The Street by Ann Petry, a black doctor who worked in Harlem in the 1940s, is a book about a mother and her child trying to make a living in a racist, male-dominated society where you can be paid to look after a white family's child (that is Lutie's job until she decides caring for somebody else's child causes harm to her own child), but it will always be at the expense of the care of your own child.
“You know a good-looking girl like you shouldn’t have to worry about money,’ he said softly. She didn’t say anything and he continued, ‘In fact, if you and me can get together a coupla nights a week in Harlem, those lessons won’t cost you a cent. No sir, not a cent.’
Yes, she thought, if you were born black and not too ugly, this is what you get, this is what you find. It was a pity he hadn’t lived back in the days of slavery, so he could have raided the slave quarters for a likely wench any hour of the day or night.”
“She didn’t have to turn around, anyway; he was staring at her back, her legs, her thighs. She could feel his eyes traveling over her — estimating her, summer her up, wondering about her. As she climbed the last flight of stairs, she was aware that the skin on her back was crawling with fear. Fear of what? she asked herself. Fear of him, fear of the dark, of the smells in the halls, the high steep stairs, of yourself?”
'She held the paper in her hand for a long time, trying to follow the reasoning by which that thin ragged boy had become in the eyes of a reporter a ‘burly Negro.’ And she decided that it all depended on where you sat how these things looked. If you looked at them from inside the framework of a fat weekly salary, and you thought of colored people as naturally criminal, then you didn’t really see what any Negro looked like. You couldn’t because the Negro was never an individual. He was a threat, or an animal, or a curse, or a blight, or a joke.'
I always wonder if Robert Frank read the Street because when I see his picture of the black nanny with the white baby it makes me think of the Lutie (the mother) and her son (Bub).