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It Was All a Dream...Pittsburgh Musician's Local 471: Collective Memory and Alternate Truths

White, Johnathan (2021) It Was All a Dream...Pittsburgh Musician's Local 471: Collective Memory and Alternate Truths. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This project documents the history of Pittsburgh’s Black Musicians Local 471, founded in 1908. In 1966, Local 471 merged with white musicians Local 60, forming Local 60-471. Surviving members of Local 471, primarily jazz artists, expressed the deleterious effects of the merger,
complaining, among other things, of discriminatory treatment and marginalization. In 1971, seeking equity, some pursued legal action. Ultimately, the courts did not rule in their favor, leaving bittersweet memories of this period. In oral testimonies, many former members of 471 reminisced about the Musicians Club, a social and networking space that flourished during the 1940s and 1950s. While many of them were less engaged in the business affairs of the Local
471, they recalled the vibrancy of the pre-integration entertainment scene and bemoaned the loss of their union and its beloved Musicians Club. Urban Renewal and gentrification of the Lower Hill District, as well as the merger, were watershed moments. Most 471 members felt that racial integration of the two unions sounded the death knell for the autonomy, lush life, and economic opportunity they had long enjoyed. This study’s methodology juxtaposes the collected remembrances of Local 471 members with an analysis of primary sources, providing alternate interpretations of the pre- and post- integration eras. What emerges is a complex portrait of the peak and demise of Local 471.
Changing demographics and social conditions, shifting tastes in popular music, the internal affairs of Local 471, and technological innovations, as well as racism, all shaped the fates of black musicians. This project revealed no singular master narrative of the past. Collective
memories at times converged and conflicted with other evidence. Questions emerged as to why certain memories and interpretations of the past took hold. Through their nostalgic streams of consciousness depicting both a dreamy and painful past, 471 members created social history
from below. These collected memories, constituting “alternate truths,” expand and enrich our understanding of the past.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
White, Johnathanjjw18@psu.eduJJW99
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGlasco, Laurencelag1@pitt.edulag1
Committee CoChairPutnam, Laralep12@pitt.edulep12
Committee MemberRuck, Robruck439019@aol.comrucco
Committee MemberJohnson, Aarondraj@pitt.edudraj
Date: 20 January 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 24 November 2020
Approval Date: 20 January 2021
Submission Date: 7 January 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 335
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Pittsburgh history, Local 471, Local 60-471, Pittsburgh music, Pittsburgh jazz, jazz, black musicians, collective memory, Musicians Club
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2021 19:20
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2021 19:20


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