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Becoming Sonny Rollins

Becoming Sonny Rollins BENJAMIN GIVAN In late 1939 a twenty- five- year- old Harlem resident named Ralph Ellison stopped to talk to a small boy on the sidewalk near the corner of 135th Street and Lenox Avenue. Ellison, who had arrived in New York three years earlier from Tuskegee, Alabama, was on a job collecting urban folk- lore for the Federal Writers’ Project. Pencil in hand, the aspiring novelist asked the child whether he knew any rhymes. His youthful informant cheerfully offered a few lines about the local elementary school, which was just a stone’s throw away: “Remember the Eight, Remember the Nine, Remember that ‘City Dump’ 89.” Public School 89 was one of upper Manhattan’s most overcrowded, underfunded city schools; in dimly lit classrooms with broken black- boards, pupils as old as twelve sat cramped in seats meant for kinder- gartners. The dilapidated building nevertheless stood at the bustling epicenter of Depression- era African American urban life, near an intersec- tion where crowds often congregated around soapbox orators. Within a couple hundred yards’ radius could be found the Harlem branches of the New York Public Library and YMCA, the local NAACP and Urban League headquarters, the offices of the Amsterdam News http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Music University of Illinois Press

Becoming Sonny Rollins

American Music , Volume 37 (4) – Nov 28, 2019

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
ISSN
1945-2349

Abstract

BENJAMIN GIVAN In late 1939 a twenty- five- year- old Harlem resident named Ralph Ellison stopped to talk to a small boy on the sidewalk near the corner of 135th Street and Lenox Avenue. Ellison, who had arrived in New York three years earlier from Tuskegee, Alabama, was on a job collecting urban folk- lore for the Federal Writers’ Project. Pencil in hand, the aspiring novelist asked the child whether he knew any rhymes. His youthful informant cheerfully offered a few lines about the local elementary school, which was just a stone’s throw away: “Remember the Eight, Remember the Nine, Remember that ‘City Dump’ 89.” Public School 89 was one of upper Manhattan’s most overcrowded, underfunded city schools; in dimly lit classrooms with broken black- boards, pupils as old as twelve sat cramped in seats meant for kinder- gartners. The dilapidated building nevertheless stood at the bustling epicenter of Depression- era African American urban life, near an intersec- tion where crowds often congregated around soapbox orators. Within a couple hundred yards’ radius could be found the Harlem branches of the New York Public Library and YMCA, the local NAACP and Urban League headquarters, the offices of the Amsterdam News

Journal

American MusicUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Nov 28, 2019

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