For Kids

Black History: Musicians & Singers


Sweethearts of Rhythm

The Sweethearts of Rhythm is the story of a real all girl band that traveled around the country in the 1930s and 1940s. The band was unusual because it was all girls and because it was integrated.

One reason the girls got this chance is World War II. A lot of men were fighting in the war so it was easier for a girl band to get gigs. Sometimes the band had trouble performing because the band was integrated. When the band played in the South they had to sleep on their tour bus because it was illegal there for black and white people to be in the same restaurant or hotel. Sometimes the girls had to wear disguises to hide the fact that their skin color was not all the same.

The author tells the story of the Sweethearts in poems. She uses the rhythms of jazz music in her poetry. Read the poems, look at the great pictures and then don't forget to read the author's note in theLulu-Reed-Poster back.

From the 1870s to the 1950s, Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis served as the focal point of Indianapolis’s black community. Focus on IndianaThe black population in Indianapolis surged in the early 1900s as blacks migrated to the city from the South. Indiana Avenue businesses included restaurants, saloons, grocery stores, clothing stores, hair stylists, barber shops, a hotel, and more. Some of the most well known businesses on the Avenue were the Indianapolis Recorder (a black newspaper) and the Walker Building (which housed a casino and theatre, offices, a beauty college, drugstore, and restaurant.) In the 1930s, the Avenue’s businesses were focused on food and entertainment. By 1940 there were more than twenty-five jazz clubs on the Avenue where both national talent and local legends played. (from The Indiana Historical Society 2011 Indiana Black History Challenge)

I wonder if the Sweethearts of Rhythm ever played there? Here is a movie poster of a different performer from the 1950s advertising a Rhythm and Blues show in Indianapolis. The poster is an Artifact at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Lula Reed Poster - Lula Reed began to demonstrate her singing ability in church in the late 1940s. With the help of well-known gospel singer Harold Boggs, Reed débuted with the Sonny Thompson Orchestra in 1951. Achieving two hits on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues Chart, she performed for audiences throughout the country. On one of these trips, she performed for African American audiences in Naptown, a nickname for Indianapolis, at the Rhythm and Blues Show in the late 1950s.

Websites, Activities & Printables:


Biography in Context is a database you can use in any IndyPL Library Branch or at home. Biography in Context will show you biographies, magazines, videos and more about The Sweethearts of Rhythm and other African American Musicians.


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A Horn for LouisBeyonceDuke EllingtonI'm Going to SingJazzJust a Lucky So and SoLil WayneRay CharlesTrombone ShortyWalk Together ChildrenA Band of AngelsAin't Nothing But a ManAwesome African American Rock and Soul MusiciansBaby FloBessie Smith and the Night RidersDuke Ellington's Nutcracker SuiteElla FitzgeraldFree at LastHarlem's Little BlackbirdHow Sweet the SoundIn the Hollow of Your Hand Slave LullabiesIncredible African American Jazz MusiciansJazz A-B-ZJazz Age JosephineJazz Day the Making of a Famous PhotographJazz on a Saturday NightJosephine's DreamLike a Bird the Art of the American Slave SongLouis Armstrong King of JazzMister and Lady Day Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved HerNobody Gonna Turn Me RoundThe Voice That Changed a NationWhat Marian Sang

To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black history makers, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.


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