While this phrase is the title to a classic Boyz II Men song, it doubles for my feelings on the phase of research I just finished ⎯ looking at the racial makeup of various places Burleigh performed or spoke at. At first, I was excited to add this element to our data on Burleigh performances, because this information could be a good visual aid in thinking critically about where Burleigh ended performing and why/how. However, the information on what places were segregated, mixed, integrated, etc. is not readily available to the public, let along all in one place. It was clear from the beginning that New York was reported on the most heavily in this regard, but even that isn’t saying much. In New York here are some helpful starting places:
- Digital Harlem Blog
- From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan’s Houses of Worship by David Dunlap
- Black Manhattan by James Weldon Johnson
Outside of New York, there a few angles from which you could begin. One is to thoroughly look through Simm’s Blue Book (below) and the Negro Motorist Green Book, which were written as handbooks for traveling African-Americans looking for safe and accommodating services in the US. Another is looking at the history of churches and their congregations through books such as Negro Segregation in the Methodist Church (Culver) or (the slightly less helpful) the Negro Ghetto (Weaver). Finally, the most promising (and most laborious) way I have found so far is to search newspapers, archives, and databases for one place and start connecting dots yourself. This was too time consuming for an element of the project that would only be partially developed, but could develop into something generally uncharted and exciting given more time.
My best piece of advice for anyone wanting to incorporate this (or any detail like it) into their data is to start recording mentions of it as soon as it is a serious consideration. The biggest reason for this is because mentions of race and segregation in the early 20th century were most often implicit. What this means for research is that you are more likely to understand the racial makeup of a concert hall while looking through a review than by plugging “history Festival Hall race” into a database. Another reason for looking as early as possible is because you can get an earlier grasp on whether the research is worth pursuing in the allotted time. In my case, I’m not sure that even if we had started searching earlier that it would have been enough time to accomplish all we had set out to do. However, it would be frustrating to have to put something down only because you hadn’t started five days earlier.Keep in mind, mapping the racial composition of concert venues could be a project unto itself, so pace yourself (but also, someone should make that map).
We’ve almost come to the end of the road!