Queen Josephine Baker and her banana skirt

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, February 28, 2015 10:25pm | Post a Comment

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Josephine Baker, American expat and French citizen, was a decorated World War II hero and civil rights crusader who spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 next to Martin Luther King, Jr. and further devoted her life to challenging segregation in America while attempting to raise a multiracial, multinational family of twelve children adopted from twelve different countries, her so-clalled "rainbow tribe", to further demonstrate her belief in the possibilities of racial equality. In spite of all her honors, humanitarian efforts, and dignified intentions, Baker is perhaps best known for being the vivacious cabaret dancer in the banana skirt.

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Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906 to a washerwoman and a vaudevillian drummer (who would later abandon them), Josephine took to the stage when she was about a year old. Her parents, who had a song-and-dance act, would occasionally bring her out onstage as a part of their finale, an appearance that unofficially marks the very beginning her 67 year career as an entertainer. Her official start came years later when she dropped out of school at thirteen and lived the life of a street urchin in the St. Louis slums, scavenging garbage cans for food, sleeping in cardboard shelters, and dancing street-corners for money.

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Overview of Recorded Speeches by Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Posted by Billyjam, February 27, 2015 10:14am | Post a Comment

In honor of Black History Month as well as the legacies of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X I present an overview of some of the available recordings of these two fine African American orators - two activists whose speeches have been sampled numerous times in countless hip-hop tracks - especially back in the golden era of hip-hop when the music was more political. Also in this Amoeblog are a couple of videos of the corresponding speeches by each of these historic political figures. First up is Malcolm X whose 50th anniversary of his death was last Saturday. That day marked the anniversary of when he was shot and killed in New York City on February 21st 1965. Over the years (many after his all too short lifetime that ended months before his 40th birthday)  numerous recordings of speeches by Malcolm X have been released on record and CD, and also digitally. These include the 36 minute Malcolm X Speaks To The People In Harlem (Excerpts), and the 2CD set The Wisdom Of Malcom X whose 29 tracks include such speech segments as "Police Brutality and Mob Violence," "F.B.I. and The Black Muslims," "White News Media," and "Black Women In Prison." Others include The Ballot or The Bullet (Complete Speech) LP, The Unstilled Voice LP, and In His Own Words.

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The Legend of Lead Belly Lives On With New Documentary and Releases

Posted by Billyjam, February 25, 2015 12:50pm | Post a Comment
He may have died 66 long years ago but the highly influential Delta blues artist Lead Belly's music is very much alive and well, as witnessed by the two new Lead Belly releases having dropped this month (Black History Month) - two CD releases whose content overlaps somewhat. A few weeks ago the Lead Belly / Woody Guthrie 1940 New York City radio station session WNYC Radio New York 12th December 1940 CD arrived in Amoeba via Keyhole Records. And this week the fine folks at the Smithsonian unleashed the 5CD set Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection which includes some of the same Lead Belly WNYC recordings found on one of the five CDs. The five CDs total include a total of 108 Lead Belly songs most of which are culled from the Folkways' deep archives - much previously released and found at Amoeba's online store. Sixteen of these tracks, collectors will be pleased to learn, are previously unreleased Lead Belly recordings.  Also included in the Smithsonian set is an engaging accompanying 140-page booklet that contains various essays, lots of photographs of the blues legend born Huddie Ledbetter in Louisiana in 1888, whose influences run long and deep with fans including the likes of John Fogerty, Kurt Cobain, Van Morrison, Tom Jones, Tom Waits, Robert Plant, Lonnie Donegan, and Ben Harper.

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Dirty Roots: Southern Hip-Hop Part I -- The 12" Era (1979-1983)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 16, 2015 07:21pm | Post a Comment

As far as my ears can tell, pretty near every rapper from Inglewood to Plumstead nowadays owes more than a little something to the rise of the Dirty South sound that pretty much took over hip-hop in the late 1990s. As anyone with more than a passing familiarity with the genre knows, however, southern hip-hop was for many years primarily a regional concern. In the 1970s the hip-hop scene was firmly centered in the Northeast. In the early 1980s it made its way to the West Coast but as far as mainstream audiences were concerned, skipped the third and fourth coasts. In the 1990s, many casual fans and scholars alike will tell you, there was a war between the East and West Coasts during some Southern upstarts crashed the party and, despite the efforts of the backpack Taliban, restored a sense of fun to a genre which had increasingly grown joyless and conservative. 

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Malcolm X Home Firebombed On This Day 50 Years Ago

Posted by Billyjam, February 14, 2015 07:21pm | Post a Comment

In the early morning hours of this date fifty years ago -  February 14, 1965 -  Malcolm X's New York home was firebombed with him, his pregnant wife, and four young daughters in the home at the time. The African American civil rights leader and his family managed to get out of the building safely. And later that same day he would travel to Detroit to make a speech in which he would address the house bombing "by the black Muslim movement upon the orders of Elijah Muhammad" according to Malcolm X (see video of speech below). However exactly a week later, after his return to New York, on February 21st, 1965 he would be assassinated at the age of 40.

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