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“Interracial unity. Pro-Roosevelt unity.” On boogie-woogie Democrats.

July 9, 2012, 8:25 pm

The Milwaukee Journal of 10/25/44 reported,

Nonpartisan [sic] stars of the revue were Miss Mary Lou Williams, a Negro jazz pianist, and her hot jive quartet. Jamming on such noncontroversial themes as “Lady Be Good,” the quartet turned the show into a convention of rug cutters. Later in the show Mary Lou played her own number, “Ballot Box Boogie in the Key of Franklin D.,” which was musically satisfying but, politically, no Gettysburg address.

One might be tempted to award this round to Lincoln, but: Roosevelt did have people composing boogie-woogie and setting up barnstorming variety show tours.

Ms. Williams’s performance was, apparently, part of the “FDR Victory Bandwagon,” a program paid for by promoter Edward Royce.

Mr. Royce, who is a local art dealer, has had this idea for a long time. Last spring he experimented with it by putting on a show up in Harlem to help Clayton Powell launch his campaign for Congress. It drew such a good audience that Mr. Royce felt justified in sinking all his spare cash in the present venture.… ”I said to myself,” he said to us, “now, Royce, you want to do things for Roosevelt and you’ve got all those wonderful friends who sing and dance and things, so why not put the two together? So I did.” Further, Royce believes his show represents international unity. “We have two Cuban dancers in this show,” he said. “What does that mean? Latin-American hemispheric unity. The cast is half Negro. What does that mean? Interracial unity. Pro-Roosevelt unity. Beauty goes American. It’s terrific.… I wish we could have got something Chinese into the show.…”

From “Boogie-Woogie Democrats,” The New Yorker, 10/14/44, pp. 18-19.

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