From the beginnings of the African presence in New Orleans, authorities feared the potential of unsupervised black music making. Whites dreaded the possibility that the disrespectable music and dance would spread to the broader population, threatening racial purity. The same fears came to the fore during the time of the birth of jazz. The milieu that gave birth to jazz was a compound consisting of lower-class blacks, sensual dances, and “ratty” music. These three elements together constituted a whole ethos, and defenders of purity and the Protestant ethic directed their wrath at each of them. However, in the eyes of the authorities, the most objectionable feature of these clubs was their facilitation of racial mixing. The push for racial purity and respectability even pervaded the disrespectable red light district, Storyville. The attack on jazz came from two emerging strands of ideology: the idea that the poor, immigrants, and people of color lack reason and self-control, the capacity for “labor and self-denial,” and the notion that mass culture appeals to base, anti-social desires.
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