Langston Hughes, The Big Sea
White people began to come to Harlem in droves. For several years they packed the expensive Cotton Club on Lenox Avenue. But I was never there, because the Cotton Club was a Jim Crow club for gangsters and monied whites. They were not cordial to Negro patronage, unless you were a celebrity like Bojangles. So Harlem Negroes did not like the Cotton Club and never appreciated its Jim Crow policy in the very heart of their . . . community. Nor did ordinary Negroes like the growing influx of whites toward Harlem after sundown, finding the little cabarets and bars where formerly only colored people laughed and sang, and where now the strangers were given the best ringside tables to sit and stare at the Negro customers - like amusing animals in a zoo. . . .
All of us know that the gay and sparkling life of the so-called Negro Renaissance of the '20's was not so gay and sparkling beneath the surface as it looked. . . .
It was a period when, at almost every Harlem upper crust dance or party, one would be introduced to various distinguished white celebrities there as guests. . . . It was a period when local and visiting royalty were not at all uncommon in Harlem. . . . It was a period when every season there was at least one hit play on Broadway acted by a Negro cast. And when books by Negro authors were being published with much greater frequency and much more publicly than ever before. . . . It was a period when white writers wrote about Negroes more successfully (commercially speaking) than Negroes did about themselves. . . . It was the period when the Negro was in vogue.
I was there. I had a swell time while it lasted. But I thought it wouldn't last long. . . . But some Harlemites thought the millennium had come. They thought the race problem had at last been solved. . . .