Respect Will Mitigate Chaos

Welcome. Thank you for visiting my Blog about my father, Eddie Green, and other stories of inspiration. Welcome to my new friends.  I’ve been posting here since 2014 and it has been a wonderful experience on line. Unlike other social media sites, I get to say whatever I want without having to expect “backlash”. I voiced my opinion on a question once on Twitter and I got so many mean responses I almost quit the site. But I realized it was not me or my thinking, just a lot of trolls. I have  good social media connections now and I love it. 

Life on planet Earth can be troublesome. These days, in America, is seems much more dangerous than in the past. So much anger and depression. Recently I received 2 messages from fans of my father who discovered my book and love the fact that I have shared my father’s life for their enjoyment. I received such positive compliments regarding the good that has come through my book, that I got this idea of a post for today. My father grew up and became successful during a truly dangerous period for Black Americans. Eddie was able to flourish even in this environment because Eddie was a nice guy. He was dependable, helpful, willing, well-read, respectful, hard-working and easy-going. He was kind and able to get along with anybody. He liked people. And he made them laugh. I believe we can have a sweeter life if we strive to show more concern and courtesy to our neighbors. As an example, here is an item from the Billboard from 1920:

“Help Everybody by Distributing Useful Information
The following letter from Eddie (Simp) Green, (he dropped the nickname by 1924) who is with Barney Gerard’s “Girls De Looks.” burlesque show is beyond doubt the most unselfish communication that has come to us since the department has been started. His little note Is an illustration of the many services to one another that actors may accomplish thru the instrumentality of this page. The letter:

Buffalo, N. Y., Nov. 9. Jack—Just a line to tell you that the boys playing this town find it so hard to get rooms that I think it would benefit all of them greatly if you would say  in your notes that when they play Buffalo the most convenient place to stop is the Hotel
Francis  directly opposite the New York City Depot. We re here this week and the show is a “riot as usual.” at the Gayety Theater.

Yours respectfully, EDDIE GREEN

(Editor’s Note—Eddie Green writes something besides letters.  He wrote “A Good Man is Hard To Find,” “Don’t Let No One Man Worry Your Mind,” “You Can’t Keep a Good Girl Down,” “Algiers” and the “Blind Man’s Blues”. He also has written himself into the class of regular fellows with the above letter. Billboard December 4, 1920

Tulsa Race Riot 1921

It must have been very difficult to think of others and to be funny to boot. Life in those days was rough.  While Eddie was at the Gayety in Dec. of 1920 trouble was brewing in St. Louis. The upheaval associated with the transition from a wartime to peacetime economy contributed to a depression in 1920 and 1921. The Tulsa Race Riot took place on May 31st and June 1st of 1921. The attack, carried out on the ground and by air, destroyed more than 35 blocks of the district, at the time the wealthiest black community in the United States. It began over a supposed assault of a White woman by a Black man. A group of armed black men rushed to the police station where the suspect was held; there they encountered a crowd of white men and women. A confrontation developed, (Picture courtesy of The Library of Congress)

How does one stay on point and continue to get along with whoever they encounter and also continue to progress in the business of being a comic. The good news is: In 1996, seventy-five years after the riot, a bi-partisan group in the state legislature authorized formation of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, searching for truth and honesty and respect. Members were appointed to investigate events, interview survivors, hear testimony from the public, and prepare a report of events. There was an effort toward public education about these events through the process. The Commission’s final report, published in 2001, said that the city had conspired with the mob of white citizens against black citizens; it recommended a program of reparations to survivors and their descendants. The state passed legislation to establish some scholarships for descendants of survivors, encourage economic development of Greenwood, and develop a memorial park in Tulsa to the riot victims. Buck Franklin is best known for defending African-American survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, On October 27, 2010, the City of Tulsa renamed Reconciliation Park, established to commemorate the victims of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, as John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in his honor.The park was dedicated in 2010.

 

Then there is this little item written by Gilbert Swan, of the Saratoga Springs, NY Saratogian “Sidelights of New York”, Jan 27, 1930: “Up to Harlem for a gay party in connection with the opening of the latest swanky way-up-town resort: the Plantation Club. And Eddie Green, the comic, doing an Ad Lib song about the columnists present with a verse about my modest self. . . . Which Is the first time it ever happened and left me trying to hide under my stiff choker”.

