Introduction

The Owl [January 1939]

The Owl, Wadleigh High School yearbook, January 1939.

During the 1930 and 1940s, Harlem was known for being full of musical talent and spirit, including jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Mary Lou Williams.

Outside of the grand stages and radios of Harlem were smaller and younger musicians in training, learning in music lessons and programs outside of public schools. Those students and teachers who developed their musical talent outside of the city’s public school system later on brought their knowledge into the schools, infusing the classrooms, auditoriums and special celebrations with bonafide talent.

The cover image for this exhibit comes from the January 1939 Wadleigh High School yearbook, which had a musical theme. This exhibit explores the cultivation of a "composer identity" at Wadleigh High School in Harlem, and student achievement in the context of racial segregation and exclusion.

Introduction