Harlem in the 1920s<br />A historical overview<br />
Prior to 1920<br />Post-Civil War: waves of South-to-North immigration<br />especially after Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)<br ...
Harlem in 1920<br />Demographics<br />1920: 152,467 people of African descent living in NYC. 39,233 born in NY State, 30,4...
Segregation in 1920s Harlem<br />“Irrational distinctions” in terms of employment:<br />one-drop rule<br />“Passing” is a ...
The “city within a city”<br />safe haven<br />“voluntary segregation”<br />Harlem is a modern ghetto. True, that is a cont...
African Americans on Race in the 1920s<br />Race as a global idea<br />West Indians had historically played a big role in ...
Jazz<br />Divisive new sound<br />as culturally disruptive as Modernism was<br />musically fragmented, draws upon primitiv...
Theorizing Jazz<br />The jazz spirit, being primitive, demands more frankness and sincerity. Just as it already has done i...
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Harlem in the 1920s (Fall 2011)

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Notes for students, lecture on Passing and the Harlem Renaissance

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Harlem in the 1920s (Fall 2011)

  1. 1. Harlem in the 1920s<br />A historical overview<br />
  2. 2. Prior to 1920<br />Post-Civil War: waves of South-to-North immigration<br />especially after Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)<br />African Americans were already living in NYC:<br />Mid-1800s: SoHo area<br />Late 1800s: Greenwich Village<br />1890s: West 20s and 30s<br />1900s: West 50s, begin move into Harlem<br />Harlem in 1900:<br />Overzealous housing development (for white workers)<br />Subway hasn’t fully arrived, especially on the east side<br />African-American migration begins on the east side, moves west<br />From 1900-1920, the number of blacks living in Harlem doubles<br />
  3. 3. Harlem in 1920<br />Demographics<br />1920: 152,467 people of African descent living in NYC. 39,233 born in NY State, 30,436 from outside US (primarily Caribbean), and 78,242 from other states (mostly Southern).<br />1920-1925: approx. 50,000 more arrive from the South<br />Quickly overcrowded: up to 3x as many people in the same space when compared to just a few decades prior<br />“a race capital”: “Black Mecca”<br />A space for…<br />new opportunity and improvement<br />intellectual and aesthetic expansion<br />cultural solidification<br />
  4. 4. Segregation in 1920s Harlem<br />“Irrational distinctions” in terms of employment:<br />one-drop rule<br />“Passing” is a general cultural phenomenon—so is the rejection thereof<br />“color lines within the color line”<br />As whites discriminate against blacks by being unable to see them as real (can only see stereotypes), the same thing happens between lighter-skinned and darker-skinned African Americans<br />Women are doubly discriminated against:<br />no positive healthy images in popular culture—not considered society’s ideal of beauty<br />still seen as sexually indiscriminate (the legacy of slavery)<br />women of mixed heritage still seen as particularly sexually exotic (legacy of the “tragic mulatto” character of the 1800s)<br />A Negro worker may not be a street or subway conductor because of the possibility of public objection to contact but he may be a ticket chopper. He may not be a money changer in a subway station because honesty is required yet he may be entrusted, as a messenger, with thousands of dollars daily. He may not sell goods over a counter but he may deliver the goods after they have been sold. He may be a porter in charge of a sleeping car without a conductor, but never a conductor; he may be a policeman but not a fireman; a linotyper, but not a motion picture operator; a glass annealer, but not a glass blower; a deck hand, but not a sailor.<br />
  5. 5. The “city within a city”<br />safe haven<br />“voluntary segregation”<br />Harlem is a modern ghetto. True, that is a contradiction in terms, but prejudice has ringed this group around with invisible lines and bars. Within the bars you will find a small city, self-sufficient, complete in itself a riot of color and personality, a medley of song and tears, a canvas of browns and golds and flaming reds. And yet bound. (Eunice Hunton)<br />
  6. 6. African Americans on Race in the 1920s<br />Race as a global idea<br />West Indians had historically played a big role in cultural development<br />Cultural divide between Southern migrants and Caribbean immigrants<br />The question of Africa: how to relate to that land and its peoples<br />Reestablishing an African-American past<br />Schomburg: “reclaimed background”<br />How to fix the social and economic damage of slavery?<br />“Each one teach one” idea (starts during slavery, re: reading)<br />Being a breakthrough person, a “first,” doesn’t guarantee a sustained future for others (will there be a “second”?)<br />Booker T. Washington—industrial education/skills development<br />W.E.B. DuBois—“Talented Tenth”: (essay, 1903) 1 in 10 black men may become leaders. Should have a classical (not industrial) education in order to ensure that they do.<br />Marcus Garvey, “Back to Africa” movement. Reunite all people of African ancestry into one community with one absolute government<br />Art, Music, Performance: a means of agitating for equality, progress<br />http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FE91uOcH2jc<br />
  7. 7. Jazz<br />Divisive new sound<br />as culturally disruptive as Modernism was<br />musically fragmented, draws upon primitivism<br />Prohibition + segregation results in some very strange combinations: <br />Cotton Club: African-American performers, white patrons<br />Going to jazz clubs in Harlem was the “hip” thing to do—“edgy”<br />1st unique American musical sound for export<br />Roots in African-American folk culture, Creole culture of New Orleans, city sounds<br />Risqué, explicitly sexual<br />Rogers: Musically jazz has a great future. It is rapidly being sublimated.<br />
  8. 8. Theorizing Jazz<br />The jazz spirit, being primitive, demands more frankness and sincerity. Just as it already has done in art and music, so eventually in human relations and social manners, it will no doubt have the effect of putting more reality in life by taking some of the needless artificiality out. —Rogers<br />Jazz is a good barometer of freedom. In its beginnings, the United States spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which,eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.—Ellington<br />http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtO3AQCoVFw<br />

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