African American History Culture : AFRICAN AMERICAN BRASS BAND MOVEMENT...

Discussion in 'African American History Culture' started by Isaiah, Jan 11, 2006.

  1. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jun 8, 2004
    Likes Received:
    Note: Cornetists whose names appear either before the turn-of-the-century, or in a biographic entry (or multiple times) from 1890 to 1910 in The Freeman of Indianapolis were cited above. The first reference to a cornetist in the newspaper was on 20 December 1890 (see Hill, Miss Scotia above). This African American newspaper provides a continuous monumental record of the achievements of African Americans of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Published from 1884 to 1927, it contains a wealth of information well beyond the scope of this document, including information related to minstrel shows, circus bands, brass bands, and theatre orchestras, etc.. A virtual cornucopia of information exists in The Freeman. The author of this document hopes that his own work will stimulate great interest and open many doors for further research. The author also plans on publishing an article entitled, "The African American Contribution to the Cornet of the Nineteenth Century: Some Long Lost Names," in the winter issue of the Historic Brass Society Journal. The article contains some general information, photographs, and highly referenced biographies of nine of the more highly documented African American cornetists of the nineteenth century.

    The African American Brass Band Movement

    An important venue for African American cornetists to learn the band trade was the African American regiment in the Civil War. It is a well known fact that each African American regiment in the Civil War had its own band. Although the author of this document could not find specific names of cornet players in these regimental bands, some of the most famous bands were those of the 107th United States Colored Infantry, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw’s Fifty-fourth Regiment, the First Regiment of the Kansas Colored Volunteers, and the Fifty-fifth Regiment of Massachusetts. At the end of the war, many of these musicians went to civilian musical groups, and some even remained in the service. For the first time ever, African American units were incorporated into the United States Army. On 28 July 1866, Congress passed an act establishing two such cavalry regiments and four infantry regiments. Some of the most famous of the military bands in these units were those of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, and the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry. They served for more than twenty years on America’s frontier (Southern 1997, 208, 258). Names of some of the cornetist in the Twenty-fourth U. S. Infantry Band in the early part of 1900 were as follows: First Cornet, W. A. Gage; Second Cornet, William Quarles; and Third Cornet, G. Simpson (The Freeman; 24 February 1900).

    The civilian African American brass band was a popular performing medium for the cornet, as well. The most renowned of these bands was The Frank Johnson Concert Band of Philadelphia. Frank (Francis) Johnson (1792-1844) was a famous virtuoso keyed bugle player. He also performed on the trumpet, violin, and flute, and sang, as well. Johnson actually noticed the use of the "new" cornet à pistons during his tour to England from November, 1837 to June, 1838. He did perform on the cornet à pistons on at least two occasions, i.e.,19 January 1838 and 30 March 1838 (Southern 1977, 13-14). If he would have lived ten years later, perhaps, he might have personally chosen the cornet as his primary instrument. We shall never know.

    During his six month stay in England, he performed for Queen Victoria, who presented him with a silver bugle (Southern 1997, 109). This performance for the Queen occurred between April and May of 1838 (Southern 1977, 9) . Johnson was also responsible for beginning a series of Promenade Concerts at the Grand Saloon of the Philadelphia Museum on 25 December 1840. His concerts would draw literally thousands of people, and the doors would have to be closed to avoid overcrowding.

    Joseph G. Anderson, an African American cornet virtuoso, took over the leadership of the group after Johnson’s death. Joseph G. Anderson has an entry in Chapter 2 of this document. See also Aaron J. R. Connor in Chapter 2. Since Johnson was primarily known for his virtuoso keyed bugle playing, the author of this document has chosen to defer a long entry for him in Chapter 2.

    Other civilian African American bands stand out from the crowd. Pedro Tinsley’s Colored Band, led by Pedro Tinsley (1856-1899), Theodore Finney’s Brass Band of Detroit led by Theodore Finney (1837-1899) dating back to the 1840’s, and the Monumental Cornet Band of Baltimore with C. A. Johnson as bandleader were three of them (Trotter 1968, 329). African American brass bands of New Orleans were especially popular, New Orleans being such an important hub of musical activity for both whites and blacks in the early nineteenth century. Among these bands were the Excelsior Brass Band (conducted by George W. Sharper), Kelly’s Brass Band , the Onward Brass Band, and the St. Bernard Brass Band (conducted by E. Lambert, also a composer). In Richmond, Virginia, there was the thirteen member band attached to the Light Infantry Blues in 1841, and in Wilmington, North Carolina, there was Allen’s Brass Band, active during the 1850’s and 1860’s.

    A significant performing vehicle for many African American cornet players was the minstrel show. There were hundreds of cornet players with countless minstrel groups after 1865. Groups of African American entertainers date back to the 1840’s, but it was not until April 1865 that white manager W. H. Lee organized the Georgia Minstrels in Macon, Georgia. This was the first permanent minstrel troupe of African Americans. In 1866, Sam Hague, also white, became the manager of the group. Its name was changed to Sam Hague’s Slave Troupe of Georgia Minstrels. He added more men, toured England, and eventually replaced the ex-slaves in the troupe with whites in blackface makeup.

    The first permanent troupe of African American minstrels managed by an African American was also called the Georgia Minstrels. It was managed by Charles "Barney" Hicks (c1840-1902) and was based in Indianapolis. Hicks sold the troupe to Charles Callender, a white manager, in 1872. Lew Johnson, an African American, organized his own troupe in St. Louis in 1869. Among the names of other African American managed troupes were the Hicks-Sawyer’s Colored Minstrels, Hicks-McIntosh Minstrels, M. B. Curtis All-Stars Afro-American Minstrels, McCabe and Young’s Minstrels, Billy Kersands’ Minstrels, Ernest Hogan’s Minstrels, Henry Hart Minstrels, and the Bohee Brothers’ Minstrels. Large white managed troupes included Sprague’s Georgia Minstrels, W. S. Cleveland’s Big Colored Minstrels, Lew Dockstader’s Minstrels, Richards and Pringle’s Minstrels, Mahara’s Minstrels, and Al G. Field’s Negro Minstrels (Southern 1997, 231-233). See Chapters 2 and 3 for the many names and lives of African American cornetists in the nineteenth century. The many sources for names of African American cornetists in Chapters 2 and 3 include The [Indianapolis] Freeman, Music and Some Highly Musical People (Trotter 1968), The Music of Black Americans (Southern 1997), [BDAAM] Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians (Southern 1983), Old Slack’s Reminiscence and Pocket History of the Colored Profession from 1865 to 1891 (Simond 1974), Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras (Handy 1981), Negro Musicians and Their Music (Cuney-Hare 1974), and the many documents of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (today called Virginia State University).