Ken Burns’s America Reconsidered: Mainstreaming Jazz (2001) for a National Audience

  • Gary R. Edgerton


More than half a century ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald hardly imagined the many comebacks that television would allow by its steady stream of reruns, revivals, and return engagements when he wrote his now-classic line, “there are no second acts in American lives.”2 TV is full of second acts and more; it even provides succeeding generations with ready access to the once famous but now forgotten who somehow take on a fresh new relevance with the passage of time. Geoff Ward, for one, never lost his lifelong interest in jazz, including his fascination with the music’s many innovative composers and performers. He brought his small but burgeoning record collection with him at 14 when his family left Chicago to live in India during his high school years: “[O]n some level jazz music kept me rooted at home.”3 When he journeyed again at 16 to briefly attend school in France, he developed a deep attachment for Louis Armstrong and remembers playing “West End Blues” “a thousand times over that summer.”4


Film Clip American Experience Musical Genre Racial Symbol Creative Team 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon: An Unfinished Novel (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970), 163.Google Scholar
  2. 20.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), 17. See also Claude Levi-Strauss, Totemism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963) and The Raw and the Cooked (New York: Harper & Row, 1969).Google Scholar
  3. 28.
    Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie (New York: New Directions Books, 1970)Google Scholar
  4. 36.
    Geoffrey C. Ward, Jazz: A History of America’s Music, with a preface by Ken Burns (New York: Knopf, 2000), 432.Google Scholar
  5. 41.
    Ken Burns, interview by David Thelen, “The Movie Maker as Historian: Conversations with Ken Burns,” Journal of American History 81.3 (1994), 1043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 49.
    Laurence Bergreen, Louis Armstrong: An Extravagant Life (New York: Broadway Books, 1997), 333.Google Scholar
  7. 66.
    Sheldon Hackney, “A Conversation with Ken Burns on Baseball,” Humanities 15.4 (1994), 48–49.Google Scholar
  8. 67.
    Joel L. Swerdlow, “The Power of Writing,” National Geographic 196.2 (1999), 124.Google Scholar
  9. 76.
    William Jefferson Clinton, “Remarks at a Screening of Ken Burns’ ‘Lewis and Clark,’” Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents 33.46 (1997), 1782.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gary. R. Edgerton 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary R. Edgerton

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations