the flag and carry on?" is based on a real event. However, the person who asked the question was General George Crockett Strong; Shaw was the person who responded. When the flag bearer fell, another black soldier, Sergeant William Harvey Carney, grabbed the flag and carried it all the way to the bulwarks of Fort Wagner. He remained there under enemy fire until the 54th was forced to retreat. Sergeant Carney struggled back to Union lines with the flag, receiving four wounds from which he recovered. Carney became the first black recipient of the Medal of Honor.
* Colonel Shaw was married, but his wife is not depicted in the film.
* The manner in which Colonel Shaw dies in the movie is based on fact. His final words were "Onward, Fifty-fourth!" before he was shot several times in the chest. However, though the film depicts him falling on the parapet, he in fact made it to the top and his body fell into the fort.
* The final scene of the film shows Shaw's body being thrown into the burial pit alongside his fallen men. This is historically accurate, although his body was in fact first stripped of his uniform,[2] but in the film, only his shoes and socks are missing. When Shaw's parents inquired about his body, the Confederate commander responded, "We buried him with his niggers." It seems to have been meant as an insult, but Shaw's father later said that he was proud that his son was buried next to his men.
* In the movie, it is claimed that "over half" of the regiment was lost during the assault on Fort Wagner. However, official records state that the 54th sustained 272 casualties, which is closer to 40%. Of these casualties, only 116 were fatalities, just under one fifth of the men to storm the fort. If the 156 soldiers that were captured are included, it would bring the total to "over half". In formal military terms, though, "casualties" include captured soldiers.
* The movie's epilogue also claims that "the fort was never taken." While it is true that the fort was never taken by force, it was abandoned by the Confederate Army two months later.
* In the movie, the ocean is on the left side of the regiment when they charge the fort; this was allegedly done in order to get the best quality of light at the time of filming. In reality, however, the regiment charged with the ocean on their right, coming from the south.
* The real second in command was Lt. Colonel Edwin Hallowell. The fictional Major Cabot Forbes, played by Cary Elwes, is based on him. Although he was seriously wounded, Hallowell did survive the attack on the fort and led the regiment until it disbanded in 1865. He retired with the rank of Brigadier General.
* In the movie, Shaw is surprised when the men refuse pay that was reduced because they are a "colored" regiment (though he eventually joins them in their refusal). In reality, the refusal was his idea, and he encouraged them to do it (in other words, "tear it up").
* In the attack on Fort Wagner, the regiment volunteers to be the vanguard of the charge, when in fact they did not volunteer, but were commanded to lead the charge.
* Years after the film was made, it came to light that the word Glory was used by one of the men of the Regiment. First Sergeant Robert John Simmons, of B Company, was a twenty-six year old Bermudian clerk, probably from St. George's, believed to have joined the 54th on 12th March, 1863 (many Black and White Bermudians fought for the Union, mostly in the US Navy. Many more profiteered from the war by smuggling arms to the South). Simmons was introduced to Frances George Shaw, father of Col. Shaw, by William Wells Brown, who described him as "a young man of more than ordinary abilities who had learned the science of war in the British Army". In his book, The Negro in the American Rebellion, Brown said that "Frances George Shaw remarked at the time that Simmons would make a 'valuable soldier'. Col. Shaw also had a high opinion of him". Sgt. Simmons was mentioned in an 1863 article of the Weekly Columbus Enquirer, which described him as "a brave man and of good education. He was wounded and captured. Taken to Charleston, his bearing impressed even his captors. After suffering amputation of the arm, he died there." The newspaper also described him as saying that he fought "for glory". Simmons, who has been specially mentioned among the enlisted men of the 54th, and who had been awarded a private medal, died in August, 1863, following the attack on Fort Wagner.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bayard Rustin In Boycott

This is a great scene from Boycott and it elicited some pretty good "accountable talk"
with a group of 6th graders.
from the advocate review of the movie 2/2001

Boycott, HBO's movie about the beginnings of the civil rights movement, also gives long-delayed recognition to Martin Luther King Jr.'s gay mentor, Bayard Rustin
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s house has just been firebombed, and he has surrounded himself with armed guards. It's 1956, and King is beginning to question how much longer his bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., can hold out without his own followers resorting to violence. At that point arrives Bayard Rustin, an activist from up North, who counsels King that the boycott is the perfect legal case for a national battle against segregation. The cornerstone of that fight, Rustin says, must be nonviolence.
That meeting, as depicted in the HBO original movie Boycott, marks the birth of two icons for civil rights: King as the unwavering supporter of nonviolence to achieve racial equality and Rustin as the steadfast King adviser and deputy whose refusal to be closeted forever ties the battle for racial civil rights, in many minds, to the fight for equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Boycott, premiering February 24, portrays the late Rustin as an eloquent dandy who comes out to King in one of the movie's more powerful scenes: "I'm a man of my times, but the times don't know it yet," he says.
"Rustin was a real mentor for Dr. King," says Boycott co-executive producer Shelby Stone. She and director Clark Johnson (Homicide) lobbied for the story to include Rustin's homosexuality, something that eluded some of Rustin's coworkers in the civil rights movement. "It's going to be a big shock to some in the black community," Stone says. "I'm delighted we're able to inform."
Being gay kept Rustin out of the spotlight in the civil fights movement because many feared that opponents would use Rustin's homosexuality to distract from the causes he supported. "He was overlooked for a long time," says Walter Naegle, who had been Rustin's partner for 10 years when the activist died in 1987. "I'm happy he's getting the recognition he deserves."
So is actor Erik Todd Dellums, who captivated audiences as a transsexual hooker on NYPD Blue and steals the show again as Rustin in Boycott. Dellums, who has a degree in political science from Brown University, spent weeks researching the life of the man who championed labor and civil rights causes and organized the 1963 march on Washington, which culminated in King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech.
Dellums discovered that Rustin wrote many of the eloquent phrases King spoke during the years leading up to the march. "There were very important words that came out of Dr. King's mouth that Rustin was never given credit for," Dellums says. "Many people today still don't want to admit that it was his work. He should be respected and revered not only in the black community but the world community and especially the gay community."
The actor interviewed many who knew Rustin and pored over books, audiotapes, and videotapes. Just as costar Jeffrey Wright worked long and hard to capture King's voice, Dellums perfected Rustin's lisp and English-sounding affection--which ultimately were ruled out by the production team before filming began. "His lisp was a natural speech impediment, but I think [the producers] were concerned over how it would be received," he says. "It's much easier to portray the sitcom queen than a real person in a historical perspective who happens to be gay."
Dellums doesn't divulge his own sexuality, preferring to take what he calls "the Ricky Martin approach." It's much more fun to be mysterious," he says. Rustin's sexual orientation, on the other hand, is an important part of history. Notes Dellums: "What we're showing is that anyone--gay, straight, bisexual, or transgendered--can live a life of dignity and make an important contribution to society."

