In the Great Depression, the American dream had become a nightmare. What was once the land of opportunity was now the land of desperation. The Great Depression was an economic slump in North America, Europe, and other industrialized areas of the world that began in 1929 and lasted until about 1939. It was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced by the industrialized Western world. Nevertheless, it had immense impact on the evolution of American vernacular dance by bringing jazz music and dance to the masses, raising the nation’s spirit through music and dance.
The Great Depression hit hard, but it hit African Americans the hardest. They had been on the bottom rung of the economic ladder already before the Depression hit, and, although most had precious little to lose, prospects for even subsistence work were especially poor once the Depression was under way. Many poor southern migrants continued to come north, crowding into neighborhoods already packed with people, competing for the fast-dwindling number of jobs. Black businesses failed, crushing the entrepreneurial spirit that had been an essential element of the Negro Renaissance until then.
In the mid-1930s, as the Great Depression stubbornly refused to lift, jazz came as close as it has ever come to being America's popular music. It had a new name now, Swing, and its impact was revolutionary. Swing, which had grown up in the dancehalls of Harlem, would become the defining music for an entire generation of Americans. Record sales slowly started to increase as Americans began frequenting establishments with jukeboxes. Radio continued to be an important source of entertainment, but motion pictures were no doubt the favorite escapist entertainment. By mid-decade, Hollywood musicals would gain great popularity, which continued unabated into the 1940s.
Jazz took a hard blow, as the rest of the country did,... [continues]
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