The fascinating opportunity that I explored in Cakewalk was a convergence of a number of historic, yet little known or understood events.
Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton was a registered voter and home owner in San Francisco on and off for the first two decades of the 20th century. He is almost completely identified with New Orleans. He is reported to have theatened to shut down Purcells when he first arrived in San Francisco.
Sam King and Lew Purcell, the owners of most of the black-owned jazz clubs on Pacific Street, both died within a month of each other in December 1909 and January 1910.
Lester Mapp, who was the subject of a major trial in the mid 1910s, became the owner of all their properties.
The day before the 1906 earthquake the mayor and the entire Board of Supervisors were charged with corruption.
And there’s a lot more.
To create Cakewalk, I began to envision what the personal conversations and encounters would have been like leading up to those events.
Will Marion Cook and Tom Turpin were among the regulars in the area, along with Bert Williams and George Walker.
It isn’t hard to realize that this period and this area is as rich a source of black culture and heritage as any period of American history.
Where I take the story is to try to explain why we haven’t known about this rich history.
Who needed to change the timeline of history to cover up their own misdeeds?
These were questions that began to answer themselves as I connected the dots.