Harlem in New York

Friday, 28 December 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, New York City
Reading Time:  12 minutes

Cotton Club © Gotanero/cc-by-sa-3.0

Cotton Club © Gotanero/cc-by-sa-3.0

Harlem is a large neighborhood in the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. Since the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a major African American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem’s history has been defined by a series of economic boom-and-bust cycles, with significant population shifts accompanying each cycle. Since New York City’s revival in the late 20th century, Harlem has been experiencing the effects of gentrification and new wealth.

Following the Civil War, poor Jews and poor Italians were the predominant demographics in Harlem. African-American residents began to arrive in large numbers in 1905 as part of the Great Migration. In the 1920s and 1930s, Central and West Harlem were the focus of the “Harlem Renaissance“, an outpouring of artistic work without precedent in the American-black community. However, with job losses during the Great Depression and the deindustrialization of New York City after World War II, rates of crime and poverty increased significantly. Harlem’s African-American population peaked in the 1950s. In the second half of the 20th century, Harlem became a major hub of African-American businesses. In 2008, the United States Census found that, for the first time since the 1930s, fewer than half of the residents were black, constituting only 40% of the population.

Harlem is located in Upper Manhattan, often referred to as Uptown by locals. It stretches from the Harlem River and East River in the east, to the Hudson River to the west; and between 155th Street in the north, where it meets Washington Heights, and an uneven boundary along the south that runs along either 96th Street east of Fifth Avenue or 110th Street west of Fifth Avenue. Central Harlem is bounded by Fifth Avenue on the east, Central Park on the south, Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Avenue and Edgecombe Avenue on the west, and the Harlem River on the north. A chain of three large linear parks—Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Park and Jackie Robinson Park—are situated on steeply rising banks and form most of the district’s western boundary. On the east, Fifth Avenue and Marcus Garvey Park, also known as Mount Morris Park, separate this area from East Harlem. The bulk of the area falls under Manhattan Community Board No. 10. In the late 2000s, South Harlem, emerged from area redevelopment, running along Frederick Douglass Boulevard from West 110th to West 138th Streets. The West Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights comprise part of Manhattan Community Board No. 9. The two neighborhoods’ area is bounded by Cathedral Parkway (110th Street) on the South; 155th Street on the North; Manhattan/Morningside Ave/St. Nicholas/Bradhurst/Edgecome Avenues on the East; and Riverside Park/the Hudson River on the west. Manhattanville begins at roughly 123rd Street and extends northward to 135th Street. The northern most section of West Harlem is Hamilton Heights. East Harlem, also called Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, within Manhattan Community Board 11, is bounded by East 96th Street on the south, East 138th Street on the north, Fifth Avenue on the west, and the Harlem River on the east.

