Racism led to the expulsion of a jazz band from Australia in 1928, according to the author


She says a couple were found in a bedroom, but there was evidence the woman was from a police station.

Dr O’Connell came across the forgotten incident while researching the arrival of blues music in Australia.

A newspaper article from March 31, 1928 reports that “wild scenes of abandonment” took place in the East Melbourne apartment.

The group and associated groups have spent nine weeks performing successfully at the Tivoli theaters in Sydney and Melbourne, and at the Green Mill Dance Hall near Melbourne’s Princes Bridge.

It was the era of White Australian politics and Dr O’Connell said authorities had organized the raid with the Truth (which the reporter was present) as a pretext to preserve Australia‘s racial purity and the morals of young white women – issues that raged under the glitz of the Roaring Twenties.

Former Prime Minister Billy Hughes, advocate for a white and British Australia, called the Clay Orchestra “scum” and “pet peeves” and said the Americans would lynch musicians in a similar situation.

The federal government routinely denied entry visas to “Negro” jazz groups and the Australian Musicians’ Union banned “colored” musicians from performing here, but the promoters of the colorful idea have sidestepped this by calling them “black” musicians. ‘theater artists.

Another image of the arrival of the group Sonny Clay's Colored Idea in 1928 in Sydney with a singer in their troupe.

Another image of the arrival of the group Sonny Clay’s Colored Idea in 1928 in Sydney with a singer in their troupe.Credit:Sam Hood Collection, NSW State Library.

Dr O’Connell said that from the day the group arrived in a troupe of African-American artists, performing and dancing at Sydney’s Circular Quay on January 19, 1928, the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, a forerunner of the ‘ASIO, and the police spied on them.


In the late 1920s, young Australians were freer than they had ever been to leave home, get office jobs, or go dancing. But there was strong resistance from conservatives, as well as enormous angst over interracial sex involving white women and non-white men.

As of the raid, only white women, with the exception of the alleged police informant, were charged – with vagrancy. They were acquitted but were called immoral and reckless in the media, and their reputation was ruined.

Dr O’Connell says Australian culture was the loser after deportation.

In the aftermath of the incident, the government introduced a rigged “character test,” which it said was designed for African-American jazz musicians to fail, and which was not lifted until 1954. , after which big stars such as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald were able to travel.

The white Australian policy persisted until 1973.

Dr O’Connell said history has modern parallels, such as governments continuing to “fabricate racial scandals and crises for political ends, such as the beating of African gangs.”

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