Harlem: Wikis


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The Apollo Theater on 125th Street; the Hotel Theresa is visible in the background.

Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural, and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658,[1] it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem was annexed to New York City in 1873.

Harlem has been defined by a series of boom-and-bust cycles, with significant ethnic shifts accompanying each cycle. Black residents began to arrive en masse in 1904, with numbers fed by the Great Migration. In the 1920s and 1930s, the neighborhood was the locus of the "Harlem Renaissance", an outpouring of artistic and professional works without precedent in the American black community. However, first, with the job losses in the time of the Great Depression and especially after World War II with deindustrialization in New York, rates of crime and poverty increased significantly.

New York's revival in the late 20th century has led to renewal in Harlem as well. By 1995, Harlem was experiencing social and economic gentrification. Though the percentage of residents who are black peaked in 1950, the area remains predominantly black.


Location and boundaries

The boundaries of modern Harlem; some landmarks are noted.

Harlem stretches from the East River west to the Hudson River between 155th Street; where it meets Washington Heights—to a ragged border along the south. Central Harlem begins at 110th Street, at the northern boundary of Central Park; Spanish Harlem extends east Harlem's boundaries south to 96th Street, while in the west it begins north of Upper West Side, which gives an irregular border west of Morningside Avenue. Harlem's boundaries have changed over the years; as Ralph Ellison observed: "Wherever Negroes live uptown is considered Harlem."[citation needed]

The neighborhood contains a number of smaller, cohesive districts. The following are some examples:

The New York City Police Department patrols five precincts located within Harlem. The areas of West Harlem are served by the 30th Precinct,[3] the areas of Central Harlem are served by the 28th[4] and 32nd Precincts,[5] and the areas of East Harlem are served by the 23rd[6] and 25th Precincts.[7]

Harlem is represented by New York's 15th congressional district, the New York State Senate's 30th district, the New York State Assembly's 68th and 70th districts, and the New York City Council's 7th, 8th, and 9th districts.


17th c. Colonial through 19th century Post-Bellum (1658 - 1873)

The first European settlement in what was then New Harlem was by Hendrick (Henry) de Forest, Isaac de Forest, his brother, and their sister Rachel de Forest, French - Dutch emigres in 1637.[8] Capt. Jochem Pieter[-sen] Kuyter, Jonas Bronck, and pioneer settler [Dr.] Johannes de la Montagne, a French Huguenot of Leiden, Holland, who arrived in New Harlem in July 1639. Like the Puritan English, Holland served as a haven for many exiled French Protestants too.[9] The area was originally inhabited by the Manhattans, a native tribe, who along with other Native Americans, most likely Lenape, repeatedly ambushed the Dutch, leading many to abandon it.[8] The settlement was formalized in 1658 as Nieuw Haarlem (New Haarlem), after the Dutch city of Haarlem, under leadership of Peter Stuyvesant.[10] The Indian trail to Harlem's lush bottomland meadows was rebuilt by black laborers of the Dutch West India Company,[11] and eventually developed into the Boston Post Road. In 1664, the English took control of the New Netherland colony and anglicized the name of the town to Harlem. On September 16, 1776, the Battle of Harlem Heights, sometimes referred to as the Battle of Harlem or Battle of Harlem Plain, was fought in western Harlem around the Hollow Way (now West 125th St.), with conflicts on Morningside Heights to the south and Harlem Heights to the north.

In 1765, Harlem was a small agricultural town not far from New York City.

Harlem was "a synonym for elegant living through a good part of the nineteenth century."[12] In the early years of that century, Harlem remained largely farmland estates, such as [Conrad] Van Keulen's Hook, orig. Otterspoor, bordered north of the Mill Creek (now 108th St., orig. Montagne Creek at 109th St.), which flowed into Harlem Lake, to the farm of Morris Randall, northwest on the Harlem River, and westward to the Peter Benson, or Mill Farm.[13] This former bowery [of land] was subdivided into twenty-two equal plots, of about 6 to 8 acres each, of which portions later owned by Abraham Storm, including thirty-one acres (east of Fifth Avenue between 110th & 125th St.) were sold by Storm's widow Catherine in 1795 to James Roosevelt (great grandfather of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1760 - 1847). This branch of the Roosevelt family subsequently moved to the town of Hyde Park, but several of Roosevelt's children remain interred in Harlem.[14]

As late as 1820, the community had dwindled to 91 families, one church, a school, and a library. Wealthy farmers, known as "patroons,"[12] maintained these country estates largely on the heights overlooking the Hudson River. Service connecting the outlays of Harlem with the rest of the City of New York (still rather contained on the southern tip of the island of Manhattan, roughly bordered to the north by Houston Street at then Bleecker Farm; modern day Washington Square Park) was done via steamboat on the East River, an hour-and-a-half passage, sometimes interrupted when the river froze in winter, or else by stagecoach along the Boston Post Road, which descended from McGown's Pass (now in Central Park) and skirted the salt marshes around 110th Street, to pass through Harlem.

