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Marking Pennsylvania History

Broad Street Jazz

During the First World War, close to a half million African Americans moved to northern cities in search of good jobs and better lives. The musicians who joined this Great Migration brought jazz north to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and other northern cities where black southerners made new homes. Drawn by the promise of steady work and good wages, more than 200,000 southern blacks migrated to Pennsylvania from 1910 to 1920. Philadelphia's African American population swelled from 84,000 to close to 220,000.

Chicago and New York quickly became the creative centers of the new music, and Philadelphia immediately became a regular stop for the nation's great jazz performers and training grounds for homegrown musicians, some of whom would go on to national fame.

In 1935, African American musicians in Philadelphia formed Local 274, also know as The Clef Club. During its 36-year existence, before the musicians joined Local 77, Local 274 quickly became important guiding its members through major transitions in the music business, including the rise of jazz, the loss of live music jobs to recordings, the explosion of Soul and R and B music, and the commercial demise of jazz.

Today, the Clef Club finds a home with a new performance space and classroom facility on the corner of Broad and Fitzwater Streets -- Philadelphia's "Avenue of the Arts."

- Adapted from ExplorePAhistory.com "Jazz in Pennsylvania"

- Kenneth FInkel, Executive Director of WHYY's Arts & Culture Service

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