This article located on the African American Newspapers database provides an interesting and useful African-American perspective on the wake of jazz music and the usage and history of the word itself. The article, titled “What is ‘Jazz’?,” was published in 1926 in The Negro Star, a newspaper run by Hollie T Sims that circulated during the former part of the twentieth century that featured African American news intended for an African-American audience, one of the few newspapers to do so at the time. Having access to commentary during the early stages of jazz from an African-American perspective here is very useful as most of the primary scholarship on the primarily African American genre is from white musicians and scholars. This article in particular offers interesting insight, especially in regards to the coinage and use of the actual term “jazz,” as it points out that much of the reason it is relevant to even discuss is due to the fact that famous white musicians had been using the word to describe certain black music and made claims about its origins, the paper even calling composer W. Franke Harling’s transposition of a black spiritual “a so-called jazz transposition.”
In answering the question of “what is jazz?”, the article describes the complex history of what this term may more accurately refer to and the origins of this style of music described by these white musicians, calling it “the child of ragtime,” and further explains the importance of the unique instrumentation common in early jazz music. But in the end, it tells the truth of the complicated nature of trying to answer the question and locate the origin, as it is the “‘chop suey’ of the musical world.” It is very telling to me to read of a primary source written by an African American during the time the complicated genre of jazz was being born and to see that what is normally thought of as purely an invention of African Americans in fact may have been a sort of appropriation of a term by white musicians to describe a more diverse and complicated array of black music that at the time was colliding.
Sims, Hollie T. “What is ‘Jazz’?” The Negro Star [Wichita] 17 Sep. 1926: 1. Web.