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Related: African American - Beat Generation - bebop - cool - jazz - hip - hippies

Key texts: The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster (1957) - Norman Mailer


In the purest sense, the original hipsters were the hip, mostly black performers of jazz and swing music in the 1940s and 1950s, at a time when "hip" music was equated with African-American-originated forms of musical expression.

Although hipsters could be black or white, the term later and more predominantly came to be used to refer to whites who were aficionados of the music, groupies and members of the so-called Bohemian set, or Beat Generation. Because the jazz scene had long been integrated, hipster culture, too, became integrated before much of the rest of society. The use of the term "hipster" for whites who had an affinity for the avant-garde and for African-American culture was popularized in Norman Mailer's 1956 [1957] book The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster. Hipsters sometimes were referred to as beatniks, a combination of "beat" and "nik," a Yiddish suffix meaning "person."

Hipsters were cool. That is, they exhibited a mellow, laid-back attitude that is still called hip. Many also were users and popularizers of recreational drugs, particularly marijuana and amphetamines, but also heroin, which was popular for a time among bebop scene leaders like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hipster [May 2005]

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