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Cafe Society: The Wrong Place for the Right People

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At the end of 1938 a former shoe salesman named Barney Josephson opened what would become one of the most legendary nightspots in jazz history. Cafe Society was New York City's first integrated nightclub, and it quickly became a gathering place for artists, intellectuals, leftwing political figures, jazz lovers, and--perhaps inevitably--the very Manhattan sophisticates it meant to mock with its satirical murals and ill-dressed doormen. It was also the place where Billie Holiday debuted her version of the harrowing anti-lynching anthem Strange Fruit, which Time Magazine would declare 60 years later “the Song of the Century."

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This story appears courtesy of Night Lights Classic Jazz.
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