Harlem (1658- ), also called Uptown, is the part of Manhattan in New York City just north of Central Park. For much of the 1900s it was, in effect, the capital of black America. Its glory days were in the 1920s during the Harlem Renaissance. The Apollo Theater is there and so is the Cotton Club.
Some streets have been renamed:
- Martin Luther King Jr Blvd – 125th Street, the main street going east to west
- Malcolm X Blvd – Lenox Ave, the main street going north to south down the middle of Harlem
- Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd – 7th Avenue
- Frederick Douglass Blvd – 8th Avenue
Harlem was a woods and then farmland. In the 1800s summer homes began to appear, a place to get away from the city. In the 1880s the city itself started to spread into Harlem. At first it was a well-to-do white neighbourhood of Protestants and Jews.
Harlem turned black during the 1920s. It saw a flowering of the arts: the Harlem Renaissance. It became famous for its wild jazz joints along Lenox Avenue where both blacks and whites went. Harlem was still part white in those days. There were even white nightclubs where most blacks could not go, like the Cotton Club.
Blacks came mainly from the South and the West Indies. Some came from the old black neighbourhood on 52nd Street in Midtown Manhattan.
By 1930 Harlem had 225,000 blacks, making it larger than any black city in Africa or the world. But the 1930s brought bad times. The buildings started to fall apart and yet more people arrived. Riots broke out in 1935, 1943 and again in 1964.
In the 1950s and 1960s another wave of blacks came to New York from the South, but this time most moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and Jamaica, Queens, not Harlem. By the 1960s they each had more blacks than Harlem.
Harlem hit bottom in the 1980s: crack had arrived and property owners were giving up buildings as a lost cause to the city. Most people were poor and black, with Hispanics in the east and the north. There was a small black middle-class.
Most white people were afraid to go to Harlem, even to busy 125th Street in the middle of the day. That level of fear is not based on a sound reading of police reports. It is based on outright fear of blacks. Chinatown seemed worse yet plenty of whites went there.
With rising property values in Harlem since the late 1990s it is no longer as poor as it once was. Parts are even turning white again.
Given how close it is to Midtown Manhattan, Harlem is extremely underbuilt.
You saw Harlem in these films:
- Shaft (1971, 2000)
- Claudine (1974)
- Cotton Club (1984)
- Mo’ Better Blues (1990)
- Rage in Harlem (1991)
- Jungle Fever (1991)
- New Jack City (1991)
- Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
- American Gangster (2007)
– Abagond, 2008.
- New York
- Cynda Williams: Harlem Blues
- Harlem Renaissance:
- films set in Harlem
- Race in America
- black ghetto
- The best American writers live north of 110th Street