The Cotton Club

Topics: New York City, Duke Ellington, Harlem Renaissance Pages: 3 (634 words) Published: October 27, 2014
The most famous nightclub in New York during the Harlem Renaissance was the Cotton Club. Important black entertainers of the times played to all-white audiences. The attitude white Americans had toward African Americans, the African American entertainers, and the colorful atmosphere caused white Americans to be the clientele of the Cotton Club.

The Cotton Club was a famous nightclub in the Harlem district of New York City. It opened under the name of Club Deluxe during the Harlem Renaissance in 1920, with former boxing champion, Jack Johnson, as owner. In 1922, Owen ‘Owney’ Madden took the club over, renamed it the Cotton Club, and limited it to white Americans. Lenox Avenue, where the Cotton Club was located, was said to be unsafe for white Americans after the race riots of 1935. They made up most of the Cotton Club’s customers, so it was forced to shut down on February 16, 1936. The Cotton Club then moved to Broadway and 48th Street, where it continued to be in business until June 1940 (PBS) (Britannica).

Harlem, in New York, started out as a black neighborhood and was thought of as a slum. The whites had a negative attitude toward African Americans because of slavery and no belief in racial equality. The segregation of the Cotton Club was strengthened by its representation of the African American employees as exotic savages or slaves. This race line divided the black employees and performers from the white customers. Many white Americans looked to black culture as a window into a more ‘primitive’ and ‘vital’ way of life. African Americans were seen as exotic animals at the Cotton Club which added to its appeal. The atmosphere gave the white Americans a mini vacation as they enjoyed the entertainers. (History) (Boland) (Winter).

Famous African American entertainers performed at the Cotton Club for white audiences. Most of the jazz musicians and singers of the Harlem Renaissance appeared at the Cotton Club at some point, including Duke Ellington, Louis...

Cited: "Black History Milestones." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.
Boland, Jesse. "Harlem Renaissance Cotton Club." 1920s Fashion & Music. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2014.
"Cotton Club." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Cotton Club." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
Winter, Elizabeth. "Cotton Club of Harlem (1923- ) | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed." BlackPast.org Remembered & Reclaimed. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2014.
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