John Coltrane and Some ex-Tuskegee Airmen Share History

John Coltrane and Some ex-Tuskegee Airmen Share History

A former school for Blacks and a home of jazz giant John Coltrane are in need of repair.

Published June 21, 2011

What does a former school for the education of poor Black and Native American students, whose ranks included boys who became Tuskegee airmen and the home of the late great saxophone artist John Coltrane, have in common?


Each structure is on the 2011 National Trust for Historic Preservation list of the Most Endangered Historic Places. These sites, the Trust says, are “the nation's architectural, cultural and natural heritage gems that are threatened by destruction or irreparable damage.”


Balmead-on-the-James is a Gothic Revival manor house in Powhatan County, Virginia, that was built in 1845 by enslaved Blacks. In the 1890s, Katherine Drexel, who later was beatified as a Catholic saint, and her sister, members of a wealthy family, bought the plantation. They founded separate schools for boys and girls on the estate, and had educated more than 15,000 children of color by the time the schools closed in the 1970s.


Drexel’s philanthropy also established Xavier University of Louisiana.


More than 200 miles north, the John Coltrane Home, located in Huntington, New York, on the north shore of Long Island, was where the great jazzman wrote A Love Supreme.. It was there that Coltrane and his late wife, jazz harpist Alice Coltrane, lived and where they had a recording and rehearsal studio.




Written by Frank McCoy


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