Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940

Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940

by Chad Heap
     
 

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During Prohibition, “Harlem was the ‘in’ place to go for music and booze,” recalled the African American chanteuse Bricktop. “Every night the limousines pulled up to the corner,” and out spilled affluent whites, looking for a good time, great jazz, and the unmatchable thrill of doing something disreputable.   That is the… See more details below

Overview

During Prohibition, “Harlem was the ‘in’ place to go for music and booze,” recalled the African American chanteuse Bricktop. “Every night the limousines pulled up to the corner,” and out spilled affluent whites, looking for a good time, great jazz, and the unmatchable thrill of doing something disreputable.   That is the indelible public image of slumming, but as Chad Heap reveals in this fascinating history, the reality is that slumming was far more widespread—and important—than such nostalgia-tinged recollections would lead us to believe. From its appearance as a “fashionable dissipation” centered on the immigrant and working-class districts of 1880s New York through its spread to Chicago and into the 1930s nightspots frequented by lesbians and gay men, Slumming charts the development of this popular pastime, demonstrating how its moralizing origins were soon outstripped by the artistic, racial, and sexual adventuring that typified Jazz-Age America. Vividly recreating the allure of storied neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village and Bronzeville, with their bohemian tearooms, rent parties, and “black and tan” cabarets, Heap plumbs the complicated mix of curiosity and desire that drew respectable white urbanites to venture into previously off-limits locales. And while he doesn’t ignore the role of exploitation and voyeurism in slumming—or the resistance it often provoked—he argues that the relatively uninhibited mingling it promoted across bounds of race and class helped to dramatically recast the racial and sexual landscape of burgeoning U.S. cities.   Packed with stories of late-night dance, drink, and sexual exploration—and shot through with a deep understanding of cities and the habits of urban life—Slumming revives an era that is long gone, but whose effects are still felt powerfully today.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
"'Slumming' is the concept of people seeing 'how the other half lives.' Peopl
George Chauncey

“Exhaustively researched and beautifully written, Chad Heap's investigation of slumming as an urban mass phenomenon gives us a vivid and astonishingly detailed account of the black and tans, bohemian tearooms, and pansy and lesbian nightclubs where the cultural boundaries of race and sexuality were crossed, tested, and recast in the early twentieth century.”

John Howard

Slumming is a sophisticated, engaging work of American social and cultural history, an important book that will appeal to a very wide scholarly and popular audience. It is well-written, carefully crafted and structured, with a powerful set of arguments sure to reorient our understandings of sexuality, race, leisure, nightlife, urban geography, and modernity. Heap's assertions are bold, his anyalysis subtle and convincing—and on top of that, Slumming is a really good read, lively and satisfying.”

New Yorker

“[An] enthralling history. . . . assiduously parsed, perhaps to mitigate the inherent titillation of the material.”

American Historical Review

 “This is a beautiful book that will be a milestone in our understandings of sexuality, race, normalcy, and metropolitan American modernity.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226322452
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
11/15/2008
Series:
Historical Studies of Urban America
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
File size:
3 MB

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