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Topics in Chronicling America - Early Jazz Music: Backlash and Opposition

Critics call jazz immoral…ugly…ridiculous as it rockets to popularity in the early 1920s. Did the “Devil’s music” really lead to the downfall of society? Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Picture of dancers

Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • Circa 1900. Dixieland Jazz gets its start in New Orleans.
  • 1917. Original Dixieland Jazz Band makes first jazz recording.
  • August 1919. Dance masters declare all-out war on jazz evil.
  • September 3, 1919. Dancing public has gone “jazz mad” and “the jazz craze must go,” says Chattanooga dance instructor.
  • March 13, 1921. Imps invent jazz to torment imbeciles, says Dr. Van Dyke.
  • January 25, 1922. Jazz dancing creates an army of imbeciles, says North Dakota cleric.
  • June 8, 1922. French thinkers describe jazz as “ugly, ridiculous, and indecent,” but also admit that the public “can’t find anything too jazzy.”

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Jazz dancing, jazz immoral, saxophone jazz
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  July 8, 2016
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