Cafe Society Menu [first racially integrated nightclub in New York City]
New York: np, [ca. 1940s]. Saddle stapled, with one missing staple and another loose staple, with tasseled blue string adorning the spine. Offset. 8pp. 8 ½ x 11 ¾ in. Toning and foxing on wraps, interiors clean; very good. Item #6812
Dinner and drink menu for the first racially integrated nightclub in New York City — and perhaps the country. Advertised as “the wrong place for the right people,” the nightclub opened in 1938 and featured performances by Sarah Vaughan, Big Joe Turner, Albert Ammons, Lena Horne, Ruth Brown, Pearl Bailey, and Billie Holiday, who first performed “Strange Fruit” there.
Holiday’s performance was oddly and intensely shaped by the well-meaning owner, manager, and founder Barney Josephson, who insisted the set end with “Strange Fruit,” without an encore or restaurant service following it, so that the audience could “sit and think with it.” This was emblematic of his intentions for the club: a vexed affront on rich society, mocking the racist socialites that frequented segregated nightclubs such as the Cotton Club, by way of murals done by Anton Refregier and other Village artists with political, ironic, and experimental proclivities. By 1948, Josephson’s brother was subpoenaed by the House of Un-American Committee; anti-communist harassment and suppression would eventually bring New York’s first integrated nightclub to close bringing attacks on the nightclub to close.