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"Children in front of moving picture theater, Easter Sunday matinee, Black Belt, Chicago, Illinois" (Detail)
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African American music has played a crucial, influential role in the development of a host of media forms, from vaudeville, radio and sound recording, to literature, visual art and film. Chicago’s rich Black musical heritage – Ragtime, Gospel, Blues, and Soul – offers a wealth of research topics and approaches, including archival projects, interpretive studies and oral histories. Jazz shares a particularly close history with African American film culture, because many of the venues in which films were shown during the first half of the twentieth century were also venues of jazz performance (jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong and Erskine Tate often accompanied silent films).
The Chicago Jazz Archive (CJA) is an extraordinary resource on the University of Chicago campus, holding materials documenting the birth of " Chicago style" jazz in the 1910s-20s, and extending into the most recent jazz styles, performers and cultures. Jazz is documented at the Archive with oral histories; sound recordings in 78rpm, 45rpm, LP, and CD formats; audio and video tapes; printed and manuscript parts for stock arrangements; piano sheet music; correspondence; interviews; scrapbooks, photographs, books, periodicals, artwork, and realia; and other jazz-related materials.
The CJA is a special collection in the University of Chicago Library, and is available to researchers (affiliated with the University or not) by appointment only. The CJA’s extraordinary website contains detailed finding aids for its collections, as well as a wide range of off-site and Internet research leads. The website’s many treasures include a map of Chicago’s South Side jazz performance venues, many of which were popular movie houses (e.g., the Pekin, Grand, and Regal theaters).
The CJA is located on the second floor of the Joseph Regenstein Library, which has, in its general collections, strong Cinema and Media Studies holdings (books, journals, video), including materials on Black cinema.