A grandson of slaves, the boy was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans, known as the "Back of Town".
His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant. His mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister lived with their grandmother. Early in life, he
proved to be musically gifted and, with three other kids, he sang in the streets of New Orleans for the coins that were thrown to them.
A Jewish family, Karnovsky, who had immigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity for the 7-year-old youngster and brought him into their home. Initially given 'work' in the House, to feed this hungry child. Then he remained and slept in this Jewish family where, for the first time in his life, he was treated with kind tenderness. When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang him a Russian Lullaby that he learned to sing with her.
Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became the adopted son of the family. The Karnovskys gave him money to buy his first trumpet—for, as was the custom in the Jewish families, they sincerely admired his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as St. James Infirmary and Go down, Moses.
The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907. In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a star of David and he said that it is in this family that he had learned "how to live real life with determination.”
That little boy’s name was Louis Armstrong.