Duke Ellington (1EMA) Group ①

by Kurt's Students


Comic Panel 1
Isabelle Rappaport;
Enzo Bland;
Arthur Damas;
Cristina Cheng;
No due date for jazz
How did music ever infuse with social activism? This was one of the many things Edward Ellington did during his life-long career. A musician that demands respect, Duke Ellington fought during a rough era, but could turn to reality his dreams step by step.
 Son of two talented musicians, Edward was always interested in music and art. So much so that he, at the age of seven, started learning, with his parents' support, how to play piano. Developing his ability and talent during high-school, he wrote his first song named “Soda Fountain Rag” and was awarded with a scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn which he denied.
After high school, Duke Ellington married Edna Thompson when he was 19, giving birth to their only son named Mercer Kennedy Ellington a year later. At the age of 39, Ellington left his family, his son was 19, moving in with Beatrice Ellis. He had another relationship with Fernada de Castro Monte during his relationship with Beatrice Ellis but continued with both until the end supporting both women.

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 24th of 1899, in Washington, D.C., Arguably the best place for an African-American child to live in that era. It's segregated schools taught African history, stressed proper manners and speech, and were intent on producing students who were, in Ellington’s phrase, “representative of a great and proud race.”
He was the first black man to be represented on a coin.
Duke Ellington used “Jump of Joy” to call out those who borrowed from black music without giving credits or financial compensation to its creator.
During his life, Duke Elington had nine grammies and one pulitzer award.
Two years before Ellington died, in May 24th of 1974, Yale University held a gathering of black jazz musicians. Aside from Ellington, the many musicians who came included Charles Mingus. During his performance, someone unhappy with this presence on campus called in a bomb threat. The police attempted to clear the building, but Mingus refused to leave, urging the officers to get all the others out but adamantly remaining onstage. “Racism planted that bomb, but racism ain’t strong enough to kill this music,” he said, “If I’m going to die, I’m ready. But I’m going out playing ‘Sophisticated Lady”, Ellington’s dreamy thirties hit, which became a protest song. In the street, Ellington stood just beyond the theatre’s open doors, smiling.
Ellington used his music to showcase black excellence as a resistance tactic against the negative stereotype of African Americans made popular in American blackface minstrelsy.
Minstrelsy : Comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core. They also distorted the features and culture of African Americans - language, looks, dance etc.
“More than half a century after the Civil War, the most famous night club in New York was a mock plantation. The bandstand was done up as a white-columned mansion, the backdrop painted with cotton bushes and slave quarters. All the performers were black—or, in the case of the chorus girls, café au lait—and all the patrons white, if not by force of law then by force of the thugs at the door. Ellington had to ask permission for friends to see his show.”
“Black, Brown and Beige,” a composition that Ellington described as “a parallel to the history of the American Negro.” The audience itself was described in the press as “black, brown, and beige”—hardly the usual Carnegie crowd.
Duke Ellington was known as a person that did not show that he suffered by racism, always treating it with humor and not protesting directly. Although, Duke was known as someone who fought and protested against racism with music, being one of the firsts to infuse art with social activism, mainly racial activism, using it to showcase black excellence as a resistance tactic against negative stereotypes of African Americans, lazy, ignorant, thieves and hypersexual, made popular in American blackface minstrelsy. A clear example of his humorous treatment with racism was when he was denied the Pulitzer award even with his world-wide recognition saying to the press that he was too young to receive it, he was in his 60s.