FREENESS!! Soho: The Negro Quarter of Central London 1919-1939
The lovely people at the Equiano Centre’s Drawing Over the Colour Line project have just completed new research into the cafes, bars and clubs of London’s Soho between the wars.
The map is wonderful insight into the diverse nightlife and cafe society of interwar Soho thought of as “the negro quarter of central London” in the 1930s.
It explores 13 venues, from the Florence Mills Social Parlour opened by Pan-Africanist political activist Amy Ashwood Garvey (first wife to Marcus and FEARLESS BOSS LADY!!) to the Cafe de Paris, at the time London’s most fashionable venue, frequented by the rich and royal.
The map isn’t available to the public yet but they’ve let me a couple of copies to give away. If you’d like a one, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post it out to you.
We all like a bit of freeness innit!?!
“About Soho we went before the light;
We went, unresting six, craving new fun;
New scenes, new raptures; for the fevered night
Of rollicking laughter; drink and song, was done.”
- Claude McKay, La Paloma in London, 1922
Drawing over the Colour Line: Geographies of art and cosmopolitan politics in London, 1919 – 1939
Ken “Snakehips” Johnson Britain’s first Black swing bandleader, c.1936.
“I determined I’d make them like swing at the Café, or die in the attempt, and boy, I nearly died”
On Saturday 8th March 1941, during the Blitz, that two German bombs exploded on the dance floor of the Cafe de Paris after the start of a performance. Thirty-four people died including Johnson – who was decapitated – and saxophonist David Williams. An eyewitness recalled how he was found lying dead, a flower still in his lapel. He was 27 years old.
Listen to Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson & His West Indian Dance Band
The Ken SnakeHips Johnson Story at www.swingtime.co.uk
Bourne, Stephen “Mother Country - Britain’s Black Community on the Home Front 1939”
[source: 1, 2, 3, 4]
Black British Jazz Pioneers
Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson and Ken “Snakehips” Johnson
and Chiwetel Ejiofor looking flipping gorgeous in white tie and tales in BBC drama Dancing on the Edge, 2012.
The girls in the Cotton Club’s Review, NYC c.1933
(That’s one of my fave songbirds/Vaudeville Gals, Ethel Waters, in the center)
Ethel Waters and Cotton Club chorus girls, NYC c.1933
Nora Holt, photographed with a marionette by Carl Van Vechten on August 29, 1937, was first African American to earn a master’s degree in music (Chicago Musical College, 1918) She was a music critic for two preeminent black newspapers, the Chicago Defender and the New York Amsterdam News. Married five (or more) times, she was also a regular in the gossip columns thanks to her scandalous love life. Ms. Holt was also said to be the inspiration for the “Lasca Sartoris” character in Van Vechten’s infamous, controversial novel, “N****r Heaven.” She died in Los Angeles in 1974. Photo: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Nora Holt, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1937.