Google Maps: Mary Lou Williams

from my google map of harlem
Williams' 63 Hamilton Terrace apartment was famous in the mid-1940s as a salon where she imparted her knowledge of the jazz tradition to cutting-edge musicians.
from Rutgers' biographical site on Mary Lou Williams

"I'm the only living musician that has played all the eras," Mary Lou Williams confidently advised Marian McPartland in the debut 20 years ago of McPartland's acclaimed radio broadcast, Piano Jazz. "Other musicians lived through the eras and they never changed their styles."
She was right. Jazz fans and historians long ago concluded that Mary Lou Williams was the most important female jazz musician to emerge in the first three decades of jazz. William's multidimensional talents as an instrumentalist, arranger, and composer made her a star from her earliest days and, over the long haul, an equal to any musician successful in those endeavors. Her longevity as a top-flight jazz artist was extended because of her penchant for adapting to and influencing stylistic changes in the music.
In his autobiography, Music Is My Mistress, Duke Ellington wrote, "Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her writing and performing have always been a little ahead throughout her career. Her music retains, and maintains, a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like soul on soul."
Indeed, this process of constant reassessment and renewal she applied to her art is but one of the qualities that makes Williams (1910-81) a truly unique figure in the history of jazz. William's range of talents, summed up by what Ellington termed "beyond category," suggests both the richness and the ambiguity that have made assessing her role in jazz history challenging. Through the Williams Collection, researchers can, for the first time, more fully evaluate a pianist who was simultaneously a master of blues, boogie woogie, stride, swing, and be-bop. Her work as a composer and arranger for Andy Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy in the early 1930s reveals one of the earliest examples of a woman given due respect from her peers for her musicianship. William's career opens a window into the critically important Kansas City jazz scene that produced such giants as Count Basie, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker. Her stature in the jazz world is a natural attraction for scholars examining the lives not only of women jazz musicians, but also of twentieth-century African-American women and American history in a larger context.
Born Mary Elfrieda Scruggs on May 8, 1910, in Atlanta, Williams grew up in Pittsburgh, where her prodigious talents led to work as a hardscrabble professional traveling musician while still in her early teens. She came to prominence in the early 1930s with Kirk's Twelve Clouds of Joy, a leading southwestern territory swing band. Williams was not only the band's star soloist but also its chief arranger. Beyond the normal obstacles confronting African-Americans in that pre-civil rights era, she also had to contend with a musical milieu in which women instrumentalists were rare and women arranger/composers virtually non-existent. Billed as "The Lady Who Swings the Band," William's playing and writing were on a par with any of her more famous contemporaries. "Outside of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, there's no other composer she has to take a back seat to," David Berger, professor at Manhattan School of Music, told The Washington Post recently. In addition to her work for Andy Kirk, she composed and arranged for leading orchestras of the swing era: Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman. These musical manuscripts are part of the Collection.
With her departure from the Kirk band in 1942, Williams settled in New York, where she opened her Harlem apartment to all types of musicians and was particularly encouraging to the experimentation of the young modernists. She helped to inspire and adapted to the revolutionary new style known as be-bop, which reduced many of her contemporaries to anachronisms, and also mentored many of the movement's founders, including Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker. (She crossed similar stylistic frontiers in 1977 when she performed a Carnegie Hall concert of duets with the avant-garde pianist Cecil Taylor.)
Her writing also continued to grow; along with Duke Ellington, she was a pioneer among jazz composers in producing extended works, such as the Zodiac Suite. In 1945, she debuted segments of the Suite on her weekly radio broadcast, Mary Lou Williams Piano Workshop, and performed three movements with the 70-piece New York Pops Orchestra during the June 1946 Carnegie Hall Pops Series. William's tours of England in 1952 and France in 1952, both widely covered in the European jazz press, place her in the tradition of Armstrong and Ellington two decades earlier in spreading jazz on the Continent.
In 1956, Williams underwent a spiritual conversion to Catholicism and gave up playing to concentrate on spiritual matters until reemerging in 1957 with a performance alongside Dizzy Gillespie at the Newport Jazz Festival. Compared to her rigorous schedule of touring over the previous 30 years, she played only sporadically over the next decade. She formed the Bel Canto Foundation to assist drug- and alcohol-dependent musicians in 1958. This initiative prefigured her founding of Cecilia Music, a publishing firm to release her compositions, and the establishment of Mary Records to issue her and other selected artists' recordings. Both of these events occurred in the early 1960s, when she also issued one of her later noteworthy recordings, the 1963 Mary Lou Williams Presents St. Martin de Porres.
Williams undertook several ambitious extended works during this period, including her 1971 composition Mary Lou's Mass, which was choreographed by Alvin Ailey and, in 1975, was performed during celebration of a Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. In 1977, her career undertook yet another significant turn. Duke University formalized William's role as an educator by appointing her as artist-in-residence, a position she held until her death in 1981. Duke permanently honored William's contributions by opening the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture in September 1983 with an address by Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison.

