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The Gift of Cultivating Greatness

THE GIFT OF CULTIVATING GREATNESS A grandson of slaves, a boy was born in 1901 in a rough neighborhood of New Orleans known as the “The Battlefield.” His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant. His mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister went to live with their grandmother. Early in life he proved to be gifted for music, and with three other kids he sang in the streets of New Orleans. His first gains were the coins that were thrown to them. A Jewish family, the Karnofskys, who had immigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity for the 7-year-old boy and brought him into their home. Initially, they gave him “work” around the house and they fed the hungry child. There he remained and slept in this Jewish family's home where, for the first time in his life, he was treated with kindness and tenderness. When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang him a Russian lullaby that he would sing with her. Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became the adopted son of the Karnovskys. They loved him and he loved them. He later said that he identified with this Jewish family because they, too, had experienced the bitter sting of racism and bigotry—much like the black community. The Karnofskys gave him money to buy his first musical instrument, as was the custom in Jewish families. They sincerely admired and encouraged his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as St. James Infirmary and Go Down Moses. The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family, who had adopted him in 1907. In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a star of David and said that in this family, he had learned "how to live real life and determination.” You might recognize the little boy’s name: Louis "Satchmo” Armstrong, the greatest jazz trumpeter in the history of modern music. He was a lifelong friend of the Jewish people and proudly spoke fluent Yiddish. When Louis Armstrong died in 1971, his honorary pallbearers included Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, Harry James, Frank Sinatra, Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson, Alan King, Johnny Carson and David Frost. Peggy Lee sang The Lord's Prayer at the services while Al Hibbler sang "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen.” More information: https://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/about/faq.htm#LA1

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