The Roanoker - May/June 2016 - 84
hostile and often dangerous climate, freed
men and women took
the meanest land and
lowest jobs, and created what beauty they
could from it.
Enter one Roanoke,
Virginia (known as 'Big Lick'
back then): a growing town west
of Richmond, on the eastern side
of Appalachia. Roanoke boasted
established tobacco manufacturing, a new railroad connection
and a settled community of former slaves and free "negroes" (as
stated in the 1941 account, "Our
Colored People," written by Isaac
M. Warren of Roanoke). It was
a mini-bonanza for the unskilled
but willing laborer.
and band, 1974.
but it was Roanoke's least assuming people-the African American community-who were
largely responsible for this era's
creation and decades of sustaining. I would even say it is these
same Roanokers who are-in
part-responsible for cultivating
what is arguably called America's
first art form during its greatest
era: the art and era of jazz.
The story of jazz in Roanoke
begins in the decades post-Civil War. Millions of newly freed
slaves began migrating across the BY THE EARLY 1920S, RoaSouth and beyond, anxious to noke's African American comput their freedom to work. In a munity thrived. Jim Crow laws
84 | MAY/JUNE 2016