Born on August 4, 1901, Armstrong had a tough life from the start. He lived in a neighborhood so dangerous that it was called the Battlefield. His family was very poor.
“He grew up without any shoes on his feet,” says Ricky Riccardi. He works at the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, New York. “He sometimes didn’t know where his next meal was coming from.”
To help support his family, Armstrong took jobs selling newspapers and collecting junk. He left school in the fifth grade.
But Armstrong dreamed of making music. He loved to sing and taught himself to play a trumpetlike instrument called the cornet. When he was 10, Armstrong and three friends would sing on the streets of New Orleans. People would drop coins in a hat for the boys.
“Early on, the seeds were planted that music might be his way out,” Riccardi says.