62 Years Later, the Most Iconic Photo in American Music Inspires Celebration and Re-creation

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The power of a single photo to galvanize generations of artists has never been more clearly captured than in the one taken 62 years ago today on the sidewalk of 126th Street between Fifth and Madison in New York City. It’s the most immortalizing image in American music. On August 12, 1958, 57 musicians got together for an extended reunion that doubled as an Esquire cover shoot. Titled “A Great Day in Harlem,” the photo features legend after legend, their collective creativity giving the moment its timelessness. To celebrate, the Billie Holiday Theatre and a production group are inviting artists to reimagine the scene.

The new photo, happening today at the Black Lives Matter mural in Bed-Stuy, will be called “A Great Day in New York.” “We find ourselves at the beginning of another civil rights era,” organizers wrote, adding that artists should wear masks for the re-creation. For a powerful behind-the-scenes look at the 1958 moment, catch this video.

Who’s in the original? In nonalphabetic order: Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Rushing, Horace Silver, Charles Mingus, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, Hank Jones, Pee Wee Russell, Stuff Smith, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Pettiford, Red Allen, Buster Bailey, Jo Jones, Benny Golson, Roy Eldridge, Art Farmer, Milt Hinton, Sonny Greer, Bud Freedom, Gene Krupa, Eddie Locke…and many, many others. Here’s the photo and here’s the video. Recharge shouts and more to recharge@motherjones.com.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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