Happy Mother's Day

from 5/16/06 from pseudo-intellectualism

That's my mother, Eva, circa 1945. Quite a beauty. There's nothing like a mother for providing unconditional love, an element that's in very short supply. Mrs. Watson is a great mother to her 5th graders and a real treat to work with. Smart, black and proud and politically astute. She still calls me "Sir." Her kids participated in Peace By Peace festival sponsored by Columbia University.Here they are in a slide show with pics from the festival and here's a "podcast" of our first installment of our "Dave At Night" project.

The Hebrew Home For Boys

from 5/8/06 from pseudo-intellectualism

When Dave Caros' father dies in "Dave At Night" he is sent to live at the Hebrew Home For Boys in Harlem. This institution existed on 136th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam until the 1930's. I couldn't find any pictures of it online. I wanted to get some images of the area to show the classes involved in the les/harlem project that I envisioned. I decided to combine some atmospheric sound with the images, but came up a bit short. So in this slide show I augmented that soundtrack with some reggaetone music. I hadn't been in that area much (CCNY takes up a big part) in my life, other some PS 397K era trips to 142nd Street and Hamilton Place (The Children's Art Carnival). The Convent and Edgecombe Ave areas were beautiful. I had thought that the latin area of west Harlem started further uptown than the 130's. The dividing line between latin and African-American Harlem seemed to be CCNY and St Nicholas Park. Amazingly, the exact location of the Home was discovered when I was researching the Jacob Schiff School, which is unique in that you have to climb a hill to reach it from its 136th Street side. Here's what I found on the nycparks dept site:"This parkland, which is shared by Public School 192, also known as Jacob H. Schiff School, was once home to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. By World War II, the orphan asylum closed and was transformed into army barracks. Shortly after the war, City College acquired the building for use as a classroom and dormitory, naming it “Army Hall.” The building eventually closed in 1952 and was demolished when Parks and the Board of Education jointly acquired the land in 1956. In 1987, the Schiff School playground received a $918,623 renovation and was officially named Jacob H. Schiff Playground

LES Harlem Connection

from 5/6/06 from pseudo-intellectualism

Here I'll try to explain the synchronicity referred to before. I'll begin working up in Harlem in a little while. I've been planning a Harlem Renaissance unit. In looking for children's literature to support this topic I discovered, "Dave At Night." I found it amazing that Dave's story closely paralled my own family history. Dave Karos' father came from Greece, he was a Sephardic Jew. So did my grandfather, who was named David Belelis. Dave Karos' family came from Salonika, my grandfather came from neighboring Janina. The main reason for immigration was the same-a war over control of the territory between Turkey and Greece. Dave Karos' father died in a fall in building accident. My grandfather died almost the same way in an elevator collapse. Dave was left fatherless at 8, My own father was left fatherless at 10. Dave went to an orphanage. My father didn't, but my aunt on my mother's side did when my mother's father died father in 1926 (the same year that Dave's father dies). Pretty spooky, isn't it? I'm "migrating" my work location from the LES to Harlem as Dave is migrated his life. The experience of the early immigrants to the LES at the turn of the last century is that once they were able to secure some economic stability for themselves they moved to a better neighborhood, Harlem. Why Harlem? Ease of transportation, IRT Elevated Lines connected the areas. Many people continued to work on the LES, but lived in Harlem. Wouldn't it be great to get the Harlem School I'll be working in do a joint immigration/migration project with some kids from PS42? They can even read Dave At Night together digitally. They can visit each other's neighborhood and do walking tours. On Friday,after a year and a half, I visited principal Rosa O'Day again and explained my plan and she loved it. I love her. The map attached is a 1904 subway and trolley map. Click on it to expand it. The trolley lines are in blue.

Harlem's Orphan Asylums

the setting for Dave At Night. The writer Art Buchwald was a resident of this Asylum.
In addition, back in 1920 the site was once considered to be the location for the first Yankee Stadium.

Attracted by the salubrity and healthfulness of Washington Heights,
several charitable societies located among the country estates, on or near
the old road or upon Broadway.

It was organized in 1864 for homeless children between five and twelve years
of age for whom no other institution provides, is at Amsterdam Avenue and
One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Street.

It was founded in 1822, is on the same avenue at One Hundred and
Thirty-sixth Street.

