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On April 23,1940, a large number of the African American community gathered at the Rhythm Club to hear the Walter Barnes Orchestra from Chicago. The building was cooled by ceiling fans and decorated with Spanish moss, which had been sprayed with “flit”, a petroleum-based insecticide. All exits but the front door was boarded to keep out gate crashers.                                                                                                                 Two hundred nine African Americans perished after a fire broke out, possibly caused by a match or cigarette igniting the petroleum-sprayed moss. At the time, this was the second most deadly fire in American history and led to major revisions in fire safety protocol nationwide.

 

 

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