Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 1, page 5 of 11)

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Chapter 1

But despite all their hardships on their voyages to America, the Negroes were encouraged to sing and dance to relieve the pressures on them and to eradicate the feeling of being despised and rejected.

Slave ships could carry as many as 800 Africans at a time. The strong able-bodied men would be put below deck and the women and children would be kept on the upper deck. At night, the men had to sleep on their sides because there wasn't enough room for all of them to sleep on their backs.

In 1719, slaves were arriving on a regular basis in New Orleans and parts of Louisiana, from West Africa, Virginia and South Carolina. Algiers Point, located on the West bank of Mississippi River from New Orleans had a corral that housed the slaves and from which point they were sold.

In the eyes of people from other countries, America was the land of freedom, prosperity, hope and the opportunity to advance to a better life. This was true for most people, but not for the Africans. They came to America without hope and with no future before them except servitude. While others were finding freedom in this country, the Africans lost all their wild, native spirit and zest for life.

The music of slaves included spirituals, work songs, gospels, the blues and children's songs. All were sung in a syncopated rhythm, a process that places the strong, accented pulse to the weak beat. These songs later became known as ragtime.

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