Viral Louis Armstrong Post is Lowkey Racist
A supposedly inspirational social media post about the importance of help from a Jewish family in his neighborhood goes too far, and erases the role of his mother and grandmother.
As you can see from the research video above, I recently encountered the following post on Linkedin:
The line that first raised the alarm was the one about the Karnofsky family showing him kindness and tenderness for “first time in his life”. This would imply that no one from his family (or the broader black community) had ever shown him kindness. But, Armstrong was raised by his grandmother and mother — not the Karnofsky’s for whom he worked — but was never adopted by.
Nor did the Karnofsky’s buy him his first instrument, though some sources indicate that one of the Karnofsky brothers did lend him part of the money (as an advance on his wages). Louisarmstronghouse.org states simply:
“An early job working for the Jewish Karnofsky family allowed Armstrong to make enough money to purchase his first cornet.”
The truth of the story — Jewish and black families from a poor part of New Orleans working together to overcome the significant challenges they faced is charming enough. But versions that overstate the role of the Karnofsky’s kindness do so at the expense of respect for Armstrong’s own hard work, and that of his own family.