Jump for Joy: Jazz, Basketball, and Black Culture in 1930s America

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9781558496620: Jump for Joy: Jazz, Basketball, and Black Culture in 1930s America

If the 1930s was the Swing Era, then the years from 1937 on might well be called the Jump Era. That summer Count Basie recorded Jumping at the Woodside, and suddenly Jump Blues seemed to be everywhere. Along with the bouncy beat came  the high-flying aerials of the Lindy Hop and the basketball games,  held in nightclubs, became faster and higher. Black college basketball began to include jump shots. Duke Ellington and a cast of hundreds produced the 1941 musical revue and protest, Jump for Joy, a title that captured the momentum and direction of the new culture of exuberance.
Several high-profile public victories accompanied this increasing optimism: the spectacular successes of Jesse Owens and other African American athletes at the 1936 Olympics, the 1937 union victory of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and Joe Louis's 1937 and 1938 heavyweight championship fights. For the first time in history, black Americans emerged as cultural heroes and ambassadors, and many felt a new pride in citizenship.
In this book, Gena Caponi-Tabery chronicles these triumphs and shows how they shaped swing music, basketball, track and field, and jazz dance of the 1930s and beyond. But she also shows how they emboldened ordinary African Americans to push for greater recognition and civil liberties how cultural change preceded and catalyzed political action.
Tracing the path of one symbolic gesture the jump across cultural and disciplinary boundaries, Caponi-Tabery provides a unique political, intellectual, and artistic analysis of the years immediately preceding World War II.

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About the Author:

Formerly associate professor of American studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Gena Caponi-Tabery is editor of Signifyin(g), Sanctifyin', and Slam Dunking: A Redaer in African American Expressive Culture (University of Massachusetts Press, 1999).

From Booklist:

Titled after the Duke Ellington revue of 1941, Caponi-Tabery’s book explores boundary testing in the arenas of culture and race during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The high-flying jitterbuggers on the dance floor and free-form basketball, sometimes occurring in the same place and time, reflected efforts by black Americans to test the limits of the times. The interaction between music, dance, and basketball provided a means of self-expression even as larger issues were being tested and challenged. Under the leadership of A. Phillip Randolph, the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters was making headway in the labor world, and Joe Louis and Jesse Owens also pushed against boundaries in the sports world. Caponi-Tabery interweaves the symbolic liberation of music and dance with the more serious work of achieving racial equality. Although focused on entertainment and quite entertaining, this is a serious historical and cultural work that deals with the racial climate of the era. --Vernon Ford

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Gena Caponi-Tabery
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