- NAME: Louis Armstrong
- OCCUPATION: Singer, Trumpet Player
- BIRTH DATE: August 04, 1901
- DEATH DATE: July 06, 1971
- Did You Know?: In 1936, Louis Armstrong became the first African-American jazz musician to write an autobiography, Swing That Music.
- Did You Know?: Also in 1936, Louis Armstrong became the first African American to get featured billing in a major Hollywood movie with his turn in Pennies from Heaven.
- Did You Know?: In 1937, Louis Armstrong became the first African-American entertainer to host a nationally sponsored radio show.
- EDUCATION: Fisk School for Boys, Colored Waif's Home for Boys
- PLACE OF BIRTH: New Orleans, Louisiana
- PLACE OF DEATH: Corona, Queens, New York
- Nickname: "Pops"
- Nickname: "Satchmo"
- Full Name: Louis Armstrong
- Nickname: "Ambassador Satch"
Best Known For
Louis Armstrong was a trumpeter, bandleader, singer, soloist, film star and comedian. Considered one of the most influential artists in jazz history, he is known for songs like "Star Dust," "La Via En Rose" and "What a Wonderful World."
Louis Armstrong - Nicknames (1:30)
Louis Armstrong, nicknamed "Satchmo," "Pops" and, later, "Ambassador Satch," was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. An all-star virtuoso, he came to prominence in the 1920s, influencing countless musicians.
In an era of marches and sit ins, vocal advocates for African-American rights questioned Louis Armstrong dedication to their cause. But in 1957, after seeing the Little Rock Nine, Louis Armstrong makes his voice heard.
Louis Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi tells the story behind Louis Armstrong's most famous nickname, "Satchmo."
In 1943 Lucille Armstrong bought the house at 34-65 107th street in Queens, New York for around $8,000. Site unseen, Louis gaves his approval and for the first time in a while, comes home.
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Though his popularity was hitting new highs in the 1950s, and despite breaking down so many barriers for his race and being a hero to the African-American community for so many years, Armstrong began losing his standing with two segments of his audience: Modern jazz fans and young African-Americans. Bebop, a new form of jazz, had blossomed in the 1940s. Featuring young geniuses such as Dizzy Gillespie,
Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, the younger generation of musicians saw themselves as artists, not as entertainers; they saw Armstrong's stage persona and music as old-fashioned and criticized him in the press. Armstrong fought back, but for many young jazz fans, he was regarded as an out-of-date performer with his best days behind him.
The struggle for civil rights was growing tenser with each passing year, with more protests, marches and speeches from African Americans wanting equal rights. To many young jazz listeners at the time, Armstrong's ever-smiling demeanor seemed like it was from a bygone era, and the trumpeter's refusal to comment on politics for many years only furthered perceptions that he was out of touch.
These views changed in 1957, when Armstrong saw the Little Rock Central High School integration crisis on television. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus sent in the National Guard to prevent nine African-American students from entering the school. When Armstrong saw this—as well as white protesters hurling invective at the students—he blew his top to the press, telling a reporter that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had "no guts" for letting Faubus run the country, and stating, "The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell." Armstrong's words made front-page news around the world. Though he had finally spoken out after years of remaining publicly silent, he received criticism at the time from both black and white public figures. Not a single jazz musician who had previously criticized him took his side—today, this is seen as one of the bravest, most definitive moments of Armstrong's life.
Armstrong's four marriages never produced any children, and because he and wife Lucille Wilson had actively tried for years to no avail, many believed him to be sterile, incapable of having children. However, controversy regarding Armstrong's fatherhood struck in 1954, when a girlfriend that the musician had dated on the side, Lucille "Sweets" Preston, claimed she was pregnant with his child. Preston gave birth to a daughter, Sharon Preston, in 1955. Shortly thereafter, Armstrong bragged about the child to his manager, Joe Glaser, in a letter that would later be published in the book Louis Armstrong In His Own Words (1999). Thereafter until his death in 1971, however, Armstrong never publicly addressed whether he was in fact Sharon's father.
In recent years, Armstrong's alleged daughter, who now goes by the name Sharon Preston Folta, has publicized various letters between her and her father. The letters, dated as far back as 1968, prove that Armstrong had indeed always believed Sharon to be his daughter, and that he even paid for her education and home, among several other things, throughout his life.
Visit the Louis Armstrong House Museum for more information about Louis Armstrong’s life, music and home in Corona, Queens.
Read more about Louis Armstrong in What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong's Later Years by Ricky Riccardi.
Learn more about the lives of African-Americans who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields, with our collection of Black History Groups.
Explore our curated collections of African-American figures, including:
Check out BIO’s original video series, American Freedom Stories, about the historic events of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, and the leaders and everyday heroes who fought to make racial equality a reality. Watch videos.
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