In the mid-1920s, upper and middle-class white New Yorkers would go "slumming" in Harlem. New York's mayor had a royal box in a neighborhood which was, at that point, fast becoming a highly impoverished slum. White folks would be "brave" and journey into Harlem for chills and thrills and some amazing cultural creations – the music of Duke Ellington
or the hoochie-koochie dances of Josephine Bakker
chief among them. Whites were served and entertained by Harlem's residents all the while believing that they were getting an authentic Harlem experience, and in a way, they were
. The years of socio-economic battery, symptomatic of racialized hierarchies, were just as present in the Cotton Club
as outside it. The difference was that the Cotton Club's interior was gussied up to suit white patron's ideas of black culture, and so visitors left unchallenged, believing they had dominion over the slum. They could pop in for a visit, while the residents of Harlem didn't enjoy the same in and out privileges.
At the risk of being an irresponsible historian, and of eliding racial and sexual politics (which for the sake of a usually snappy blog may be too overbearing), there is something to be gleaned from Harlem circa 1925.
I'll give you a hint: Penis veil
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