3d pan white

Harlem Sweeties (African American Flappers, 1920's)

African American flappers taking in a college football game, Washington, DC. Circa 1920's. Addison Scurlock Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

 

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As I study the different skin hues of the young Black women depicted in this photograph, I'm reminded of a poem by Langston Hughes named Harlem Sweeties. It goes something like this:

 

Have you dug the spill

Of Sugar Hill?

Cast your gims

On this sepia thrill:

Brown sugar lassie,

Caramel treat,

Honey-gold baby

Sweet enough to eat.

Peach-skinned girlie,

Coffee and cream,

Chocolate darling

Out of a dream.

Walnut tinted

Or cocoa brown,

Pomegranate-lipped

Pride of the town.

Rich cream-colored

To plum-tinted black,

Feminine sweetness

In Harlem no lack.

Glow of the quince

To blush of the rose.

Persimmon bronze

To cinnamon toes.

Blackberry cordial,

Virginia Dare wine

All those sweet colors

Flavor Harlem of mine!

Walnut or cocoa,

Let me repeat:

Caramel, brown sugar,

A chocolate treat.

Molasses taffy,

Coffee and cream,

Licorice, clove, cinnamon

To a honey-brown dream.

Ginger, wine-gold,

Persimmon, blackberry,

All through the spectrum

Harlem girls vary

So if you want to know beauty

Rainbow-sweet thrill,

Stroll down luscious,

Delicious, fine Sugar Hill.

 

Harlem Sweeties from Collected Poems. Copyright, © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.

 

Vintage African American photography courtesy of Black History Album.

 

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Taken on January 14, 2012