Part 3: Le Hot Jazz, the 1920s
The young kids are scared of Granny Smith. They think she is a witch. After all, she did practice voodoo back in New Orleans. Granny keeps an eye on all the kids in the Big House and the little Shack in Jackson, Mississippi. She noticed the negro sharecropper kids playing with the former master’s kid after dinner. Granny knows that the negro kids should not be getting too close to the white kids. After dinner the kids get together and dance and play. One night she saw the boy, Greggy, kissing her oldest granddaughter Leana. She warns Leana, “Negros cannot mix with whites. Be careful or something bad will happen!”
Former slave owner Mr. Braden confronts his son Greggy and slaps Leana, after he found out they were kissing. This pisses off Granny. She casts a voodoo spell upon the Braden Family, using blood from a vampire bat, to ensure that their next born child will be a vampire. Granny is also a midwife for Mr. Braden’s wife, Caroline, who is 9 months pregnant, so she has been slowly dosing Mrs. Braden with the vampire bat blood.
Big Daddy Baker is close to Mrs. Braden. He often does special chores for her after he is finished in the fields. Big Daddy’s wife, Rosa, passed away 10 years ago. Mrs. Braden has acted as a fill-in mother for Big Daddy’s girls. Caroline is from New York. She met Mitchell Braden in New York when she was dancing at the Ziegfeld’s Follies. Mr. Braden has a very mean spirit. He discouraged Caroline from dancing and swore that he would beat her if her every caught her dancing again.
That did not keep Caroline from doing what she loved the most – dancing. She would often teach the kids all of the popular dances of the day, such as the Charleston and Black Bottom. Granny also loved dancing and taught the children the Cake Walk. She encouraged the 3 girls to dance and they loved dancing. The girls wrote letters to their cousin Phina Brown in St. Louis. Phina danced in a vaudeville show and was on her way to visit her cousins and Uncle Baker before heading to New York to audition for the Cotton Club.
When Phina arrives at the plantation and she shows her cousins her version of the Charleston. The girls love her fancy costumes and vow to become a dancer one day too. She tells them to meet her in New York one day because she will be a famous dancer. They laugh at her dream and joke that she will fail the audition and have to move back to St. Louis. Phina does a really wild version of the Charleston. She is dancing so hard that her blouse falls off. Granny calls her “fast” but little did she know that one day her niece will become popular for dancing with her blouse off.
Before Phina takes the train to New York, she hears Granny calling for help, “Mrs. Braden is in labor! Come and bring me some hot water, gal!” Phina brings the hot water just as Mrs. Braden is about to give birth. The baby comes out and both women gasp! “This baby is too brown to be a white baby,” says Granny. She wraps the baby so that only the eyes show before presenting the baby to Mr. Braden.
Mr. Braden finally sees his new baby girl. He notices how brown the baby is and questions his wife. She concocts a story about being in the sun too long and passing down a “tan” to the baby. Little does Mr. Braden know at the time, Big Daddy Baker and Mrs. Braden have been having an affair for many years.
Big Daddy asks to see the baby and Mr. Braden gets suspicious. The men exchange words and began fighting. Mr. Braden accuses Big Daddy of sleeping with his wife. He tries to grab his gun, but before he can get it, Big Daddy hits him with a fireplace poker. Mr. Braden has a lot of blood and Big Daddy is not sure if he is dead.
Caroline hears the commotion and asks Granny what is going on. Granny tells them about the fight. Big Daddy tells Granny they are moving out that night. Caroline wants to know where they are moving. She vows to meet up with Big Daddy one day.
Their last words were: “Meet me in St. Louis.”
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Don’t miss Part 2 (Dances of the 1910s) and Part 4 (Dances of the 1930s) coming soon.
What was your favorite dance or dancer from the 1920s?