Jazz has actually been banned in New Orleans schools since 1922

  • 30 Apr - 06 May, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

The school board in the city where jazz took root is preparing to undo a little-known 1922 rule that bans jazz music and dancing in public schools. Officials tell The New Orleans Advocate that the policy has racist origins, as its creators sought at the time to distance New Orleans schoolchildren from the African Americans who created the genre. The rule has been ignored for decades. Jazz is taught in some schools and marching bands accompanied by dance teams are a fixture of Carnival season parades. The board discussed the policy at a committee meeting and planned to vote on reversing it. The policy came to the board’s attention after Ken Ducote, executive director of the Greater New Orleans Collaborative of Charter Schools, read a book, Chord Changes on the Chalkboard: How Public School Teachers Shaped Jazz and the Music of New Orleans, by Al Kennedy. Kennedy had found out about the policy while doing research. Reports from 1922 quote a then-school board member identified as Mrs Adolph Baumgartner as one of the early opponents of the genre. “Jazz music and jazz dancing in schools should be stopped at once,” Baumgartner said during a March 1922 meeting. Kennedy said the ban was likely the school board “reacting to the fears of the day.”