At Broadway and One Hundred and Thirty-eighth Street is one of the grandest
charities in the city, the Hospital and Home for Chronic Invalids, commonly
called the "Montefiore Home." It was founded in 1884 and is supported
almost entirely by the voluntary subscriptions from people of the Jewish
faith, as a memorial to the famous philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore; it
is open to both sexes without distinction of race or creed. The present
quarters have been found to be too cramped to carry out fully the desires of
the trustees, and arrangements are already completed to transfer the Home to
the Borough of The Bronx on the Gunhill Road near Jerome Avenue. The new
buildings are to cost $1,500,000, and will be designed to accommodate six
hundred invalids, with all modern improvements for their comfort and health.

It was organized in 1837, was for many years at Amsterdam Avenue and One
Hundred and Forty-third Street until its removal to Mount St. Vincent. At
the time of the draft riots of July, 1863, the asylum was located at Fifth
Avenue between Forty-third and Forty-fourth streets. The malice of the
rioting crowds was directed against every one who showed color, whether
man, woman, or child, and many negroes were hanged from near-by lamp-posts.
Inspired by this hatred, the mob made an attack upon the asylum and fired
the buildings, which were consumed; but fortunately, the children were
withdrawn safely through a rear entrance. With the money obtained as damages
from the city, that secured from the sale of the Fifth Avenue plot, and that
subscribed by citizens, many of whom had never heard of the institution
until the burning of the asylum, the new buildings were started on
Washington Heights.

Dave At Night

from 1/13/06 from pseudo-intellectualism

The main character of this book attends PS42 on Hester Street. Here's a portion of the review: "In Dave at Night, Newbery Honor award– winning author Gail Carson Levine brilliantly describes in gritty detail an orphan’s journey from loss to fulfillment. Fans of her previous novel, Ella Enchanted, might be surprised at Gail Carson Levine's departure from the world of fantasy with her realistic new book, Dave at Night. Inspired by Ms. Levine's father's experience in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York, this is the story of eleven-year-old Dave Caros. The year is 1926. Dave’s beloved father is dead, and his stepmother doesn’t want him. Only the HHB will take him in. Hebrew Home for Boys, aka Hell Hole for Brats. Dave is tough, a troublemaker. He can take care of himself. If he doesn’t like the Home, he’ll run away and find a better place. Only it’s not that simple. . . .This stunning new novel by Newbery Honor award–winning author Gail Carson Levine takes Dave from the poverty of the Lower East Side of New York City to the misery of the Hebrew Home for Boys to the hope and magic of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. It tells a tale of terrible loss and hard-won gains, of cruel relations and kind strangers, of great poverty and great wealth. Most of all, though, it tells a tale about the power of friendship." Here's the first few chapters as a slide show. I'm on my way to whole book. What's great about this book is that it has an audio version. Here's a segment as an mp3.

Panoramic Movie Of Amsterdam Ave And 137th-138th Street

A panoramic scene connecting (look for the hot spots) the middle of the CCNY campus to (West) Amsterdam Avenue, between 137th and 138th Street. The public school park was once the site of the Hebrew Home for the Boys. It was that home that played an integral part in Gail Carson Levine's wonderful kids' historical fiction book called "Dave At Night."

