Exactly 100 years after its decision, New Orleans lifts ban on jazz music and dance in schools

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — For the first time in 100 years, students and teachers can legally listen and dance to jazz music in New Orleans public schools.

On Thursday, March 24, the Orleans Parish School Board voted unanimously to rescind the school board’s action to abolish jazz music and dance in public schools.

Since its adoption on March 24, 1922, NOLA-PS reports that the policy has been ignored by schools, saying many students have continued to play a role in shaping jazz history, including:

  • Allen Toussaint
  • Edgar “Dooky” Chase
  • Warren Bell Sr.
  • Benny Powell
  • Yvonne Busch

According to NOLA-PS, the ban stems from racist origins and intentions, with the creators wanting to keep New Orleans schoolchildren away from the African-American musicians who created the genre.

According to the Associated Press, the minutes of the board of directors of the 1922 meeting indicated that the proposal had been on the agenda and had been adopted without “prior elaboration, analysis or political debate. The AP adds that one member abstained from voting on the ban and walked out of a special meeting called at the end of the meeting because media were not allowed in.

Here’s what school board members had to say after the ban was lifted:

“I am very happy that we can cancel this policy. I want to recognize it. It was rooted in racism. And I also want to acknowledge the tremendous contributions of our students and especially our music directors, whose legacy continues from 1922 to the present day.

Olin Parker, President of the OPSB

“What a significant opportunity it is for us to be able to rescind this policy on what is literally the 100th anniversary, to the day, since its original adoption. I would like to thank Dr Ken Ducote for bringing this to my attention for submitting this resolution, and also to thank Connie Phelps, Special Collections Librarian at the Earl K Long Library who unearthed the original minutes for us.

Carlos Zervigon, member of the OPSB

“We are happy that politics has been ignored by our schools, because our schools have played a major role in the development of jazz.

Katherine Baudouin, member of the OPSB.

NOLA-PS adds that jazz music in education has been shown to enhance students’ learning experiences by “inspiring creativity and self-expression and developing focus, self-discipline, communication skills and the teamwork”.


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Henry R. Wright