The "New Negro" of the 1920'sPresentation Transcript
& the "New Negro"
Stepping into the Cotton Club was like stepping into a jungle or onto a southern plantation. Owney Madden, the club owner after 1923, wanted to appeal to the Whites’ stereotypes of Blacks as primitive and sensual Africans. He achieved this by creating a jungle-like atmosphere in music and in decor. Duke Ellington was one of the many African American artists that performed at the Cotton Club. A musical genius in every right and the forefront of African American musicians in the Harlem Renaissance, Ellington experimented with the lights of the club and tone of his music to create a jungle mood.
The Color Line There was a strictly enforced color line at the Cotton Club. Meaney established the club as a whites only safe haven in Harlem. The rule was simple: Blacks were to entertain and Whites were to be entertained. By creating this rule, Meaney created sensations of subordination and inferiority. This color line was a reminder of the segregation that was, as prevalent in the North as in the South. The African American dancers at the club were tall, thin, and tan. They were models of the White’s definition of beauty with straightened hair and light complexion.
This advertisement is a perfect example of the negative perpetuated stereotypes of African Americans. Here one of the workers of the club is modeled after the popular attributes of Jim Crow. The advertisement exaggerates Black features with large lips and black or very dark skin. This menu shows the African American was primitive which was a big part of the concept of the “new negro.”
“ New Negro”
In reality the “new negro” evolved long before the Harlem Renaissance and other clubs, like the Cotton Club, emerged. After WWI, Blacks moved to North to seek jobs and other opportunities in what is known as the Great Migration. However, the Cotton Club was crucial to the national recognition of the New Negro outside the African American community.
http://www.penncharter.com/Content/academics/us/Studentgallery/HarlemEncyclo/c/cottonmenu.gif (Cotton Club menu)
http://www.tootscrackin.com/art/PRESS%20PICTURES/cottonclub_1938.jpg (CC women in checker)
http://cache.eb.com/eb/image?id=23587&rendTypeId=4 (Duke Ellington and band w/ dancers)