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April 12, 2022 39 min

Black workers were expected to take on “respectable” employment in the early twentieth century, essentially a racist dog whistle to keep them in the dirtiest, most dangerous and low-paying jobs. While some Black people had the means to reject these types of jobs, most couldn’t afford to. 

But power was there to be seized if you were willing to break the rules of respectability. In the “Negro metropolis” of Harlem, a complicated world developed in the shadows, one where Black men played by a different set of rules to claim freedom no matter the cost. 

Whether by reform or by violence, though, there were also those determined to keep these race rebels at bay.


Episode Artwork by Lyne Lucien. Transcripts, resources, list of voice talent and more available at


This episode of Seizing Freedom is supported by Home. Made., a podcast that explores the meaning of home and what it can teach us about ourselves and each other. Listen to episodes of Home. Made. at

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