Everything I’d ever heard about New York City was exciting—things like Broadway’s bright lights and the Savoy Ballroom and Apollo Theater in Harlem, where great bands played and famous songs and dance steps and Negro stars originated.
I was astounded to find in the nation’s capital, just a few blocks from Capitol Hill, thousands of Negroes living worse than any I’d ever seen in the poorest sections of Roxbury; in dirt-floor shacks along unspeakably filthy lanes with names like Pig Alley and Goat Alley.
having or showing excessive or compulsive concern with something
We were in that world of Negroes who are both servants and psychologists, aware that white people are so obsessed with their own importance that they will pay liberally, even dearly, for the impression of being catered to and entertained.
It wasn’t only Small’s Paradise law, it was the law of every tavern that wanted to stay in business—never get involved with anything that could be interpreted as “impairing the morals” of servicemen, or any kind of hustling of them.
pause or hold back in uncertainty or unwillingness
As is the case in any jungle, the hustler’s every waking hour is lived with both the practical and the subconscious knowledge that if he ever relaxes, if he ever slows down, the other hungry, restless foxes, ferrets, wolves, and vultures out there with him won’t hesitate to make him their prey.
Old-timers told me that Harlem had never been the same since the 1935 riot, when millions of dollars worth of damage was done by thousands of Negroes, infuriated chiefly by the white merchants in Harlem refusing to hire a Negro even as their stores raked in Harlem’s money.
And we laughed about the scared little Chinese whose restaurant didn’t have a hand laid on it, because the rioters just about convulsed laughing when they saw the sign the Chinese had hastily stuck on his front door: “Me Colored Too.”
a ball at which young ladies are presented to society
The already Croesus-rich white man can’t get another skyscraper hotel finished and opened before all these integration-mad Negroes, who themselves don’t own a tool shed, are booking the swanky new hotel for “cotillions” and “conventions.”