An 1811 City of New York planning commission opined that "Harlem would not be developed for over a hundred years."[12] The New York and Harlem Railroad (now Metro North) was incorporated (1831), to better link the city with Harlem and Westchester Co., starting at a depot at East 23rd Street, and extending 127 miles north to a railroad junction in Columbia County at Chatham, New York by 1851.

In the years between roughly 1850 to 1870, the village of Harlem declined. Many large estates, including Hamilton Grange, the estate of Alexander Hamilton, were auctioned off as the fertile soil was depleted and crop yields fell. The land became occupied by Irish squatters, whose presence further depressed property values.[12]

19th c. Harlem Reconstruction & 20th c. Renaissance

Recovery came when elevated railroads were extended to Harlem in 1880. With the construction of the "els," urbanized development occurred very rapidly, with townhouses, apartments, and tenements springing up practically overnight. Developers anticipated that the planned Lexington Avenue subway would ease transportation to lower Manhattan. Fearing that new housing regulations would be enacted in 1901, they rushed to complete as many new buildings as possible before these came into force.[15] Early entrepreneurs had grandiose schemes for Harlem: Polo was played at the original Polo Grounds, later to become home of the New York Giants baseball team. Oscar Hammerstein I opened the Harlem Opera House on East 125th Street in 1889. In 1893, Harlem Monthly Magazine wrote that "it is evident to the most superficial observer that the centre of fashion, wealth, culture, and intelligence, must, in the near future, be found in the ancient and honorable village of Harlem."

However, the construction glut and a delay in the building of the subway led to a fall in real estate prices which attracted Eastern European Jews to Harlem in large numbers, reaching a peak of 150,000 in 1917. Presaging their resistance to arrival of blacks, existing landowners tried to stop Jews from moving into the neighborhood. At least one rental sign declared “Keine Juden und Keine Hunde” (No Jews and no dogs).[16]

Jewish Harlem, however, was ephemeral, and by 1930 only 5,000 Jews remained. The area now known as Spanish Harlem was then occupied by Italians. Italian Harlem is now gone as well, as many Italian descendants moved north. Traces of the community lasted into the 1970s, in the area around Pleasant Avenue. In the early 20th century, Harlem was also home to a significant Irish population, and a large group of Finns.[10]

Black population increase

Masjid Aqsa

Small groups of black people lived in Harlem as early as 1880, especially in the area around 125th Street and "Negro tenements" on West 130th Street. The mass migration of blacks into the area began in 1904, due to another real estate crash, the worsening of conditions for blacks elsewhere in the city, and the leadership of a black real estate entrepreneur named Phillip Payton, Jr. After the collapse of the 1890s, new speculation and construction started up again in 1903 and the resulting glut of housing led to a crash in values in 1904 and 1905 that eclipsed the late-19th century slowdown.[15] Landlords could not find white renters for their properties, so Philip Payton stepped in to bring blacks. His company, the Afro-American Realty Company, was almost single-handedly responsible for migration of blacks from their previous neighborhoods,[17] the Tenderloin, San Juan Hill (now the site of Lincoln Center), and Hell's Kitchen in the west 40s and 50s.[18][19] The move to northern Manhattan was driven in part by fears that anti-black riots such as those that had occurred in the Tenderloin in 1900[20] and in San Juan Hill in 1905[12] might recur. In addition, a number of tenements that had been occupied by blacks in the west 30s were destroyed at this time to make way for the construction of the original Penn Station.

