Apparently Jazz Was Illegal In New Orleans Schools Until Today
New Orleans and jazz are so intrinsically linked that instead of using a cliche like “they go together like peanut butter and jelly”, it feels like “goes together like New Orleans and jazz” could BE the cliche. Recently discovered, however, was a little-known rule outright banning jazz in New Orleans schools. I could describe this ban as “weird” or “crazy” but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to anyone reading this that you don’t have to strain your brain to think of why some people in 1922 banned jazz.
To step away from the story for a moment, can we just talk about how delightful the phrase “they banned jazz” is? It’s a beautiful sentence, auditorily and aesthetically. Try saying it out loud to yourself, it’s a great time. With any inflection, a guaranteed mood booster. They banned jazz? They banned jazz! They banned jazz. It’s approaching “cellar door” status.
Linguistics aside, the ban was apparently passed in 1922, making its overdue repeal fall 100 years after its creation by pure chance. Refreshingly, no one is making much of any effort to pretend they don’t know what likely caused the ban. School board president Olin Parker pulled no punches, saying “I’m very glad that we can rescind this policy. I want to acknowledge it. It was rooted in racism.”
It is fun to imagine those old crusty school board members of the past being genuinely worried about the effect jazz would have in the schools. As if someone hooting on a trumpet through a classroom window would send the children into blind rage. “Sorry sir, but one of the students bumped into a radio, they heard a trombone, and, well, they killed and ate their teacher.” A haunted child rocking in the corner, just slowly repeating only the phrase “It’s… it’s the notes they don’t play.”
Even today, the crimes I associate with jazz are like, exclusively art and jewel heists. If I imagine a criminal doing something to jazz, it’s lowering themselves through lasers. It’s fun to know that John Coltrane was the Cannibal Corpse of 1922.