Remembering the Battle to Integrate Levittown

by Zachary Solomon   LAST YEAR, George Clooney’s Suburbicon, the sixth film that the actor has directed, bombed at the box office. Suburbicon was a combination of two scripts, one a neglected crime romp penned by Joel and Ethan Coen in the mid-1980s, the other a drama loosely informed by the notorious 1957 documentary, Crisis in Levittown. Suburbicon turned out to […]

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Integrating Carnegie Hall

Benny Goodman blew the lid off Carnegie Hall on this date in 1938, in a legendary jazz concert — tickets had sold out weeks in advance — that made the “uptown” (i.e., Black) music respectable among the midtown set. The “King of Swing” was joined onstage by Lionel Hampton, Lester Young, Johnny Hodges, Teddy Wilson, and other […]

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December 18: Hal Kanter and Diahann Carroll

Hal Kanter, a screenwriter, director, and producer who created “Julia,” the first television sitcom (1968-71) featuring a black professional character (Diahann Carroll), was born in Savannah, Georgia on this date in 1918. Kanter worked on films with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, and Elvis Presley. For many years he was […]

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March 13: Joe Schwartz, Folk Photographer

Joe Schwartz, a largely undiscovered “folk” photographer and lithographer who captured moments in the lives of poor and working people, and especially moments of interracial neighborliness (at left, kids watching a marionette show in Brooklyn), died at 99 in Atascadero, California on this date in 2013. Schwartz was active in New York’s radical Photo League […]

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November 22: Integrating Jazz

Norman Granz, the founder of five jazz record labels who was a significant activist for racial integration in public performances during the 1940s and ’50s, died in Geneva, Switzerland on this date in 2001. Granz organized (on borrowed money) the famous “Jazz at the Philharmonic” jam session series in L.A. in 1944 and ’45, which […]

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Granz & Gillespie – A Duo for Democracy

by Gary Ferdman THIS NOVEMBER MARKS the 50th anniversary of the presidential campaign of a candidate who was an advocate for nuclear arms control and an unwavering and outspoken supporter of civil rights even at the risk of his career. Master politician Lyndon Johnson? Nope. Try master musician John Birks (Dizzy) Gillespie, who would have […]

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September 29: The First Integrated Nightclub

Barney Josephson, who in 1938 founded New York’s first integrated nightclub, the Cafe Society, in the basement of 2 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village, died at 88 on this date in 1988. Formerly a shoe salesman, Josephson said that he “wanted a club where blacks and whites worked together behind the footlights and sat together out […]

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April 9: The Jewish Dominican Ballplayer

José Bautista, the only Jewish Major League Baseball player from the Dominican Republic, made his debut as a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles on this date in 1988, after spending seven years in the New York Mets farm system. The Orioles began the ’88 season with 21 straight losses (an American League record) and ended […]

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East Toledo, 2012

by Mermer Blakeslee Photographs © 2012 by Margot McLean In 2008 Margot McLean and I canvassed for Obama in Ohio, the tugboat state capable of pulling the big ship across. We ended up in Toledo, a place where we both felt very much at home. In 2012 we went back. A lot of it was […]

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