Black History: Louis Armstrong (Pops)

Pops loved all sorts of music. When asked his thoughts on country-and-Western and folk music, he replied,

"All music is folk music. I ain't never heard no horse sing a song."

Many blacks criticized him for the way he spoke, and his habit of rolling his eyes, and flashing his toothy grin while performing. Misunderstood, he was labeled by some as a Uncle Tom and a minstrel. But in actuality he was none the like. Pops loved all people unless they gave him a reason not to. He never wore two faces. His personality was just as colorful off stage, as it was on.

For many years, he refused to perform in New Orleans, his hometown, in protest of segregation laws. In 1965, on learning of the violence taken against black freedom-marchers by police in Selma, Alabama, he told an interviewer:

"They would beat Jesus if he was black and marched. Maybe I'm not in the front line, but I support them with my donations. My life is music. They would beat me on the mouth if I marched, and without my mouth I wouldn't be able to blow my horn."

Reflecting on his more than 50 years as a musician, Mr. Armstrong said,

"There ain't going to be no more cats in this music game that long."