making many a “buck” out of Harlem


Senior Member
Hi everyone,
at the beginning of Paul Robeson's letter to Jackie Robinson, I read:

I notice in a recent issue of Our World magazine that some folks think you’re too outspoken. Certainly not many of our folks share that view. They think like you that the Yankees, making many a “buck” out of Harlem, might have had a few of our ball players just like Brooklyn. In fact I know you’ve seen where a couple of real brave fellows, the Turgerson brothers, think it’s about time we continued our breaking into the Southern leagues – Arkansas and Mississippi included.

I don't understand the sentence in bold. That "like you" at the beginning shoud be between commas, right?
"Buck" means "dollar" but also (according to Wikipedia) "a black man (usually muscular or tall) who defies white will and is largely destructive to American society, and Harlem is a neighbourhood of Manhattan and a symbol of African-American culture".
I don't get the whole sentence? Are we talking about two football teams, by any chance?

Thank you in advance,
  • Starless74

    Senior Member
    Buck(s) definitely stands for dollars here.
    I'll leave the details to AE speakers because I'm not an expert in US baseball/football teams. :)


    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    This paragraph is about breaking the color barrier in baseball (not football!), from a letter written in 1953. 'Brooklyn' refers to the Brooklyn Dodgers, the baseball team that signed Jackie Robinson in 1947. 'The Yankees' refers to the New York Yankees, who didn't sign a black ballplayer (Elston Howard) until 1955. The Yankees might have signed Willie Mays, but they didn't, and he went on to play for the Giants in 1950. The Giants, the Yankees, and the Dodgers were all teams in New York. So by 1953, the Giants and the Dodgers were integrated (or at least beginning to be), but the Yankees were still all-white and unwilling to change. The Yankees play in the Bronx just across the Harlem River from the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem; a nearby bridge provides easy access between the two boroughs. So I think Robeson is saying (two years before Elston Howard's arrival) that the Yankees are taking in money (= bucks) from Harlem, so they should also be signing black players just as Brooklyn signed Robinson.
    The following paragraph in the letter, which isn't in the OP, clarifies this first one somewhat.
    It would help to have commas on either side of 'like you.' The whole sentence is a little confusing because it alludes to a situation in baseball that didn't need explaining to readers in 1953.
    'Buck' definitely refers to money ('make a buck' = bring in money). As a slang word for African American men, it's definitely racist and would NEVER be used by Robeson to mean that.
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    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Agreed. People from Harlem were going to the games and spending their money there - on tickets, on food, on drinks, etc. He's saying they should not be excluded from being participants and be limited to only being spectators. The Yankees should use some of that money to put black players on the team. (It's not really different money, but it's a philosophical way to look at it.)

    Out of Harlem means money is coming out of the Harlem neighborhood and going into the hands of the Yankees organization in the Bronx.
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