West End Jazz

By William Burg
Photos courtesy of Keith Burns


In the 1940s, Sacramento’s West End was filled with the sounds of jazz. Based around M Street (renamed Capitol Avenue by 1940), the neighborhood was radically changed by the start of World War II, the forced relocation of Sacramento’s thousands of Japanese Americans to internment camps, and a migration of African Americans to Sacramento. Many of these migrants came from the Southern states for jobs in Sacramento’s railroad shops and canneries, or at nearby airfields and Army bases. Some purchased businesses from the departing Japanese, opening a variety of businesses, but the best known were the jazz clubs. These clubs became so popular they crossed racial barriers and made Sacramento a stop on the touring circuit for the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th century.
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