The International Sweethearts of Rhythm

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were Inducted into the Walk of Fame on, Thursday, September 29, 2011.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm originated at Piney Woods Country Life School in Mississippi, a boarding school founded in 1909 by Lawrence C. Jones to care for poor and orphaned black children. The Fisk Jubilee Singers had already raised thousands of dollars for Fisk University, a historically black university founded in Nashville, Tennessee in 1866. Jones set out to do the same for Piney Woods.

Fifteen girls, age 14 to 19, some who had performed in marching bands or played instruments, joined the Piney Woods School band. Jones named them the International Sweethearts of Rhythm because a number of black students had an Asian, Hispanic, or Native American parent.

Raising funds for Piney Woods School, the band played across the country to primarily black audiences. When they returned to Howard Theater in 1941, they drew 35,000 patrons in a week, breaking box office records. The girls raised around $3,000 a month for Piney Woods, but did not earn a fair salary and their performance schedule threatened their chances for graduation.  When the school took out insurance policies on the girls and wanted to list Piney Woods as beneficiary, the girls severed ties with the Mississippi school and went on to form their own swing band in Washington D. C. In the early 40s, the mixed black and white member band dared to perform in the Jim Crow South.

Enjoy the below documentary film on the Women of Jazz and The International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Read more about them HERE.