In 1907, black churches began to move uptown. Saint Philip's Episcopal Church, for one, purchased a block of buildings on West 135th Street to rent to members of its congregation.[21]

The early 20th-century Great Migration of blacks to northern industrial cities was fueled by their desire to leave behind the Jim Crow South, seek better jobs and education for their children, and escape a culture of lynching violence. During World War I, expanding industries recruited black laborers to fill new jobs, thinly staffed after the draft began to take young men.[17] So many blacks came that it "threaten[ed] the very existence of some of the leading industries of Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama."[22] Many settled in Harlem. By 1920, central Harlem was 32.43% black. The 1930 census revealed that 70.18% of Central Harlem's residents were black and lived as far south as Central Park, at 110th Street.[23] The expansion was fueled primarily by an influx of blacks from the southern U.S. states, especially Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, who took trains up the East Coast. There were also numerous immigrants from the West Indies. As blacks moved in, white residents left; between 1920 and 1930, 118,792 white people left the neighborhood and 87,417 blacks arrived.

Between 1907 and 1915,[24] some white residents of Harlem resisted the neighborhood's change, especially once the swelling black population pressed west of Lenox Avenue, which served as an informal color line until the early 1920s.[17] Some made pacts not to sell to or rent to blacks.[25] Others tried to buy property and evict black tenants, but the Afro-American Realty Company retaliated by buying other property and evicting whites. They also attempted to convince banks to deny mortgages to black buyers, but soon gave up.[26]

These buildings on West 135 Street were among the first in Harlem to be occupied entirely by blacks; in 1921, #135 became home to Young's Book Exchange, the first "Afrocentric" bookstore in Harlem.[21]

Little investment in private homes or businesses took place in the neighborhood between 1911 and the 1990s. However, the unwillingness of landlords elsewhere in the city to rent to black tenants, together with a significant increase in the black population of New York, meant that rents in Harlem were for many years higher than rents elsewhere in the city, even as the housing stock decayed. In 1920, one-room apartments in central Harlem rented for $40 to whites or $100–$125 to blacks.[27] In the late 1920s, a typical white working-class family in New York paid $6.67 per month per room, while blacks in Harlem paid $9.50 for the same space.[28] The worse the accommodations and more desperate the renter, the higher the rents would be.[29] This pattern persisted through the 1960s; in 1965, CERGE reported that a one-room apartment in Harlem rented for $50–$74, while comparable apartments rented for $30–$49 in white slums.[30] The high rents encouraged some property speculators to engage in block busting, a practice whereby they would acquire a single property on a block and sell or rent it to blacks with great publicity. Other landowners would panic, and the speculators would then buy additional houses relatively cheaply.[31] These houses could then be rented profitably to blacks.[32]

One of the few ruined buildings remaining in Harlem, photographed on May 14, 2005. The building has since been demolished.

The high cost of space forced people to live in close quarters, and the population density of Harlem in these years was stunning—over 215,000 per square mile in the 1920s. By comparison, in 2000, Manhattan as a whole had a population density under 70,000 per square mile.[33] The same forces that allowed landlords to charge more for Harlem space also enabled them to maintain it less, and many of the residential buildings in Harlem fell into disrepair.

The 1960 census showed only 51% of housing in Harlem to be "sound," as opposed to 85% elsewhere in New York City.[34] In 1968, the New York City Buildings Department received 500 complaints daily of rats in Harlem buildings, falling plaster, lack of heat, and unsanitary plumbing.[12] Tenants were sometimes to blame; some would strip wiring and fixtures from their buildings to sell, throw garbage in hallways and airshafts, or otherwise damage the properties which they lived in or visited.[35]

Harlem has many townhouses, such as these in the Mount Morris Historic District.

Inadequate housing contributed to racial unrest and health problems. However, the lack of development also preserved buildings from the 1870–1910 building boom, and Harlem as a result has many of the finest original townhouses in New York. This includes work by many significant architects of the day, including McKim, Mead, and White; James Renwick; William Tuthill; Charles Buek; and Francis Kimball.

As the building stock decayed, landlords converted many buildings into "single room occupancies," or SROs, essentially private homeless shelters. In many cases, the income from these buildings could not support the fines and city taxes charged to their owners, or the houses suffered damage that would have been expensive to fix, and the buildings were abandoned. In the 1970s, this process accelerated to the point that Harlem, for the first time since before WWI, had a lower population density than the rest of Manhattan. Between 1970 and 1980, for example, Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 110th Street and 125th Street in central Harlem lost 42% of its population and 23% of its remaining housing stock.[36] By 1987, 65% of the buildings in Harlem were owned by the City of New York,[37][38] and many had become empty shells, convenient centers for drug dealing and other antisocial activity. The lack of habitable buildings and falling population reduced tax rolls and made the neighborhood even less attractive to residential and retail investment.

