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Abstract

This paper addresses inter-racial sociability and sexuality in New York City before and after the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to northern US cities. Using space and the arrangements of objects in space as my primary evidence, I argue that spatial relations both reflected and created race relations in the urban North and that these practices shifted dramatically over the course of a twenty-year period. While the black proprietors of clubs in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1910s used space to make transgressive interracial sociability possible, by the 1920s, the white-owned clubs of the Harlem Renaissance did the opposite. These clubs used space to re-enforce the increasingly strict vision of white supremacy that emerged in northern cities in the 1920s. This paper traces this shift and points to the importance of the spatial organization of race and race relations even in the “unsegregated” North.

Note on the Author

Elizabeth Clement received her Bachelor’s degree in History at Columbia University in New York City and her Master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Her forthcoming book, “Trick or Treat: Courting Couples, Charity Girls, Sex Workers and the Creation of Modern Heterosexuality in New York City, 1900-1945,” (University of North Carolina Press, 2006), examines working-class understandings of the connection between sexuality and morality by comparing prostitution, a working-class practice called “treating” (the exchange of sex for entertainment expenses), and courtship in New York City from 1900 to 1945. She is now an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Utah.

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