Panoramic Movie Of CCNY

A panoramic movie taken at CCNY

Nat King Cole

from wikipedia

Nathaniel Adams Coles (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965), known professionally as Nat King Cole, was a popular American jazz singer-songwriter and pianist.
Cole first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist, then switched his emphasis to singing, becoming one of the most popular and best known vocalists of all time.
Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama. His birth date, according to the World Almanac, was on Saint Patrick's Day in 1919; other sources have erroneously listed his birthdate as 1917. His father was a preacher in the Baptist church. His family moved to Chicago, Illinois, while he was still a child. There, his father became a minister; Nat's mother, Perlina, was the church organist. Nat learned to play the organ from his mother until the age of 12, when he began formal lessons. His first performance, at age four, was of Yes, We Have No Bananas. He learned not only jazz and gospel music, but European classical music as well, performing, as he said, "from Johann Sebastian Bach to Sergei Rachmaninoff."
The family lived in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Nat would sneak out of the house and hang outside the clubs, listening to artists such as Louis Armstrong, Earl "Fatha" Hines, and Jimmie Noone. He participated in Walter Dyett's renowned music program at DuSable High School.
Inspired by the playing of Earl Hines, Cole began his performing career in the mid 1930s while he was still a teenager, and adopted the name "Nat Cole". His older brother, Eddie Coles, a bassist, soon joined Nat's band and they first recorded in 1936 under Eddie's name. They were also regular performers at clubs. In fact, Nat got his nickname "King" performing at one jazz club, a nickname presumably reinforced by the otherwise-unrelated nursery rhyme about Old King Cole. He was also a pianist in a national touring revival of ragtime and Broadway theatre legend, Eubie Blake's revue, "Shuffle Along". When it suddenly failed in Long Beach, California, Cole decided to remain there.
Nat Cole and three other musicians formed the "King Cole Swingers" in Long Beach and played in a number of local bars before getting a gig on the Long Beach Pike for US$90 per week.
Nat married a dancer Megan Robinson, who was also with Shuffle Along, and moved to Los Angeles where he formed the Nat King Cole Trio. The trio consisted of Nat on piano, Oscar Moore on guitar, and Wesley Prince on double bass. The trio played in Los Angeles throughout the late 1930s and recorded many radio transcriptions. Nat's role was that of piano player and leader of the combo.
It is a common misconception that Nat Cole's singing career did not start until a drunken barroom patron demanded that he sing "Sweet Lorraine". In fact, Nat Cole has gone on record as saying that the fabricated story "sounded good, so I just let it ride." In fact Nat Cole frequently sang in between instrumental numbers. Noticing that people started to request more vocal numbers, he obliged. Yet, the story of the insistent customer is not without merit. There was such a customer who did request a certain song one night, but a song that Nat did not know. Instead he sang "Sweet Lorraine". The trio was tipped 15 cents for the performance, a nickel apiece (Nat King Cole: An Intimate Biography, Maria Cole with Louie Robinson, 1971).
During World War II, Wesley Prince left the group and Cole replaced him with Johnny Miller. The King Cole Trio signed with the fledgling Capitol Records in 1943 and Cole stayed with the recording company for the rest of his career. Revenues from Cole's record sales fueled much of Capitol Records' success during this period, and are believed to have played a significant role in financing the distinctive Capitol Records building on Hollywood and Vine, in Los Angeles. Completed in 1956, it was the world's first circular office building and became known as "the house that Nat built."
Cole was considered a leading jazz pianist, appearing, for example, in the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts (credited on the Mercury Record labels as "Shorty Nadine," apparently derived from the name of his wife at the time). His revolutionary lineup of piano, guitar and bass in the time of the big bands became a popular set up for a jazz trio. It was emulated by many musicians, among them Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Tommy Flanagan and blues pianists Charles Brown and Ray Charles. He also performed as a pianist on sessions with Lester Young, Red Callender, and Lionel Hampton. The Page Cavanaugh Trio with the same set up as Cole came out of the chute about the same time, at the end of the war. It's still a toss up as to who was first, though generally agreed the credit goes to Nat Cole.
His first mainstream vocal hit was his 1943 recording of one of his compositions, "Straighten Up and Fly Right", based on a black folk tale that his father had used as a theme for a sermon. Johnny Mercer invited him to record it for the fledgling Capitol Records label. It sold over 500,000 copies, and proved that folk-based material could appeal to a wide audience. Although Nat would never be considered a rocker, the song can be seen as anticipating the first rock and roll records. Indeed, Bo Diddley, who performed similar transformations of folk material, counted Cole as an influence.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Cole began recording and performing more pop-oriented material for mainstream audiences, often accompanied by a string orchestra. His stature as a popular icon was cemented during this period by hits such as "The Christmas Song" (Cole recorded the tune four times: June 14, 1946 as a pure Trio recording; August 19, 1946 with an added string section; August 24, 1953; and again in 1961 for the double album, The Nat King Cole Story. This final version, recorded in stereo, is the one most often heard today.), "Nature Boy" (1948), "Mona Lisa" (1950), "Too Young" (the #1 song in 1951)[1], and his signature tune "Unforgettable" (1951). While this shift to pop music led some jazz critics and fans to accuse Cole of selling out, he never totally abandoned his jazz roots; as late as 1956, for instance, he recorded an all-jazz album, After Midnight.
On November 5, 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on NBC-TV. While commentators have often mistakenly hailed Cole as the first African-American to host a network television show — an honor belonging to jazz pianist and singer Hazel Scott in 1950 — the Cole program was the first of its kind hosted by a star of Nat Cole's magnitude.
Initially begun as a 15-minute show on Monday night, the show was expanded to a half hour in July 1957. Despite the efforts of NBC, as well as many of Cole's industry colleagues (beginning with Frankie Laine, who was the first white singer to break the "color barrier" by appearing as a guest on a black entertainer's show) -- most of whom, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, and Eartha Kitt — worked for industry scale in order to help the show save money, The Nat King Cole Show was ultimately done in by a lack of national sponsorship. Companies such as Rheingold Beer assumed regional sponsorship of the show, but a national sponsor never appeared.
The last episode of The Nat King Cole Show aired 17 December 1957. Cole had survived for over a year, and it was he, not NBC, who ultimately decided to pull the plug on the show. NBC, as well as Cole himself, had been operating at an extreme financial loss. Commenting on the lack of sponsorship his show received, Cole quipped shortly after its demise, "Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark." This statement, plus the passing of time, has fueled the urban legend that Cole's show had to close down despite enormous popularity. In fact, the Cole program was routinely beaten by the competition at ABC, then riding high with its travel and western shows. In addition, musical variety series have always been risky enterprises with a fickle public; among the one-season casualties are Frank Sinatra in 1957, Judy Garland in 1963 and Julie Andrews in 1972.
