Jazz Blog Head Photo.jpg

Color, Community & Music: A History of the Second-Line

Mar 29, 2019 / Blog
By Ana Dell

Bright with colored suits, banners and decorative umbrellas, the second-line parade is one of the most prominent events within a Jazz Festival. As we gear up for this year’s Charlotte Jazz Festival, we're sharing the history of the jazziest celebration in the Queen City.


The Second-Line & What to Expect


The history of the second-line is immense, its roots dating back to the 19th century. During this time, neighborhood organizations were founded to offer aid, such as insurance and burial services, to freed slaves. They used these parades to advertise their services. Today, organizations are formed for the purpose of hosting these parades which focus on improvisations and jazz interpretations of modern pop songs. 

As the name implies, a second-line parade is comprised of two parts:

  1. The front of the parade is made of the grand marshal and the brass band.
  2. The back of the parade is made of those who fall in behind the grand marshal and the band.

Those who fall in behind the grand marshal and the band are referred to as the second-line. The second-line takes over one or more block at a time as they parade through the streets. 


The success of a second-line parade is dependent on crowd participation! So grab an umbrella and join the energetic crowd for the second-line on Saturday, May 4 at 4:30 p.m.! Children can decorate their own umbrellas before the parade Saturday, May 4 at 2:30 in the Knight Theater Upper lobby.


Prepare to see bright colors, fun designs and music all around!


Festival Line-Up


Monday, April 29

  • Free Jazz Concert | Levine Outdoor Pavilion, 11:45 AM

Tuesday, April 30

  • Free Jazz Concert | Levine Outdoor Pavilion, 11:45 AM
  • Sammy Miller and the Congregation | Romare Bearden Park, 7 PM

Wednesday, May 1

Thursday, May 2

Friday, May 3

Saturday, May 4