In part one, the origins of Lindy Hop, the Jazz Era, and the Harlem Renaissance are examined in the context and timeline of Frankie’s life. Much of the content comes from Frankie Manning’s biography, “Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop.” This information was originally compiled as part of an exhibit celebrating the life of Frankie. Read on below for a time line of this great man who has been an inspiration to thousands world wide.
All quotes from Frankie Manning have been taken from the following source: Frankie Manning: Ambassador of Lindy Hop by Frankie Manning and Cynthia R. Millman. Temple University Press, 2007.
• Frank Manning born on May 26 in Jacksonville, Florida.
• Frankie sails to New York with his mother and aunt to live in Harlem. They move into a building at 138th Street between Lenox and Seventh avenues.
ARRIVING IN NEW YORK
“New York took some getting used to. In the South, we had dirt roads, horses, wagons, and one-story houses. Here, the sidewalks were paved, and there were apartments with a whole gang of people living on top of each other. And I remember seeing a lot of uniformed soldiers walking around who had returned from fighting in World War I. Most of all, I was overwhelmed by the tall buildings. My apartment house was only five stories high, but that was huge to me. Everybody used to say, ‘You think this is tall, wait until you see the Woolworth Building.’ I used to walk around all the time with my head in the air, looking up.”
THE JAZZ AGE
The Jazz Age describes the period from 1918-1929; the years after the end of World War I, continuing through the Roaring Twenties and ending with the rise of the Great Depression. The traditional values of the previous period saw great decline while the American stock market soared.
OUT WITH MOM
“From the time I was about eight, my mother, who adored dancing, used to take me with her to social events in Harlem so she wouldn’t have to leave me with a babysitter. We often went to house rent parties, which were a way for people to raise money to help pay their landlord. They were held right in someone’s apartment, and you’d pay 25 cents to get in. Once you were inside, you’d have someone playing stride piano and blues for food and tips, pig’s feet and potato salad to eat, bathtub gin for 1- cents a mug… and dancing.”
THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE
In the 1920s, Harlem was the center of a flowering of black culture that became known as the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of amazing artistic production, but blacks were sometimes excluded from viewing what their peers were creating. Some jazz venues, including most famously the Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington played, and Connie’s Inn, were restricted to whites only. Others, including the Renaissance Ballroom and the Savoy Ballroom, were integrated.
A rent party (sometimes called a house party) is a social occasion where tenants hire a musician or band to play and pass the hat to raise money to pay their rent, originating in Harlem during the 1920s. The rent party played a major role in the development of jazz and blues music.
• Savoy Ballroom opens at Lenox Avenue and 140th Street in Harlem.
After dancing with his mother she tells him:
“‘Frankie, you’ll never be a dancer. You’re too stiff.’ After my mother told me I was too stiff to be a dancer, I felt pretty sad. I honestly thought I was dancing like everybody else at the Renaissance Ballroom. That night, I was really dragging on the way back home. But by the next day, what she said kind of lit me up.
My mother wasn’t trying to get me to improve; she was just telling me the truth. Maybe I looked so bad that she felt like she had to say something. I didn’t see it as harsh; no, I took it as constructive criticism. If she had never told me I was stiff, I might never have become a dancer. In fact, that’s when I really got interested in dancing.”
• Charles Lindberg completes first solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris.
THE ALHAMBRA BALLROOM In 1927 Frankie and his friend Herman start to sneak off to dances at the Alhambra Ballroom instead of going to his Baptist Youth Group. They attended the Alhambra for about 2 or 3 years, then in about 1929 or 1930 Frankie started to attend the Renaissance Ballroom every Sunday.
• Short George Snowden coins the name Lindy Hop.
Shorty George is not only credited for giving the dance it’s name “The Lindy Hop” but also the name in which Jazz vernacular step “the Shorty George” came from.
• Wall Street Crash, Thursday, October 24, 1929
THE WALL STREET CRASH
The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Great Crash or the Stock Market Crash of 1929, was the most devastating stock market crash in the history of the United States, taking into consideration the full extent and longevity of its fallout.
Three phrases—Black Thursday, Black Monday, and Black Tuesday—are commonly used to describe this collapse of stock values. All three are appropriate, for the crash was not a one-day affair. The initial crash occurred on Thursday, October 24, 1929, but the catastrophic downturn of Monday, October 28 and Tuesday, October 29 precipitated widespread alarm and the onset of an unprecedented and long-lasting economic depression for the United States and the world.
• First son, Chazz Young, is born to Frankie Manning and Dorothy Young.
Frankie’s Life Outside of Dancing
While still in school, Frankie worked the following jobs to help out his family and get a little pocket money to take dancing:
• Cleaned and waxed floors, washed windows and the car for a pimp. He did this for about four or five dollars, good money at the time.
• He also did jobs for a world-class prizefighter named Harry Wills. When Frankie cleaned his home he was paid ten dollars which was almost as much as his mother made in a week.
• One summer he took a job on a Hudson River Day Line boat as a fourth cook in the ship’s galley, peeling potatoes and onions and serving the captain his meals.
• Frankie was a good student and wanted to make his mother proud, but really he preferred athletics. By the middle of twelfth grade he decided to drop out of school and work full time. One of the reasons he left was unfortunately because of prejudice.
• A while after leaving school he started to work as a furrier. He began as a porter, sweeping floors and laying down pattern boards. He was a hard worker and eventually was promoted to making and patterns and later to stretching the furs. He worked at a few different places and eventually got to the point where he was making fourteen dollars a week.