Age of Uncertainty
During the aftermath of WWI, the world was recovering from massive attacks and damages through out the war years. During this time things started changing for the better, advancements in certain fields such as technology and science, and for the worse, events and leaders (Hitler, Mussolini) leading to World War II. People were experiencing new ideas that revolutionaries such as Einstein’s theories, Picasso’s art and Gandhi’s peace movements that were having, and proposing to the world. Ordinary people felt confused by these things, maybe even fearful and didn’t know how to respond to these ideas and the changing environment around them. Historians knew this era as “The Age of Uncertainty”. Lasting 16 years, this time started after WWI (1919) and lead up to the beginning of WWII (1935).
After WWI most of the world was in, one could say a depressed or melancholy state. The funding for the war left some countries totally destroyed both economically and politically. In Germany for example, inflation was a big problem, it went to a point where people burned their marks for warmth, instead of trying to buy oil for heat, they couldn’t even afford.
France, during the 1920’s to the 1930’s was forming a new taste for advancement, and wanted to take a different path on reconstructing their society. ” The Jazz Age in France” was a decade where many artists that weren’t getting recognition for their work, came to France and exposed their talent to the western powers. Among the artists were Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, E.E Cummings and Josephine Baker. Josephine Baker was an African-American jazz performance artist who sang, danced and acted. The fact that she was African-American gave people a different perspective on her. During this era, racism was still very much alive, and was evident in the way people responded to Baker. In some places, Parisians wouldn’t let her perform because of the color of her skin. This act of racism effected Baker and she vowed to never perform in a segregated debut. Josephine was in an all black artist group, and her dubious impressions of black culture were evident whenever she performed in front of a white-based crowd.
This French Jazz scene made people question their values over their stereotypes of black culture. They were beginning to accept African-American as performers of blues, and jazz, and Josephine Baker was just one of many black artists during this time. Baker refused to accept the reality that indeed racism is a virus that spreads around quickly among the world, and it is still an epidemic today! Because of her strong belief in ignoring the color of the skin, many artists were very much recognized, for example James Reese Europe. “I have come back from France more firmly convinced than ever that Negroes should write Negro music. We have our own racial feeling and if we try to copy whites we will make bad copies…. We won France by playing music which was ours and not a pale imitation of others, and if we are to develop in America we must develop along our own lines.” – James Reese Europe, “A Negro Explains ‘Jazz’.” Literary Digest, 1919. So confident in his cultural music, James explains “jazz”.
During the “Age of Uncertainty”, many events were compiling, eventually leading to WWII, and were given out to the people in 16 short years. The overwhelming ideas that were brought up, for example, Freud’s theories of self-consciousness or the rise of fascism were big events that changed the world. The French Jazz Age was a decade with music, art literature from different cultures that overtook the western nations by storm. We can see its result in our daily lives, although still not that evident, by the books we read, or the music we listen to. The big picture is that they all derived from a widespread variety of change in the entertainment world during the 1920’s and 30’s, and that I thought was very important.