The doorframe of a brownstone designed by William Tuthill in the Mount Morris Historical District in Harlem.

Recent history

After four decades of decline, Harlem's population bottomed out in the 1990 census, at 101,026. It had decreased by 57% from its peak of 237,468 in 1950. Between 1990 and 2006 the neighborhood's population grew by 16.9%, including new middle-class residents of African-American, European-American, Hispanic and Asian descent.[23]

After years of false starts, Harlem began to see rapid gentrification in the late 1990s. This was driven by changing federal and city policies, including fierce crime-fighting and a concerted effort to develop the retail corridor on 125th Street. Starting in 1994, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone funneled money into new developments.[38] The number of housing units in Harlem increased 14% between 1990 and 2000.[38] The rate of increase has been much more rapid in recent years. Property values in Central Harlem increased nearly 300% during the 1990s, while the rest of the City saw only a 12% increase.[38] Even empty shells of buildings in the neighborhood were, as of 2007, routinely selling for nearly $1,000,000 each.[39] Since completing his second term in the White House in 2001, former U.S. President Bill Clinton has maintained his office at 55 West 125th Street.[40].

Culture and environment

As a center of black life

In the 1920s, Harlem was the center of a flowering of black culture that became known as the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of amazing artistic production, but blacks were sometimes excluded from viewing what their peers were creating. Some jazz venues, including most famously 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.

Since the 1920s, this period of Harlem's history has been highly romanticized. With the increase in a poor population, it was also the time when the neighborhood began to deteriorate to a slum, and some of the storied traditions of the Harlem Renaissance were driven by poverty, crime, or other social ills. For example, in this period, Harlem became known for "rent parties", informal gatherings in which bootleg alcohol was served and music played. Neighbors paid to attend, and thus enabled the host to make his or her monthly rent. Though picturesque, these parties were thrown out of necessity. Further, over a quarter of black households in Harlem made their monthly rent by taking in lodgers, who sometimes brought bad habits or even crime that disrupted the lives of respectable families. Urban reformers campaigned to eliminate the "lodger evil" but the problem got worse before it got better; in 1940, still affected by the Depression, 40% of black families in Harlem were taking in lodgers.[41]

The high rents and poor maintenance of housing stock, which Harlem residents suffered through much of the 20th century, was not merely the product of racism by white landlords. Though precise statistics are not available, wealthier blacks purchased land in Harlem,[17] and even by 1920, a significant portion of the neighborhood was owned by blacks.[15][42] By the late 1960s, 60% of the businesses in Harlem responding to surveys reported ownership by blacks, and an overwhelming fraction of new businesses were black owned after that time.[43]

In 1928, the first effort at housing reform was attempted in Harlem with the construction of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Houses, backed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. These were intended to give working people of modest means the opportunity to live in and, over time, purchase houses of their own. The Great Depression hit shortly after the buildings opened, and the experiment failed. They were followed in 1936 by the Harlem River Houses, a more modest experiment in housing projects.[15] And by 1964, nine giant public housing projects had been constructed in the neighborhood, housing over 41,000 people.[34]

Stately Harlem apartment buildings adjacent to Morningside Park.

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 places operated, including speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theaters, dance halls, and bars and grills.[44]

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,[10] National Black Theater, Lafayette Players, Harlem Suitcase Theater, The Negro Playwrights, American Negro Theater, and the Rose McClendon Players.[45] In 1936, Orson Welles produced his famous black Macbeth at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem.[46] 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 pumping station on 135th Street in 2006.[47]

In the post-World War II era, Harlem ceased to be home to a majority of NYC's blacks,[48] but it remained the cultural and political capital of black New York, and possibly black America.[49][50] The character of the community changed in the years after the war, as middle-class blacks left for the outer boroughs (primarily the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn) and suburbs. The percentage of Harlem that was black peaked in 1950, at 98.2%.[51] Thereafter, Hispanics and, more recently, white residents have increased their share.

Church of Nazareth, 144th Street and Hamilton Terrace. The building is currently a burned-out shell.

