I’m curious about this because I’ve lately been reading about and listening to Ragtime music. It seems that Scott Joplin, to paraphrase Rudi Blesh in They All Played Ragtime, was living in New York around 1910, and followed the general migration of African Americans uptown. What should I conclude about Joplin’s financial circumstances by the fact that he moved there? I do know that money was a problem for him in those days as he was trying to get his opera Treemonisha produced. But how was Harlem perceived as a place to live in those days?
Adding to my confusion is the cover page to the sheet music for an 1897 rag by Tom Turpin, Harlem Rag. It shows ragged clothing hanging on lines between buildings. The implication of poverty is strong. But what is the real history of Harlem?