White, Josh


Vintage autograph sentiment signed in person on an album page by the blacklisted singer, songwriter, and activist


Autograph ID: 6827
Condition: Good, some toning at sides (much lighter than image appears)
Description: “(1914-1969) African-American singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor, civil rights activist. He left home with street singer Blind Man Arnold, learning to dance, sing, and play the tambourine. Over the next 8 years, Arnold rented his services to other blind street singers, and White learned their guitar stylings. In Chicago in 1927, a producer used him as a session guitarist before recording his 1st popular record as “Blind Joe Taggart & Joshua White, all his money going to Taggart & Arnold. In 1930, he moved to NYC recording religious songs as “Joshua White, the Singing Christian”. In 1936, he formed Josh White and His Carolinians, with brother Billy and future civil rights icon Bayard Rustin. In mid-1937, the producers of a Broadway musical in development, “John Henry”, signed him. It opened Jan. 1940, with Paul Robeson as John Henry and White as Blind Lemon Jefferson. It did not have a long run, but boosted his career. He worked with Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Burl Ives, and others on CBS radio. White and Lead Belly at New York’s Village Vanguard got sold-out shows, great reviews, recordings, and film shorts. White and 1920’s “torch singer” Libby Holman were the 1st mixed-race male & female artists to perform, record, and tour across the US for the next 6 years. His album “Harlem Blues: Josh White Trio” produced the hit single “Careless Love”. His controversial Columbia album “Joshua White & His Carolinians: Chain Gang”, produced by John Hammond, caused a furor that reached President Roosevelt. On Dec. 20, 1940, White and the Golden Gate Quartet sang at the Library of Congress celebrating the 75th anniversary of the 13th Amendment. He was the 1st blues singer to attract a large white and middle-class black following and the 1st black artist to perform in once segregated nightclubs and theaters during the 1930s-40s. One of his most popular 40s recordings was “One Meatball, 1st million-selling record by a male black artist. His 40’s hits incl. “The House I Live In (What Is America to Me)” (made famous by Frank Sinatra), “Waltzing Matilda”, “St. James Infirmary”, “John Henry”, “The House of the Rising Sun”, “The Riddle Song (I gave My Love a Cherry)”, “Miss Otis Regrets”, and “Strange Fruit”, a hit for Billie Holliday. In 1945, he was the 1st black popular music artist to tour the US, with a 1946 return tour. As an actor 1939-50 he appeared on radio, on Broadway, and in film. In “The Crimson Canary” (1945), he played himself; he co-starred with Libby Holman in “Dreams That Money Can Buy” (Special Prize at the Venice Film Festival), and “The Walking Hills” (1949, his last film), one of Hollywood’s 1st films where a black was portrayed equally. From 1933, he spoke and sang at human rights rallies, prominent in the 40’s civil rights movement. He starred at the Café Society in Greenwich Village, 1st US integrated nightclub from late 1938. From 1940, he began a close relationship with the Roosevelts who were godparents of Josh White Jr. (b. 1940). In Jan. 1941, he performed at FDR’s Inaugural, and 2 months later, released the controversial album, “Southern Exposure, An Album of Jim Crow Blues”. Instead of making him a pariah, FDR asked him to be the 1st African-American to give a command performance at the White House in 1941. The Roosevelts then invited him to their private chambers, where they spent 3+ hours talking and listening to his songs; 5 more command performances followed. In addition to the 1941 & 1945 Inaugurals, his family spent many Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with the Roosevelts. In 1950, Mrs. Roosevelt and White toured Europe; in Stockholm, 50,000 heard Mrs. Roosevelt speak and White sing. In June 1950, in Paris, he was informed he was one of 151 artists labeled as Communist sympathizers. On returning, the FBI interrogated him for hours. White was not a Communist, not active in any political party, but when human rights were threatened and asked to participate in a benefit or a rally, he stepped up. On Sept. 1, 1950, White sat down with HUAC, defending his right and responsibility to bring social injustices to public attention with his songs. Testifying angered his progressive fan base, causing his blacklisting by right and left. He was in London for much of 1950-55; anti-Communist hysteria dismembered White’s US career from 1947, when he lost his record contract, his radio show, and was barred from radio. Hollywood blacklisting began in 1948, and he did not appear on US TV until 1963 when JFK asked him to appear on CBS TV’s “Dinner with the President.” Later in 1963, he sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington. In 1964, White sang for Canadian PM Lester Pearson and in Jan. 1965 he performed at President Johnson’s Inaugural. In 1998, the USPS issued a 32c stamp honoring White.

Light green 5 ¾ x 4 ½ autograph album page signed “Best to you from/me always,/your pal/Josh White”; no place, no date.”

Type: Autograph album page

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