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Blacks & Whites In The Jazz Age 2024-05-18 16:22:38

(Life in America)


taxis-outside-cotton-club.jpg


In 1923, defying Prohibition, New York speakeasies let jazz flow as freely as the bootlegged liquor. The best known among them was the Cotton Club, run by Owney Madden, a British immigrant-turned-mobster nicknamed "The Killer" for his ruthlessness.


Conjuring images of the Old South, the Cotton Club was located in Harlem, a predominantly African American neighborhood. It, however, catered exclusively to white patrons, a testament to racism. Black performers and staff were clad in costumes reminiscent of the antebellum (pre-Civil War) South, in sharp contrast to the avant-garde music the club was famous for.

The club quickly became the epitome of nightlife in New York. Its stage hosted some of the greatest black talents, many of whom would become legends, such as Duke Ellington. Complementing Ellington was Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues, whose powerful voice captivated audiences night after night. Sharing Smith's limelight were the top-notch revues, featuring the crowd-drawing Cotton Club Girls.


During the Great Depression, social attitudes slowly started to shift. Following a race riot in Harlem, the Cotton Club closed its doors in 1936, marking the end of an era. *



Author: renqiulan


* If you enjoy old movies, my post might serve as a useful introduction to "The Cotton Club" (1984), directed by Francis Ford Coppola.



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