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Sugar Cane Club
The Sugar Cane Club was located at the edge of the "low-down" district on 2212 135th Street and 5th Ave. The entrance was through a narrow underground passage. Black performers such as Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, and Ethyl Waters all entertained at the Sugar Cane Club before they became famous. On weekdays, there were about 100 patrons in the club, but Saturday nights held about 200. This club was for the lower-class blacks and you could only see a sparse amount of white persons. It was laden with bootleg liquor. Scholar Steven Watson describes it perfectly:
The rudimentary three- piece band accompanied a torch singer under bright white light singing "I'm Busy and You Can't Come In." As the lights revolved from blue to red, dancers filled the tiny floor, "animal beings urged on by liquor and music and physical contact," as Wallace Thurman described them...
The decibel level went up after 3:00 A.M., when New York's curfew law shuttered the city's legitimate cabarets. At this point, moonlighting performers dropped into the clubs that had paid off the police for "special charters." "Jazzlips" Richardson or the dancing Bon Ton Buddies, fresh from playing
at Connie's, for example, might do a turn in exchange for food and drink. It was the custom to show approval of the performers by tossing wadded-up dollar bills at them, or rapping on the tables with glasses or small wooden hammers. The activity at institutions like the Sugar Cane continued in high key until piercing seven o'clock whistles warned that a new work day was about to begin."
Watson, Steven. "The Harlem Renaissance."
American Studies @ The University of Virginia
. Web. 07 May 2011. <
Wintz, Cary D.
Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance
. College Station: Texas A&M UP, 1996. Print.
Wintz, Cary D., and Paul Finkelman.
Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.
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