The TV show was ultimately cancelled because potential sponsors shied away from showcasing a black artist. Cole fought racism all his life and refused to perform in segregated venues. In 1956, he was assaulted on stage while singing the song "Little Girl" in Birmingham, Alabama, by three members of the North Alabama White Citizens' Council (a group led by Education of Little Tree author Asa "Forrest" Carter, himself not among the attackers) who apparently were attempting to kidnap him. The attack began at the rear of the auditorium when three men ran down the aisles towards Cole and his band. The invasion of the stage was quickly snuffed out by local law enforcement but in the ensuing melée, he was toppled from his piano bench and injured his back. Cole did not finish the concert and never again performed in the South. A fourth member of the group who had participated in the plot was later arrested in connection with the act. All were later tried and convicted for their roles in the crime.Throughout the 1950s, Cole continued to rack up hit after hit, including "Smile", "Pretend", "A Blossom Fell", "If I May". His pop hits were collaborations with well-known arrangers and conductors of the day, including Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Ralph Carmichael. Riddle arranged several of Cole's 1950s albums, including his first 10-inch long-play album, his 1953 Nat King Cole Sings For Two In Love. Jenkins arranged Love Is the Thing, #1 on the album charts in April 1957.
In 1958, Cole went to Havana, Cuba, to record Cole Español, an album sung entirely in Spanish. The album was so popular in Latin America as well as in the USA, that two others in the same vein followed: A Mis Amigos (sung in Spanish and Portuguese) in 1959, and More Cole Español in 1962. A Mis Amigos contains the Venezuelan hit "Ansiedad", whose lyrics Cole had learned while performing in Caracas in 1958. Cole learned songs in languages other than English by rote.
The change in musical tastes during the late 1950s meant that Cole's ballad singing did not sell well with younger listeners, despite a successful stab at rock n' roll with "Send For Me" (peaked at #6 pop). Along with his contemporaries Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, Cole found that the pop singles chart had been almost entirely taken over by youth-oriented acts. In 1960, Nat's long-time collaborator Nelson Riddle left Capitol Records for Frank Sinatra's newly formed Reprise Records label. Riddle and Cole recorded one final hit album Wild Is Love, based on lyrics by Ray Rasch and Dotty Wayne. Cole later retooled the concept album into an off-Broadway show, I'm With You.
Cole did manage to record some hit singles during the 1960s, including the country-flavored hit "Ramblin' Rose" in August of 1962, "Dear Lonely Hearts", "Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer", and "That Sunday, That Summer".
Cole performed in many short films,sitcoms,television shows, and played W. C. Handy in the film St. Louis Blues (1958). He also appeared in The Nat King Cole Story, China Gate, and The Blue Gardenia (1953) (see photo above). Cat Ballou (1965), his final film, was released several months after his death.
Cole, a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer on February 15, 1965, while still at the height of his singing career. The day before he died, he did a radio interview, stating: "I am feeling better than ever. I think I've finally got this cancer licked." A 1997 edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul published a story stating that Cole's wife, Maria, nearly missed his death due to car trouble, but this is an urban legend.
His last album, L-O-V-E, was recorded in early December 1964 — just a few days before entering the hospital for lung cancer treatment — and released just prior to his death; it peaked at #4 on the Billboard Albums chart in the spring of 1965. A Best Of album went gold in 1968. His 1957 recording of "When I Fall In Love" reached #4 in the UK charts in 1987.
In 1983, an archivist for EMI Electrola Records, EMI (Capitol's parent company) Records' subsidiary in Germany, discovered some songs Cole had recorded but had never been released, including one in Japanese and another in Spanish ("Tu Eres Tan Amable"). Capitol released them later that year as the LP Unreleased.
Cole was inducted into both the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990, and in 1997 was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. In 2007, he was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
In 1991, Mosaic Records released The Complete Capitol Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio, an 18 compact disc set, consisting of 349 songs. (This special compilation also was available as a 27 high-quality LP record set.)
Nat's youngest brother Freddy Cole, and Nat's daughter, Natalie Cole are also singers. In the summer of 1991, Natalie and her father had an unexpected hit when Natalie mixed her own voice with her father's 1961 rendition of "Unforgettable", as part of her album paying tribute to her father's music. The song and the album of the same name won seven Grammy awards in 1992.
There has been some confusion as to Cole's actual year of birth. Nat himself used four different dates on official documents: 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1919. However, Nathaniel is listed with his parents and older siblings in the 1920 U.S. Federal census for Montgomery Ward 7 and his age is given as nine months old. Since this is a contemporary record, it is very likely he was born in 1919. This is also consistent with the 1930 census which finds him at age 11 with his family in Chicago's Ward 3. In the 1920 census, the race of all members of the family (Ed., Perlina, Eddie M., Edward D., Evelina and Nathaniel) is recorded as mulatto. Cole's birth year is also listed as 1919 at the Nat King Cole Society's web site.
Cole's first marriage, to Nadine Robinson, ended in 1948. On March 28, 1948 (Easter Sunday), just six days after his divorce became final, Nat King Cole married singer Maria Hawkins Ellington — no relation to Duke Ellington although she had sung with Ellington's band. They were married in Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. They had five children: daughter Natalie was born in 1950, followed by adoption of Carol (the daughter of Maria's sister, born in 1944) and a son Nat Kelly Cole (born in 1959), who died in 1995 at 36. Twin girls Casey and Timolin were born in 1961.
In 1948, Cole purchased a house in the all-white Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The property owners association told Cole they did not want any undesirables moving in. Cole retorted "Neither do I. And if I see anybody undesirable coming in here, I'll be the first to complain."
Cole carried on affairs throughout his marriage. By the time he contracted lung cancer, he was estranged from his wife Maria in favor of actress Gunilla Hutton, best known as Nurse Goodbody of Hee Haw fame. However, he was together with his wife during his illness and she stayed with him until his death. In interview, his wife Maria has expressed no lingering resentment over his affairs, but rather emphasised his musical legacy and the class he exhibited in all other aspects of his life.
Cole was a heavy smoker of KOOL menthol cigarettes, smoking up to three packs a day. He believed smoking kept his voice low. (He would, in fact, smoke several cigarettes in quick succession before a recording for this very purpose.) He died of lung cancer on February 15, 1965, at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California. His funeral was held at St. James Episcopal Church on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. His remains were interred inside Freedom Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Los Angeles.
On August 23, 1956, Cole spoke at the Republican National Conventionin the Cow Palace, San Francisco, California. He was also present at the Democratic National Convention in 1960, to throw his support behind President John F. Kennedy. Cole was also among the dozens of entertainers recruited by Frank Sinatra to perform at the Kennedy Inaugural gala in 1961. Nat King Cole frequently consulted with President Kennedy (and later President Johnson) on the issue of civil rights. Yet he was dogged by critics, who felt he shied away from controversy when it came to the civil rights issue.

