Louis Armstrong was an accomplished musician, composer, and singer. During his free time Louis played his trumpet, wrote jokes, and recorded over 700 reels of audio. But there is one hobby that Louis had that not many people know about- Louis loved to make collages. These collages were made from newspaper clippings & headlines, letters, and magazine pictures. Louis’ collages give insight into how Louis saw the world and created his own.
Louis’ had a scrapbook that was filled with collages. From movie stars, to musicians, to personal correspondence, the collages of Louis Armstrong capture Armstrong’s head space and what he found worthwhile at certain times in his life. The collages represent what Louis felt was important to document from other sources and were a hobby that he did in at his home.
Many of the collages touch on interesting subjects such as racism and colorism in the industry, however, Louis does it with subtlety. One collage is composed entirely of pictures of Jackie Robinson and his accomplishments both on and off the field. Jackie Robinson, famous for being the first African American in major league baseball, was a major figure in the African American community and the fight for civil rights. Having Jackie Robinson in the scrapbook exhibits Louis’ awareness of racial issues and those who were fighting to promote a positive image of African Americans. On another page in the scrapbook Louis cut out pictures of musicians from a 1952 Jet magazine with the headline “People Are Talking About- Negro Singers Who Refuse to Pass.” The jet article references male singers who reject the notion of passing to further their career. Including this article in his scrapbook, Louis is indicating that he supported these performers or at least found the article important enough to preserve it. Louis himself could not pass nor did he have any issue with being African American. Featuring people that lived their lives openly dealing with racial issues, Louis is showing how being black in the mid 20th century has different facets.
Louis’ scrapbook also had fun elements to it such as movie stars, honors that he received, and dirty jokes. One page of the scrapbook has a picture of an inflatable bra and a large cut out of a glamorous woman. Louis loved women and it is evident in the numerous cut outs of women in various outfits and his own wife, Lucille. Another page features pictures of Eartha Kitt, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge and more. Louis liked looking at beautiful women. These pictures show Louis’ private side and his personal tastes.
All of these images depict a variety of Louis’ personality that he liked to keep to himself. With this collection of images I hope that Louis’ art speaks to you on a personal level and create a deeper understanding of him.