This retro volume combines two brilliant and long out-of-print books, Dan Burley’s Original Handbook of Harlem Jive (1944) and Diggeth Thou? (1959) by Dan Burley, with an introduction by Thomas Aiello. Burley was a journalist and sportswriter who worked for various African American newspapers and magazines, including the Chicago Defender, Chicago Crusader, New York New Amsterdam News, Jet, and Ebony in both Chicago and New York in the 1920s through the 1950s. Although he did not invent jive, throughout the 1940s Burley’s Handbook fostered it, popularized it, and broadened its use beyond the cloister of the jazz community. Jive acted as an invisible conduit between the new urban linguistics and the inevitably square world.
Burley’s goal was to inform readers about this new language, as well as to entertain. Dan Burley’s Original Handbook of Harlem Jive offers a history of and definition for jive, followed by examples of folktales, poetry, and Shakespeare “translated” into jive. The work also includes a jive glossary for easy reference. Burley followed up the success of the Handbook with Diggeth Thou?, which includes more stories told in jive. These rare books sparkle with wit and humor and offer a flashback to the world of New York’s and Chicago’s hepcats and chicks. Aiello’s work will allow Burley’s fascinating take on jive to reach a new generation of readers and scholars.