(Extensions of Remarks - February 14, 2013)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E148]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                         HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR.

                              of michigan

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, February 14, 2013

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, in the early 30's the Turkish Embassy began 
a journey to heal racial integration through jazz in our Nation's 
Capital. Today, I wish to pay tribute to the continuing efforts of 
Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan and the Turkish Embassy for proudly 
telling this great story of racial integration in Washington, DC's 
history. This story involves an intriguing combination of jazz music, a 
foreign embassy, and race relations in the Nation's Capital in the 
1930s and 1940s.
  In 1934, Mehmet Munir Ertegun was named Turkish Ambassador to the 
United States. He moved to Washington with his family, including his 
sons Ahmet and Nesuhi, who were then 17 and 11 years old, respectively. 
Ahmet would eventually become the founder of Atlantic Records, while 
Nesuhi would run the Atlantic Records jazz department, producing albums 
for such legendary figures as John Coltrane, Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, 
and Roberta Flack.
  In those early years after moving to the District of Columbia, the 
Ertegun brothers became active in the local jazz scene and eventually 
invited local performers to the Embassy for what would later be 
described by a 1943 Newspaper article as ``Washington's most famous 
private jam sessions.'' In a 1979 interview with the Washington Post, 
Nesuhi described the mindset behind these sessions, ``You can't imagine 
how segregated Washington was at that time. Blacks and whites couldn't 
sit together in most places. So we put on concerts . . . Jazz was our 
weapon for social action.''
  Despite the complaints from certain ``outraged southern senators'' to 
the Turkish Ambassador, the jam sessions at the Embassy continued for 
several years, playing to a racially diverse audience and featuring 
such performers as Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, and Barney Bigard from 
the Duke Ellington Band, Lester Young, Benny Carter, Meade Lux Lewis, 
Leadbelly, members of the Count Basie band, and many others.
  To commemorate this tradition, the Turkish Embassy initiated the 
Ertegun Jazz Series in March, 2011, and has hosted ten performances 
since that time that have featured both up-and-coming artists and well-
established performers such as Roy Hargrove and Jonathan Batiste. This 
series will continue in 2013 with a concert on February 26th at the 
Embassy. As we celebrate Black History Month, I wish to congratulate 
Ambassador Tan and the Turkish Embassy for recognizing the important 
role that Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun played in advancing racial 
integration and bringing jazz music to the world.