Friday, February 14, 2014

☞ REMEMBER: A Harlem Speakeasy circa 1935

In the public memory, clubs of the Harlem Renaissance were the big, expensive productions usually owned by (quite literally) the white mafia and really catering to a downtown crowd.  On the other side of the coin were the small local speakeasies which were not segregated and more accessible to all.  An uncredited photo that we had on file shows one such establishment which was probably in the lower level of a brownstone.  A small jazz trio has set up in the corner and a handful of tables can be seen somewhere in the middle.  Couples enjoying the evening can be seen dancing romantically in the background.

As far as the timeline is concerned, we guess that this photo was taken in the mid 1930s based on the suits worn by the gentlemen and one other major clue.  To the far left of the photo one can see a gentleman in white who appears to be Langston Hughes.  Harlem's most famous poet looks a little older here in the photo and history has it that the Mr. Hughes permanently established roots in Harlem by 1930.

1 comment:

  1. This photo just reminds me of the serialized documentary on PBS; "I'll Make Me A World" Places like this was all that black people in Harlem and black people everywhere had in terms of amusement. When I think back to my grandparents time in the late 30's & early 40's this is the sort of place they would frequent. We made our own fun just like we made our own fashion and fashion statements and in many cases made our own customs and traditions. All in an attempt to validate our existence in this world and legitimize ourselves to the wider humanity. You can try to take our humanity by denying us certain material facets, but not really. We just keep finding ways to be.