At the turn of the century, clerical labor in New York was almost exclusively male, native-born, and white. As the size of corporations increased in the 1920s and 30s, stenographers were increasingly in demand and this niche was filled by white, native-born women. When WWII ended, women occupied almost all clerical positions, but a large racial gap remained.
The Museum of the City of New York has an exhibit – Analog City – that shows how the racial gap in clerical work changed in the 20th century:
The city’s secretarial schools had limited access options for Black workers. The museum notes that one major exception was the Washington Business Institute, which was located (and founded) in Harlem in the 1930s.
This institute trained Black women in typing, stenography, bookkeeping, and other business skills and advertised in major Black newspapers and periodicals.
The newspaper clipping (below) highlights a gala gathering at the Hotel Theresa to fete the founder of the Washington Business Institute, Mrs. Rae Feld.
The importance of the Washington Business Institute is expressed by frequent mention in obituaries.
This one, comes from the New York Times, November 7th, 1984:
You can just barely see the sign, highlighting the I.B.M. Training Center, to the south of the famous House of Common Sense and Proper Propaganda.
Both establishments were replaced by the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.