International Sweethearts of Rhythm

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was an all-female jazz band of the 1940s. Though it was not the first all-female jazz band, it was the first racially integrated jazz band. Founded in 1937 at the Piney Woods Country Life School (now Piney Woods School) in Rankin County, the group raised money for the predominantly African American school, although some band members also possessed Mexican and Chinese heritage.

Laurence Clifton Jones, the creator of the Piney Woods Country Life School, began organizing singing groups in 1921 to help raise money for the institution. In 1937 he helped form an all-girl dance band, which became known as the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. With piano, bass, drums, full brass and reed sections, and one or two featured singers, the group began touring the southern United States. After receiving positive press in the Chicago Defender, the band began to play higher-profile tours in New York, Chicago, and other metropolitan centers. The Sweethearts played several European venues as part of a 1945 USO tour and made several recordings and movie shorts in the mid-1940s. The pressures of touring and expectations to perform well academically led band members to leave the school and continue the band while based in Arlington, Virginia. The band existed until 1949.

Further Reading

  • D. Antoinette Handy, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm (1983)
  • Rosetta Reitz, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm (1984), liner notes

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title International Sweethearts of Rhythm
  • Author
  • Website Name Mississippi Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date April 6, 2020
  • Publisher Center for Study of Southern Culture
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 14, 2018