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Viral Story About Louis Armstrong Contains False Information

Maxim Sorokopud Maxim Sorokopud
31st August 2021
Viral Story About Louis Armstrong Contains False Information
Armstrong was an employee of the Karnofsky family (Getty Images).

The Claim

When famous trumpeter Louis Armstrong was a child, he was taken in by the Karnofsky family, who paid for his first-ever musical instrument.

Emerging story

A number of recent social media posts have recounted the story of American trumpet player Louis Armstrong’s childhood. These posts discuss the impact of the Karnofsky family upon Armstrong. They state that the family took him in, adopted him, and fostered his love of music, even buying him his first instrument. 

These posts have gained significant attention online, with some posts gaining thousands of interactions. 

A supporting image within the article body
A supporting image within the article body
A supporting image within the article body

Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar’s investigation found that the story of Louis Armstrong’s childhood in these posts is misrepresented in numerous ways. For example, the posts neglect to note that the Karnofsky family initially hired Armstrong to perform child labor with the family's brothers. The posts state that Armstrong had never known kindness before being introduced to the Karnofsky family, but other sources state that Armstrong’s grandmother, Josephine, who took him in when he was five years old, showed him love and affection. 

The posts state that the father of the Karnofsky family paid for Armstrong’s musical instrument. Some sources say that this happened in exchange for Armstrong promising to work for the Karnofsky family for one more year. Others say that the Karnofsky family loaned Armstrong part of the money for his first instrument. 

Also, some posts say that the Karnofsky family took Armstrong in after he had attended a juvenile detention facility at the age of five. Instead, he dropped out of school at this age to work for the Karnofsky family. 

The posts claim that Armstrong spoke fluent Yiddish thanks to the Karnofsky family. We could find no evidence that he could speak this language. 

There is no evidence either that he was ever formally adopted by the family. We could also find no instance of Armstrong describing the Karnofksy family as his second family. 

While some sources have criticized the Karnofsky family for making Armstrong work double shifts at the age of seven, overall, Armstrong was appreciative of the Karnofsky family’s support. He personally stated, “They could see I had something in my soul,” in regard to his love of music. 

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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