The brief sentence or two in the midst of a larger discussion of the features of Belle Glade mentions a curfew for blacks in the area. This perfunctory reference might be easily missed by white readers of the period skimming the section to determine if they'd like to take the tour, or perhaps even noted with approval as a practice that made the area that much more appealing or comfortable for the white tourist. The fact of this curfew should, for our reading, open up the larger mystery of black social diversion. What did black people do in Belle Glade for after-hours amusement if they were not allowed in the business district of town as entertainment-takers (customers), only as entertainment-givers (employees)? On the register of public space in Belle Glade, blacks figured in as service. If it has not been clear before, it must be acknowledged that the jook joints we, as post-historical voyeurs, peer into through Marion Post Wolcott's eyes, were, to some extent, one of the few private and semi-autonomous spaces available to the Florida African-American, carved out of an historically inhospitable landscape.

Precisely because gatherings of slaves or free people of African descent were illegal, slavery fostered black social institutions that defied white control, and thus helped create a recurrent pattern of covert social activity...Even though the jook emerged during Reconstruction, its most intense development occurred in post-Reconstruction before the mass migration to the industrial North- that period when African-Americans were terrorized, lynched, and excluded from public life. With the intensification of white supremacy, African-Americans were more separated from mainstream American life than ever before (Hazzard-Gordon 76-77, 81).



Juliet Gorman, May 2001