The Cotton Club might be Harlem’s most famous surviving jazz venue, but during the Harlem Renaissance that started after World War I and ended sometime during the Great Depression, it was also the neighborhood’s most notorious. It had been opened by Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion, as the Club Deluxe (or Club De Luxe) in 1920.
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Cover of the October 1928 issue of The Negro American with photograph of Miss Erma Sweatt, sister of civil-rights activist Heman Sweatt. The Negro American was a Harlem Renaissance era magazine published in San Antonio, Texas, that declared itself to be "the only magazine in the South devoted to Negro life and culture."
Duke Ellington performed regularly here, and Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday both launched their careers at the venue’s amateur night. You can say that the Apollo Theater was the ‘Motown’ before Motown. Today, the theater stands as an artifact on the bustling 125th street.
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