Black Harlem has always been religious. The area is home to over 400 churches.[52] Major Christian denominations include Baptists, Methodists (generally African Methodist Episcopalian, or "AME"), Episcopalians, and Roman Catholic. The Abyssinian Baptist Church has been a particularly potent organization, long influential because of its large congregation, and recently wealthy as a result of its extensive real estate holdings.

The Nation of Islam and splinter Black Muslim groups maintain mosques in Harlem, and the Mormon church established a chapel at 128th Street in 2005. Many of the area's churches are "storefront churches", which operate out of an empty store, or a building's basement, or a converted brownstone townhouse. These congregations may have fewer than 30-50 members each, but there are hundreds of them.[53] Judaism, too, maintains a presence in Harlem, including The Old Broadway Synagogue, Temple Healing from Heaven, and Temple of Joy. A non-mainstream synagogue of black Jews known as Commandment Keepers, was based in a synagogue at 1 West 123rd Street until 2008. Especially in the years before World War II, Harlem produced popular Christian charismatic "cult" leaders, including George Wilson Becton and Father Divine.[54]

Since 1965, the community has been home to the Harlem Boys Choir, a famous touring choir and education program for young boys, most of whom are black. The Girls Choir of Harlem was founded in 1988.

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.[55]

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 contribution to hip-hop stems largely from the artists who have Harlem roots, including Kurtis Blow, and P. Diddy. Harlem is also the birthplace of popular hip-hop dances such as the Harlem shake, toe wop, and Chicken Noodle Soup.

Poverty and health

The neighborhood suffers from unemployment rates higher than the New York average (generally more than twice as high),[56] and high mortality rates as well. In both cases, the numbers for men have been consistently worse than the numbers for women. Unemployment and poverty in the neighborhood resisted private and governmental initiatives to ameliorate them. In the 1960s, uneducated blacks could find jobs more easily than educated ones could, confounding efforts to improve the lives of people who lived in the neighborhood through education.[57] Infant mortality was 124 per thousand in 1928 (twice the rate for whites).[58] By 1940, infant mortality in Harlem was 5% (one black infant in twenty would die), still much higher than white, and the death rate from disease generally was twice that of the rest of New York. Tuberculosis was the main killer, and four times as prevalent among Harlem blacks than among New York's white population.[58]

A 1990 study reported that 15-year-old black women in Harlem had a 65% chance of surviving to age 65, about the same as women in India. Black men in Harlem, on the other hand, had a 37% chance of surviving to age 65, about the same as men in Angola.[59] Infectious diseases and diseases of the circulatory system were to blame, with a variety of contributing factors, including consumption of the deep-fried foods traditional to the South and neighborhood, which may contribute to heart disease.

The neighborhood remains a predominantly African-American area, with census data revealing about 72% of the population in 2005 to have been black. The number of white residents has increased from only 672 people in 1980, about 0.5% of the population, to some 5000 people, or 4.3% of the population, in 2005. As of September 2008, their number was estimated to have tripled from 2005 levels.[60][61]


As a neighborhood with a long history of marginalization and economic deprivation, Harlem has long been associated with high rates of crime. In the 1920s, the Jewish[citation needed] and Italian mafia[citation needed] played major roles in running the whites-only nightclubs and the speakeasies that catered to a white audience. Mobster Dutch Schultz controlled all liquor production and distribution in Harlem during Prohibition in the 1920s.

Rather than compete with the established mobs, black gangsters concentrated on the "policy racket," also called the Numbers game, or bolita in Spanish Harlem. This was a gambling scheme similar to a lottery that could be played, illegally, from countless locations around Harlem. According to Francis Ianni, "By 1925 there were thirty black policy banks in Harlem, several of them large enough to collect bets in an area of twenty city blocks and across three or four avenues."[62]

By the early 1950s, the total money at play amounted to billions of dollars, and the police force had been thoroughly corrupted by bribes from numbers bosses.[63] These bosses became financial powerhouses, providing capital for loans for those who could not qualify for them from traditional financial institutions, and investing in legitimate businesses and real estate. One of the powerful early numbers bosses was a woman, Madame Stephanie St. Clair.

Shoes hanging from a lamppost in Harlem

The popularity of playing the numbers waned with the introduction of the state lottery, which has higher payouts and is legal. The practice continues on a smaller scale among those who prefer the numbers tradition or who prefer to trust their local numbers bank over the state.

