- Hey, Charleston!: The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band by Anne Rockwell
Near the end of the nineteenth century, Reverend Daniel Jenkins began his ministry to the children of Charleston, South Carolina by offering shelter in his church to a handful of orphans. Charitable donations allowed him to house more boys in a larger facility, but to make the orphanage self-sustaining, Jenkins hit upon the idea to organize the boys into a band, with donated instruments and first-rate instructors. Eventually their jazzy style, infused with rhythms and dance steps from the Gullah culture many of the boys descended from, caught the attention of Theodore Roosevelt, who invited the band to play at his inaugural parade. The group eventually went international, playing in London in the opening days of World War I. Though they were fortunate to get home themselves, the band shared a significant portion of their performance profits with other stranded Americans whose financial assets had been frozen while they were overseas. Rockwell’s retelling of the early years of the Jenkins Orphanage Band has been somewhat compressed, and the feel-good mood of the true rags (sartorial and musical)-to-riches tale depends on ignoring the fact that they were not an immediately beloved, overnight success. Bootman’s atmospheric paintings, with individuated faces, almost photographic faces, convey a sense of the excitement that this new style of pop music caused, particularly in the white audiences who embraced it. An author’s note and brief bibliography are included, but google the Fox Movietone Newsreel film and audio performance clips for a jazz unit or a dazzled-up book talk.