Walking My Baby Back Home

The previous post about the movie "Boycott" and its use of Nat King Cole's song reminded me of this:from 5/16/06 from pseudo-intellectualism but with google video version above, and a larger, more visible one still linked

On one of Dave Caros' escapades in 1920 Harlem took him to the home of D'Lelia Walker ( Odelia Packer in the book, "Dave At Night").The map shows how far he ventured. Actually in the book, Odelia's chauffeur drove Dave and his fake Grandpa Solly there. Dave was in love with Odelia's daughter, Irma Lee. While at the mansion he met the great Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas. This was an inspiration for Dave's budding art career. In life imitating "art", Gail Carson Levine's father would later become a successful commercial artist and Gail and her sister have artistic skills as well. Here's a slide show I put together about the Walker's with selected images from a great resource, the book "Harlem Lost and Found." The music is Noble Sissle's 1920 era "Camp Meeting Blues." Here's part of an interview that D'lelia's great grandaughter, A'lelia Bundles, did with with Jerry jazz on this site: JJM: As an introduction to Madam C.J. Walker -- your great great grandmother -- the writer Ishmael Reed wrote, "Madam Walker is the key to understanding her generation. She had to battle the society who had consigned her to doing its laundry, yet she triumphed to become one of the most fabulous African American figures of the twentieth century." Madam Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was orphaned at a very early age. What characteristics did she possess that allowed her to turn her vulnerability as an orphan into resolve and resilience? AB: One explanation is that she was a genius. In every generation there are geniuses like Henry Ford or Bill Gates or Andrew Carnegie, so let's use that characterization as the headline. In addition, she was a very resilient child. There are many children of poverty who overcome very difficult circumstances, and in a family where everyone doesn't succeed, sometimes there are children who possess the resilience necessary to turn the difficulties into positives. Because she had so much loss in the early part of her life -- including the death of her parents -- rather than being beaten down by it, it made her a fighter."


My favorite black history movie. Great actors and acting, great music, great authenticity. Clark Johnson from Homicide and The Wire directed. Seen above is the opening segment. There's a great grist for discussion here with students over Rosa Park's dream sequence and the reality of the event
from an amazon reviewer

When Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, the Reverend Martin Luther King was but a modest young Baptist minister suddenly thrust into the leadership of local bus boycott. What started as a one-day protest of unfair bus laws turned into the 381-day boycott that gave birth to the civil rights movement. This riveting, rousing made-for-cable drama meticulously recounts the challenges the protest faced. Jeffrey Wright (Basquiat) is excellent as King, capturing his charisma and rousing speeches while grounding his heroism in human vulnerability and fear, but Boycott reminds us that he was only one of the thousands of ordinary people roused into extraordinary action in the name of equality and social justice. That portrait of everyday heroes changing the course of history remains the film's most rousing message.

Pullman Porters: Interview With Tavis Smiley

Fresh Air from WHYY, June 30, 2004

Journalist Larry Tye examines the social history of the porter in Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class. Tye says that the job was one of the best for African Americans at the time, and that it was a foothold in the American workplace. Tye reports for The Boston Globe.

Panoramic Movie Of Marcus Garvey Park 1

A panoramic movie taken from high up in Marcus Garvey Park (formerly Mount Morris Park, 119th Street-124th Street, 5th Avenue)

Phyllis Wheatley

A segment about Phyllis Wheatley from the "Intolerable Acts" episode from the Liberty Kids

Phyllis Wheatley, 1753 - 1784:She was kidnapped from Africa at age seven and sold at a slave auction to a Boston family who treated her as a family member.
She quickly learned English, then Greek and Latin and came to know the Bible well. Her poem on the death of the Reverend George Whitefield brought her fame and an invitation from the Countess Selina of Huntington to come to London for assistance in publishing her poems. Her book of poems, "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral" was published in 1773. It was the first volume of poetry to be published by an African American. Phillis received her freedom and married in 1778, but despite her skills, was unable to support her family. She died at the young age of 31.

Dick Gregory: Why Bill Clinton Was Not The First "Black" President

Filmed at the State Of The Black Union at the Morial Center in New Orleans 2/26/08.
Other parts of the talk are posted on youtube.
from wikipedia

Richard "Dick" Claxton Gregory, (born October 12, 1932) is an American comedian, social activist, writer and entrepreneur.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, Dick Gregory is an influential African American comic who has used his performance skills to convey to both white and black audiences his political message on civil rights. Influenced to stand up for civil rights by his early surroundings of poverty and violence, Gregory became the first comedian to successfully perform for both black and white audiences.
As a poor student who excelled at running, Gregory was aided by teachers at Sumner High School such as Warren St. James and earned a track scholarship to Southern Illinois University Carbondale.[1] There he set records as a half-miler and miler. His college career was interrupted by two years in the U.S. Army where he got his start in comedy, entering and winning several Army talent shows at the urging of his commanding officer, who had taken notice of his penchant for joking.
After completing military service, he performed as a comedian in small, primarily black nightclubs while working for the United States Postal Service during the daytime. In 1961, while working at the Black-owned Roberts Show Bar in Chicago, he was hired by Hugh Hefner to work at the Chicago Playboy Club after Hefner heard him wow a largely-white audience with the following routine:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.
Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, "We don't serve colored people here." I said, "That's all right. I don't eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken."
Then these three white boys came up to me and said, "Boy, we're givin' you fair warnin'. Anything you do to that chicken, we're gonna do to you." So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, "Line up, boys!"

