Women and Jazz: International Sweethearts of Rhythm
In this onstage conversation, members of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm discuss the history of women in jazz and the legacy of the Sweethearts. Moderated by Sally Placksin (producer of jazz documentaries and oral histories, and author of American Women in Jazz: 1900 to the Present) and Cathy Hughes (Founder, Radio One). Founded in 1937, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm was the nation's first, integrated, female big band. The band members were students, 14 years and older, who paid for their education by performing as a jazz band to help promote and sustain their financially struggling school, the Piney Woods School in Mississippi. The Sweethearts travelled nationwide in a customized tour bus built by the school, named Big Bertha, performing at churches, state fairs, dance and civic halls and later entertainment venues, such as the Apollo Theater. The band confronted dual biases of gender and race and excelled during a period in history when the majority of African Americans lived in the South under Jim Crow laws. The Sweethearts were featured in a "Donation Ceremony" at the National Museum of American History presenting archival material of their history and onstage discussions. These events highlighted the Jazz Appreciation Month 10th Anniversary celebrations in 2011 honoring women and jazz. A permanent Sweethearts collection now resides in the museum's Archives Center. Jazz Appreciation Month is a global program of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History to advance recognition and appreciation of jazz as America's original music. More information can be found online at: www.smithsonianjazz.org.
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