City of Sydney Historical Association
COSHA
2nd March, 2013 - History of Surry Hills & Darlinghurst
9th February, 2013 - Chinese New Year
12th January, 2013 - Tour of St Barnabas Church, Broadway
8th December, 2012 - Colonial Land Use and the Coxes of Mulgoa Valley
7th November, 2012 - Guided Tour of the Town Hall Vaults
3rd November, 2012 - 1954 Royal Tour
13th October, 2012 - Rise of Sydney's Department Stores
14th July, 2012 - Life & Times of Tommy Townshend
9th June, 2012 - "Reynolds" Cottages
19th May, 2012 - St Paul's College Tour
14th April, 2012 - Motorised Mayhem
10th March, 2012 - The Flying Fruit Fly Circus
4th February, 2012 - Quong Tart: High Tea and Scottish Ditties
14th January 2012: Dictionary of Sydney
10th December 2011: Admiral Arthur Philip - The Man
12th November 2011: Glebe Walk
8th October 2011: Bob Carr at the Annual General Meeting
3rd September 2011: History Week
13th August 2011: Tom Wentworth Wills –Visionary Sportsman
9th July 2011: Henry L'Estrange - Funambulist and Aeronaut
11th June 2011: Afro-American Servicemen in WWII
14th May 2011: Government House Tour
9th April 2011: Amazing Stories from Randwick
19th March 2011: The Ones that Got Away
12 Feb 2011: Chinese Market Gardens of Sydney
8 Jan 2011: St Andews College Tour
11 Dec 2010: Garden Palace Scandal
13 Nov 2010: Cumberland Digs
9 Oct 2010: Painting the Rocks
4 Sep 2010: Celebrate History Week
14 Aug 2010: Whaling, Wool and Wealth
10 Jul 2010: The Ones that Got Away
12 Jun 10: Percy Lindsay
8 May 10: Sydney Tramway Museum
10 Apr 10: Making of our nation
13 Mar 10: Reading photographs
13 Feb 2010: Macquarie Place
9 Jan 10: Sydney's Astronomical History
12 Dec 09: The colony
14 Nov 09: Women of The Rocks
10 Oct 09: History of Kent Brewery
5 Sep 09: Scandal, Crime & Corruption
15 Aug 09: Walk-Darling Harbour
11 Jul 09: Redfern Alexandria & Waterloo
06 Jun 09: Pubs & Publicans of Sydney
09 May 09 : C19th Sydney Firemen
18 Apr 09 : History of Darling Harbour
14 Mar 09: Bewitched!
Annual General Meeting 2009
Jan 2009 - Trade Hall
11th June 2011: Afro-American Servicemen in WWII

THE GENTLE INVASION

African American Cultural Influences in Sydney”


 

On 9th June 2011, COSHA members were able to hear author and historian Dr Clem Gorman describe his research into the influences that African American servicemen, stationed in Sydney during the Second World War, had on the culture of the youth of the day and consequently on modern Australia. The following article is an extract from an essay that forms part of a current Doctoral thesis that Dr Gorman is working on. This is an extract from his talk that was reported in our July and August Newsletters.


 

"During the 1940s something approaching a sensual revolution occurred among a small cohort of young people in Sydney, mostly living within the inner suburbs. They began to sport big, loose-fitting jackets, pants tight at the ankles, key-chains dangling from their belts, brightly coloured shirts, and shoes made of suede, often with crepe-soled shoes. Hairstyles looking a lot like those of American film stars, long at the back and sides and with large cultured curls dangling over their foreheads, adorned their heads. All of this was in sharp contrast to the clothing that had been worn by young inner-city Sydneysiders prior to World War Two. This would mostly consist of bell-bottom trousers, elastic-sides boots or shoes, short back-and-sides haircuts, plain shirts, and tight jackets"

Few people have written about the African American influence on Australian culture in the period in question. Those few who have discussed it have concerned themselves mostly with media influences from film, records and radio. No one has seriously considered the role of face to face interactions between Sydneysiders and black American soldiers in clubs and elsewhere as a formative influence in the creation of a cultural style known as “bodgie”. My work is intended to explore this neglected area and to argue that African American embodied styles of movement, dress, speech and music were much more significant than has hitherto been realised. Of course, it is difficult to quantify exactly how much such influence has changed ways of being Australian in Sydney and elsewhere, and it is impossible to discount the effects media has had on such styles of Australian embodiment. Above all, the bodgie movement, influenced deeply by African American culture experienced in live encounters in clubs, private homes, dance halls and on the street, was a movement away from the dry, blokey, anti-emotional male culture of inherited British culture, and toward sensuality, expressed performatively through the body.

I contend that African-American individuals, mostly soldiers or musicians, culturally influenced young white Australians of mostly lower-middle-class or working-class backgrounds, by means of what I have called a gentle invasion of spectacular African American culture, borne by individual black visitors, in Sydney during the period from 1943 to the late 50s.