Jumel Terrace Historic District © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Sugar Hill © Marcel René Kalt St. Nicholas Historic District - Striver's Row © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture © Jim.henderson Rowhouse built for the African-American population in the 1930s © Aude/cc-by-sa-2.5 Old Broadway Synagogue © Jim.henderson James A. and Ruth M. Bailey House © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Hotel Theresa © Shugars/cc-by-sa-4.0 Harlem YMCA © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Harlem River Houses © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Dunbar Apartments © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Duke Ellington Circle © Jim.henderson Cotton Club © Gotanero/cc-by-sa-3.0 Astor Row © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Apartment buildings adjacent to Morningside Park © Momos Abyssinian Baptist Church © flickr.com - DennisInAmsterdam/cc-by-sa-2.0
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Rowhouse built for the African-American population in the 1930s © Aude/cc-by-sa-2.5
In the 1920s and 1930s, Central and West Harlem was the focus of the “Harlem Renaissance“, an outpouring of artistic work without precedent in the American Black community. Though Harlem musicians and writers are particularly well remembered, the community has also hosted numerous actors and theater companies, including the New Heritage Repertory Theater, National Black Theater, Lafayette Players, Harlem Suitcase Theater, The Negro Playwrights, American Negro Theater, and the Rose McClendon Players. The Apollo Theater opened on 125th Street on January 26, 1934, in a former burlesque house. The Savoy Ballroom, on Lenox Avenue, was a renowned venue for swing dancing, and was immortalized in a popular song of the era, “Stompin’ At The Savoy”. In the 1920s and 1930s, between Lenox and Seventh Avenues in central Harlem, over 125 entertainment venues were in operation, including speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theaters, dance halls, and bars and grills. 133rd Street, known as “Swing Street”, became known for its cabarets, speakeasies and jazz scene during the Prohibition era, and was dubbed “Jungle Alley” because of “inter-racial mingling” on the street. Some jazz venues, including the Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington played, and Connie’s Inn, were restricted to whites only. Others were integrated, including the Renaissance Ballroom and the Savoy Ballroom. In 1936, Orson Welles produced his black Macbeth at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. Grand theaters from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were torn down or converted to churches. Harlem lacked any permanent performance space until the creation of the Gatehouse Theater in an old Croton aqueduct building on 135th Street in 2006. From 1965 until 2007, the community was home to the Harlem Boys Choir, a touring choir and education program for young boys, most of whom are black. The Girls Choir of Harlem was founded in 1989, and closed with the Boys Choir. Harlem is also home to the largest African American Day Parade which celebrates the culture of African diaspora in America. The parade was started up in the spring of 1969 with Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. as the Grand Marshal of the first celebration. Arthur Mitchell, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, established Dance Theatre of Harlem as a school and company of classical ballet and theater training in the late 1960s. The company has toured nationally and internationally. Generations of theater artists have gotten a start at the school. Manhattan’s contributions to hip-hop stems largely from artists with Harlem roots such as Big L, Kurtis Blow and Immortal Technique. Harlem is also the birthplace of popular hip-hop dances such as the Harlem shake, toe wop, and Chicken Noodle Soup. Harlem is currently experiencing a gourmet renaissance with new dining hotspots popping up uptown around Frederick Douglass Boulevard. At the same time, some residents are fighting back against the powerful waves of gentrification the neighborhood is experiencing. On October 17, 2013, residents staged a sidewalk sit-in to protest a five-days-a-week farmers market that would shut down Macombs Place at 150th Street. In the 1920s, African American pianists who lived in Harlem invented their own style of jazz piano, called stride, which was heavily influenced by ragtime. This style played a very important role in early jazz piano.

Religious life has historically had a strong presence in Black Harlem. The area is home to over 400 churches. Major Christian denominations include Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists (generally African Methodist Episcopalian, or “AME”), Episcopalians, and Roman Catholic. The Abyssinian Baptist Church has long been influential because of its large congregation, and recently wealthy on account of its extensive real estate holdings. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built a chapel on 128th Street in 2005. Previously the Church had had a branch meeting around the corner in a former Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall. As of 2015, there are three LDS wards meeting at the Harlem Chapel. Many of the area’s churches are “storefront churches“, which operate in an empty store, or a basement, or a converted brownstone townhouse. These congregations may have fewer than 30–50 members each, but there are hundreds of them. Others are old, large, and designated landmarks. Especially in the years before World War II, Harlem produced popular Christian charismatic “cult” leaders, including George Wilson Becton and Father Divine. Mosques in Harlem include the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque No. 7 (formerly Mosque No. 7 Nation of Islam, and the location of the 1972 Harlem Mosque incident), the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood and Masjid Aqsa. Judaism, too, maintains a presence in Harlem through the Old Broadway Synagogue. A non-mainstream synagogue of Black Hebrews, known as Commandment Keepers, was based in a synagogue at 1 West 123rd Street until 2008.

Many places in Harlem are New York City Landmarks, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or are otherwise prominent:

Read more on nycgo.com – Must-See Harlem, NYHabitat.com – Furnished apartments in Harlem, New York Times – Harlem’s French Renaissance, Wikivoyage Harlem and Upper Manhattan and Wikipedia Harlem (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.










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