History of Swing,
a brief and incomplete primer

For those interested in learning more about the history of swing dancing, here is a list of resources that include books, videos, and links to get you started.



Frankie Manning Ambassador of Lindy Hop by Frankie Manning and Cynthia Millman. An autobiography of Frankie Manning. 


Swingin’ at the Savoy by Norma Miller. A wonderfully told first-person account by one of the greatest innovators of the Lindy Hop.


Jazz Dance: Story of American Vernacular Dance by Marshall Stearns and Jean Stearns. The influential first book on the dances created by African Americans, their cultural impact, history and anecdotes, from buck dancing, tap dancing, snakehip, Fred Astair to lindy hop and the Savoy Ballroom.


Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era by Brenda Dixon Gottschild. A case study of an African American professional dance team during the Swing Era and excellent discussion of the cultural background, including the Savoy Ballroom.


This Was Harlem: A Cultural Portrait, 1900-1950 by Jervis Anderson. A broad overview of the history of Harlem covered from many angles, including a chapter on the Savoy Ballroom.


Harlem: the Making of a Ghetto: Negro New York, 1890-1930 by Gilbert Osofsky. Exploration on how an upper-middle class suburb turned into a poor black neighborhood in mere forty years. Although the account stops at 1930 and there is no mention of the Savoy Ballroom, the book provides context on why the Savoy was torn down.


Authentic Jazz Dance: a Retrospective by Pepsi Bethel (American Authentic Jazz Dance Theatre).  A personal history by one of the last generations of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers from the Savoy Ballroom.


The Strangest Places by Leonard Q. Ross. A lively account of a night out at the Savoy around 1938.


Frankie Manning Foundation,

African influences:

Lindy Hop Origins:

Blog on Lindy, Swing and Bal: Swungover:

Queer Harlem presentation by Adam Brozowski:


Lindy Hop roots


After Seben: Shows Shorty Snowden (couple #3) doing a breakaway in Charleston, which was a forerunner move for Lindy Hop.


Shorty Snowden and Big Be: Shorty Snowden just a few years later doing lindy hop.


Big Apple from Keep Punching: Choreographed by Frankie Manning after he heard the Big Apple described over the phone.


Day at the Races: Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers.


Hellzapoppin: The most iconic lindy hop routine on film.


Spirit of Youth: Another group of Lindy Hoppers from 1938 movie Spirit of Youth.


George and Sugar Sullivan, 1955 Harvest Moon winners on Ed Sullivan show:


The Spirit Moves. A History of Black Social Dance on Film. Film shows older dances like the cake walk to lindy and blues and contemporary jazz. Music was overdubbed due to copyright issues. 

The WSDC wishes to thank Sylvia Sykes for providing this list of materials.