His first TV appearance was on the Jack Paar late nite show. He soon began appearing nationally and on television and his 1964 autobiography, Nigger sold seven million copies. At the same time, he became more involved in struggles for civil rights, activism against the American War in Vietnam, economic reform, anti-drug issues, conspiracy theories, and others. As a part of his activism, he went on several hunger strikes. Gregory began his political career by running against Richard Daley for the mayoralty of Chicago in 1967. Though he did not emerge victorious, this would not prove to be the end of Dick Gregory's dalliances with electoral politics.
Gregory unsuccessfully ran for president of the United States in 1968 as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party, which had broken off from the Peace and Freedom Party. He won 47,097 votes (including one from Hunter S. Thompson) with fellow activist Mark Lane as his running mate, garnering more than the party he had left. The Freedom and Peace Party also ran other candidates, including Beulah Sanders for New York State Senate and Flora Brown for New York State Assembly.His efforts landed him on the master list of Nixon political opponents.
He then wrote Write Me In about his presidential campaign. One interesting anecdote in the book related the story of a publicity stunt which came out of Operation Breadbasket in Chicago where the campaign had printed $1 bills with Gregory's image on them. Some of these bills made it into circulation in cash transactions causing considerable problems, but priceless publicity.
On July 21, 1979, Gregory appeared at the Amandla Festival where Bob Marley, Patti LaBelle and Eddie Palmieri, amongst others, had performed. Gregory held a speech before Marley's performance, blaming President Carter and the political failures, and showed his support for the international Anti-Apartheid movements. Gregory and Mark Lane did landmark research into the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which helped move the U.S. House Assassinations Committee to investigate the murder along with JFK's. Lane was author of conspiracy theory books such as "Rush to Judgement". The pair wrote the MLK conspiracy book "Code Name Zorro", which postulated that convicted assassin James Earl Ray did not act alone.
Gregory was an outspoken activist during the US Embassy Hostage Crisis in Iran. In 1980 he traveled to Tehran to attempt to negotiate the hostages' release and engaged in a public hunger strike there, weighing less than 100 lbs (45 kg) when he returned to the United States.
Gregory's education in nutrition seems dubious; in one of his cookbooks, he suggests that his readers should eat twigs because the elephant is the true king of the jungle, not the lion, and they eat twigs. Similar statements, apparently serious in nature, are also present.
However, in recent years, he has been a figure in the health food industry, becoming better known as a nutrition guru during the 1980s, advocating for a raw fruit and vegetable diet. Gregory first became a vegetarian in the 1960s, and has lost a considerable amount of weight by going on extreme fasts, some lasting upwards of 50 days. He developed a diet drink called "Bahamian Diet Nutritional Drink" and went on TV shows advocating for his diet and to help the morbidly obese. He is probably best remembered for his attempts, chronicled in the media on daytime talkshows in early 1988, at helping 1,200 pound (540 kg) Long Island man Walter Hudson drop nearly 600 pounds (270 kg) in only a few months on a liquid diet. Mr. Hudson shortly gained the weight back and later died from complications from his extreme obesity. Nonetheless, Gregory claims his diet has kept him in good health and continues to advocate for a natural diet lifestyle.
In early June 2005, during the late stages of the 2005 trial of Michael Jackson, he was invited by Jackson's father, Joseph Jackson, to advise Jackson on his health. On June 4, Gregory brought a blood-circulating machine to Jackson's house, but Jackson refused to use it. On February 26, 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia, while making a speech at Soul Vegetarian, he fainted; paramedics arrived soon afterwards.
Gregory married his wife Lillian in the 1960s, and they now have ten children. As of 2005, he resides in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
At a Civil Rights rally marking the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Gregory criticized the United States, calling it "the most dishonest, ungodly, unspiritual nation that ever existed in the history of the planet. As we talk now, America is 5 percent of the world's population and consumes 96 percent of the world's hard drugs," Gregory said.
He is number 81 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Standups of all time and has his own star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame. There is a grassroots effort afoot to get him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, spearheaded by Radio One host Joe Madison.
Gregory is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans.
Gregory was a former co-host with radio magnate Cathy Hughes, and is still a frequent morning guest, on WOL 1450 AM talk radio's "The Power", the flagship station of Hughes' Radio One. Gregory appears as "Mr. Sun" in the television show Wonder Showzen (the third episode, titled "Ocean", aired in 2005). As Chauncey, a puppet character, imbibes a hallucinogenic substance, Mr. Sun warns "Don't get hooked on imagination, Chauncey. It can lead to terrible, horrible things." Gregory also provides guest commentary on the Wonder Showzen Season One DVD. Large segments of his commentary were intentionally bleeped out, including the names of several dairy companies, as he makes possibly slanderous remarks concerning the ill effects that consumption of cow milk has on humans.
Gregory attended and spoke at the funeral of James Brown on December 30, 2006 in Augusta, Georgia.

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