Regarding that party, about a month after Eddie’s appearance at this all-White club there was a break-in as per this article:

“THUGS INVADE PLANTATION CLUB New York, Jan. 17 — (UP) — Casting aside the usual method of intimidation and assault, a band of racketeers used pickaxes and crowbars to put Harlem’s newest night club, the Plantation club, out of business. The club was invaded yesterday by ten men who destroyed the furnishings, dance floor, costumes and electrical equipment”.  The Daily Argus, Jan. 1930

 

America was a dangerous place in those days. For a lot of people. And dangerous today. But men like Eddie and Buck  were here to show us how to thrive amid chaos. How we can strive to write ourselves into what the Billboard termed as “the class of regular fellows”. We have the ability to foster a kinder world.

Hey, thanx-for stopping by 🙂

Peace & Love

On Amazon: Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer

 

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1939 “NO KITCHEN DOOR FOR ME”


Gee Gee James Refuses To Bow To St. Louis Jim-Crow ‘NO KITCHEN DOOR FOR ME” So said she after being told she had to enter a nightclub through the back door.  In 1939, after being invited to see a play by the general manager of the Whites-Only Club Plantation in St Louis, Gee Gee was unpleasantly surprised to find when she got there that she would have to go in through the back door and through the kitchen.  She said that she “did not see why she should not be allowed to go through the front door like all the other paying guests.” She also said she “just can’t quite get used to prejudice and jim crowism.”

Apparently the Club Plantation was a hot spot in 1939 and was considered one of the outstanding spots In the nation and one of the most pleasing places for Black artists and entertainers to work, however Blacks were not allowed in to see the shows. Gee Gee was invited in because she was in vogue at the time as an actress, but they still would not let her arrive through the front door.

Never having experienced this I tend to forget that Black entertainers of the early 1900s faced blatant racism constantly. Maybe even daily. It had to have been a constant stressor. Yet, actors like Gee Gee and my father, Eddie Green, lit up a room when they walked in.  They were gracious off stage and dedicated to their craft on stage. These trailblazers have, because of their fortitude, become my heroes. I chose to write about Gee Gee James today because she and my father were once comedic partners. But like Eddie before I wrote my book, Gee Gee has pretty much been forgotten or over-looked. In this extremely bad copy you can see her from 1937:  “Luis Russell, Eddie Green, Gee Gee James and Louie Armstrong, who on Friday night, over station WJZ, under the sponsorship of the Fleischman Yeast Company, made show world history.”—Photo by Continental News 1937

I found this wonderful article by Billy Rowe, a well-known Black journalist of the Pittsburgh Courier (1937):

ROWE NEW YORK, April 15,—”A packed house, a wildly enthusiastic audience, an atmosphere of intense joy. A leader with a captivating personality, directing a band, which like himself, knew how to swing . . . Standing before the ears of the nation awaiting the signal to commence *the first all-colored coast to coast radio program. Yes, it was a great achievement, and a personal triumph for all connected with the presentation of Louie Armstrong and his orchestra, Gee Gee James and Eddie Green, for they were the feature players making history in the world of colored show business.”

Barrymore Theatre (1931)
Exterior
Property of Shubert Archive

Gee Gee had been in show business a few years before appearing on the radio program. She and her husband, actor Ernest Whitman, who also performed with my father, were featured in an Old Time Radio program “The Gibsons“. She was also a singer, a dancer and a Broadway star.

As a matter of fact, Gee Gee was performing on Broadway when she got the invite to the Club Plantation.  The play was No Time for Comedy at the Barrymore Theatre in 1939, and ran for 179 performances. The cast included Laurence Olivier as Gaylord Esterbrook and Katharine Cornell. Gee Gee was cast as “Clementine” and “has been received in millions of American homes via the airwaves and who is savoring success after success.”

Gee Gee James refused to be treated as less than any other human being just because she happened to be Black. In 1939. And she was successful. She helped pave the way for other Black people, other minorities, and other women to be treated with respect and dignity. I believe we must remember and uphold these trailblazers, and not let them fade out of view. Because though they are no longer here, they are still role-models and worthy of continued attention.

Well, after writing this I feel like I have just made a speech. So I will bow and say thank you, for stopping by.

Check me out on Facebook, too.

And thanx greg at dejawho