Synopses & Reviews
This elegantly written memoir tells the life story of Alton Augustus Adams Sr., musician, writer, hotelier, and the first black bandmaster in the United States Navy. Born in the Virgin Islands in 1889, Adams joined the U.S. military in 1917 when America acquired the islands from Denmark. Although naval policy at the time restricted blacks to jobs as mess attendants and stewards, Adams and his all-black ensemble were inducted to provide a bridge between the primarily black local population and their new, all-white naval administrators. Adams continued to leverage his newly-acquired prestige to the advantage of his community, most notably in 1924 through the band's triumphant publicity tour of the U.S. Eastern seaboard, which helped jump-start the islands' tourist industry.
Adams wrote articles for American music journals and established friendships with such influential musicians as John Philip Sousa and Edwin Franko Goldman. Assigned to take over an all-white unit during World War II, Adams summoned several of his former bandsmen and thus formed the navy's first racially integrated band. He also developed lasting friendships with black leaders in the United States, including W.E.B. DuBois and George Schuyler. Adams's memoirs, here edited and placed in historical context by Mark Clague, with a foreword by Samuel Floyd Jr., reveal an inspired cultural activist who believed that music could change the world, mitigate racism, and help bring lasting prosperity to his island home.
Alton Augustus Adams, Sr., was a musician, writer, hotelier, and the first black bandmaster of the United States Navy. Born in the Virgin Islands in 1889, Adams joined the U.S. military in 1917. Although naval policy at the time restricted blacks to menial jobs, Adams and his all-black ensemble provided a bridge between the local population and their all-white naval administrators. His memoirs, edited by Mark Clague, with a foreword by Samuel Floyd, Jr., reveal an inspired activist who believed music could change the world, mitigate racism, and bring prosperity to his island home.
About the Author
Alton Augustus Adams Sr. was a bandmaster and civic leader in the Virgin Islands in the first half of the twentieth century. Mark Clague is Assistant Professor of Musicology, American Culture, and African American Studies at the University of Michigan. Samuel Floyd Jr. is Director Emeritus of the Center for Black Music Research and series editor for Music of the African Diaspora, UC Press.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Samuel A. Floyd, Jr.
Acknowledgments by Mark Clague
Introduction: The Soul of Alton Adams by Mark Clague
The Memoirs of Alton Augustus Adams, Sr., 1889-1987
1. A Historical Memoir
2. The St. Thomas Craftsmen of the Nineteenth Century
3. The Value of Education
4. Music in the Virgin Islands and the Founding of the Adams Juvenile Band (1909)
5. The United States Navy Band of the Virgin Islands (1917-1923)
6. The Navy Band's 1924 United States Tour
7. The Close of the Naval Years (1925-1931)
8. The Naval Administration (1917-1931): An Evaluation
9. Civilian Government and Politics (the 1930s)
10. The Power of the Press (the 1940s)
11. Tourism and the Hotel Association (the 1950s)
Editorial Methods by Mark Clague
Editorial Notes by Mark Clague