An eight-second silent film clip shot in that year and posted on the Getty Images website captures a sea of humanity a stone’s throw away, on the other side of the Canal Street neutral ground; the camera is facing down Canal toward the river, probably at Dauphine Street, near the flagship D. H. Holmes store.
White women and men, all of them in hats, stride past one another. Several men in suits stand at the corner, perhaps waiting for someone. A young boy looks toward the street as he holds a woman’s hand. Automobiles and a streetcar are visible in the background.
Just over three seconds into the footage, an adolescent black boy walks into the scene. He is wearing a newsboy cap. The sleeves of his white shirt are rolled up to the elbows.
The boy turns around. He’s selling a newspaper, what appears to be the New Orleans Item.
The boy seems to acknowledge the camera, perhaps the only person in the clip who does so overtly. For a brief moment he flashes a brilliant smile, showing ease as a young black man among white pedestrians during a particularly oppressive period of the Jim Crow era. And then he turns away to continue selling his paper.
That newsboy, according to two prominent jazz historians, appears to be Armstrong himself, at thirteen or fourteen years of age. If it is him, it would be the oldest video footage of the future recording star by well over a decade, and it would depict him at a critical crossroads in his life, after he had left the stability of the Colored Waif’s Home and before he became a full-time working musician. It would also presumably depict him around the time his voice changed from a tenor to his famous baritone, presumably calling out the headlines as he hawked the paper.
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