The 1930's were a time of drastic social change within the United States. Many issues dealing with a rapidly growing minority class came to the nations forefront. One issue stemming from this was the growing pride and power of the African American minority within the United States. The growing pride of the African Americans was exemplified in the arts as various works broke out of the "black subculture"ÃÂ of the time and into the pop culture. Some forms, such as swing music were even emulated by the white mainstream community. However this surge in African "ÃÂAmerican power also ushered in a slew of new problems for the Society of the thirties. The sudden outburst of African American culture in the 1930's, though superficially united the black and white boundaries, actually increased the division of United States along the color line. First using excerpts from the "Tempo of Time"ÃÂ and lecture, I plan to show that swing music, while superficially showing unity, actually added to the tension between both groups.
I also plan to use "Joe Louis Uncovers Dynamite"ÃÂ to demonstrate the sudden increase in African "ÃÂAmerican power and the reactions to it. Lastly, I plan to use excerpts from "First Person America"ÃÂ to illustrate the true feelings of fear and animosity between blacks and whites in the 1930's.
Swing music became a huge cultural influence in society during the 1930's. Such acts as Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington traversed Abanilla 2 cultural boundaries in order to unite both groups. Goodman went as far as to incorporate some of Basie's band into his own producing a group containing both black and white musicians. However, beneath the surface there were actually conflicts between the groups. As stated by Professor Lipsitz in lecture, there was a definite argument due to the credit given to the white bandleaders and the failure to give credit to the black artists. Benny Goodman was declared the "King of Swing"ÃÂ and had his band considered the best of their time. However, according to lecture, Benny Goodman and his band aren't nearly as good as they are reported to be. Goodman as well as many other white "composers"ÃÂ basically used other's work, which they bought off with a few dollars from the original composer. By exploiting the talent of such artists as Fletcher Henderson and Don Redmond, Goodman rose to white culture as the "king of swing"ÃÂ reaping millions off of the few dollars he paid for the songs. There was also a huge line between being a white and a black performer. Goodman and the white composers were allowed to play in Carnegie Hall in the 30's and by doing so they were able to jump into the National spotlight. Others such as Basie would never have the chance due solely to their skin color. In fact, the twenty minute "jam session"ÃÂ in which Goodman got together with the Basie band that night was "judged the weakest part of the evening"ÃÂ(The Tempo of Time, Pg. 135) by the critics of the Carnegie Hall show. This invisible line that granted whites success and blacks none caused tensions to increase further between the two races. The surge in black pride and black power only added to this tension as blacks sought for the recognition of their stars, the originators who were as talented if not more so than Goodman, Miller and the other composers who earned worldwide respect.
Abanilla 3 The 1930's were also a time in which black pride and power started to take shape within society. A prime example of this is the text of "Joe Louis Uncovers Dynamite"ÃÂ by Richard Wright. In it Wright covers the significance of Louis beating Max Baer and the reaction of blacks throughout New York. "Two hours after the fight the area between South Parkway and Prairie Avenue on 47th was jammed with no less than twenty-five thousand Negroes, joy-mad and moving they didn't know where"ÃÂ¦"ÃÂ(Joe Louis Uncover Dynamite, 155). The pride exhibited with the mob was just an example of the power blacks were capable of producing when motivated. Wright also talks about something that happened to the crowd. "Something had popped loose, all right"ÃÂ¦ And nobody could have said just what it was, and nobody wanted to say."ÃÂ(Joe Louis Uncovers Dynamite, 156). That something was the sudden resurgence of black pride. After all the years of being called inferior, the black began to believe it, and when one of them beat Max Baer to become the best in their profession, all the past repression was let out. They could for a moment feel equal to their white counterparts. They were not inferior; they had just beaten the white champion. As stated in the reading the whites felt this sudden release of tension and power as well, and they feared it. Their response was to send out the cops. "Not the carefully picked white cops"ÃÂ¦ oh, no, black cops, but trusted black cops and plenty tough."ÃÂ(JLUC, 156). The white leaders were careful in picking black cops to try and break up the small riot/celebration. White cops probably would have provoked more action on the blacks part. The use of black cops was effective in that they were their own people stopping them. This act of pitting blacks against blacks served to diffuse the situation in that the black cops were able to calm down the crowd while not infuriating Abanilla 4 them like the sight of white cops would have. However, the temporary showing of black power foreshadowed what was coming later in the century with the civil rights movement.
Though it seemed as if black and white relations were getting better, blacks still showed great animosity toward whites. In "First Person America"ÃÂ they do this a number of ways. One such way is that of Leo Gurley and his story of Sweet-the-Monkey. "He was one sucker who didn't give a damn bout the crackers. Fact is they got so they stayed out his way"ÃÂ(First Person America 172). In his story of Sweet- the-Monkey, Gurley goes on to ridicule whites stating that sweet could do what he wanted yet the white folks could not touch him. He also displays his dislike for white people by calling them crackers, a derogatory term. Folklore such as this not only shows the animosity blacks had for the whites, but also gives them hope in a sense that there is Sweet, one of their own, who is able to outwit and stay one step again of the white man, giving them a sense of temporary equality if not superiority over whites. Another example of blacks open dislike of whites in the 1930's is the testimony of Jim Barber. "They think you supposed to feel good cause they friendly to you. Boy I don't fool with em. They just the reason why I cain't get ahead now"ÃÂ (First Person America, 176). In his account Barber also talks about a few incidents that he has gotten into while working as a drummer in a bar. Barber realizes that there's an invisible white line where he will never be able to cross due to his color. Because of the color barrier, Barber shows a strong dislike for white people stating that he doesn't even want to talk to them, no matter how nice they are. When the testimony was taken, Barber's animosity toward whites was so far along that he hoped Hitler would Abanilla 5 come along and start killing the Jews just so a white war will be started. He hopes this will give blacks the opportunity to overthrow the whites and take rule of America.
Though it may have seemed as if relations between whites and blacks were getting better, the strong feelings of animosity still existed in the 1930's. Added to this is the fact that black started regaining their pride and power and the white fear of black power and we see even more hidden suppression and a more divided United States. Looking at the circumstances, one can see why the blacks have a strong animosity toward whites. Their forms of art and culture were being emulated and others taking the credit and praise their artists deserve, their being treated unequal though they proved again and again their equality, and the glass ceiling being placed upon them by the whites. Many of these same issues come up again in the late 1940's and 1950's when the civil rights movement came in full effect. The crisis of black and white relations was never resolved and provided a crisis which took over ten years to address and even today still is not resolved.