1940 statistics show about 100 murders per year in Harlem, "but rape is very rare."[41] By 1950, essentially all of the whites had left Harlem and by 1960, much of the black middle class had departed. At the same time, control of organized crime shifted from Jewish and Italian syndicates to local black, Puerto Rican, and Cuban groups that were somewhat less formally organized.[62] At the time of the 1964 riots, the drug addiction rate in Harlem was ten times higher than the New York City average, and twelve times higher than the United States as a whole. Of the 30,000 drug addicts then estimated to live in New York City, 15,000 to 20,000 lived in Harlem. Property crime was pervasive, and the murder rate was six times higher than New York's average. Half of the children in Harlem grew up with one parent, or none, and lack of supervision contributed to juvenile delinquency; between 1953 and 1962, the crime rate among young people increased throughout New York City, but was consistently 50% higher in Harlem than in New York City as a whole.[64]

Injecting heroin grew in popularity in Harlem through the 1950s and 1960s, though the use of this drug then leveled off. In the 1980s, use of crack cocaine became widespread, which produced collateral crime as addicts stole to finance their purchasing of additional drugs, and as dealers fought for the right to sell in particular regions, or over deals gone bad.[65]

In 1981, 6,500 robberies were reported in Harlem. The number dropped to 4,800 in 1990, perhaps due to an increase in the number of police assigned to the neighborhood. With the end of the "crack wars" in the mid 90s and with the initiation of aggressive policing under mayor Rudolph Giuliani, crime in Harlem plummeted. In 2000, 1,700 robberies were reported. There have been similar changes in all categories of crimes tracked by the New York City Police Department.[66] In the 32nd Precinct, which services Central Harlem above 127th Street, for example, between 1990 and 2008, the murder rate dropped 80%, the rape rate dropped 58%, the robbery rate dropped 73%, burglary dropped 86%, and the total number of crime complaints dropped 73%.[67].

Politics and activism in Harlem

1910–1945, as Harlem became the capital of black America

Soon after blacks began to move into Harlem, the community became known as "the spiritual home of the Negro protest movement."[68] The NAACP became active in Harlem in 1910 and Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1916. The NAACP chapter there soon grew to be the largest in the country. Activist A. Philip Randolph lived in Harlem and published the radical magazine The Messenger starting in 1917. It was from Harlem that he organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. W. E. B. Du Bois lived and published in Harlem in the 1920s, as did James Weldon Johnson and Marcus Garvey.

The earliest activism by blacks to change the situation in Harlem itself grew out of the Great Depression, with the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" movement.[54] This was the ultimately successful campaign to force retail shops on 125th Street to hire black employees. Boycotts were originally organized by the Citizens' League for Fair Play in June 1934 against Blumstein's Department Store on 125th Street. The store soon agreed to more fully integrate its staff. This success emboldened Harlem residents, and protests continued under other leadership, including that of preacher and later congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., seeking to change hiring practices at other stores, to effect the hiring of more black workers, or the hiring of members of particular protesting groups.[69]

Communism gained a following in Harlem in the 1930s, and continued to play a role through the 1940s.[68] 1935 saw the first of Harlem's five riots. The incident started with a (false) rumor that a boy caught stealing from a store on 125th Street had been killed by the police. By the time it was over, 600 stores had been looted and three men were dead. The same year saw internationalism in Harlem politics, as Harlemites responded to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia by holding giant rallies, signing petitions and sending an appeal to the League of Nations.[70] Such internationalism continued intermittently, including broad demonstrations in favor of Egyptian president Nasser after the Suez invasion of 1956.[71]

The neighborhood enjoyed few benefits from the massive public works projects in New York under Robert Moses in the 1930s, and as a result had fewer parks and public recreational sites than other New York neighborhoods. Of the 255 playgrounds Moses built in New York City, he placed only one in Harlem.[72]

In 1937, the Harlem River Houses, America's first federally subsidized housing project, were opened. Other massive housing projects would follow, with tens of thousands of units constructed over the next twenty years.[73]

Black Harlemites took positions in the elected political infrastructure of New York starting in 1941 with the election of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. to the City Council. He was easily elected to Congress when a congressional district was placed in Harlem in 1944, leaving his City Council seat to be won by another black Harlemite, Benjamin J. Davis. Ironically, Harlem's political strength soon deteriorated, as Clayton Powell, Jr. spent his time in Washington or his vacation home in Puerto Rico, and Davis was jailed in 1951 for violations of the Smith Act.[74]

The year 1943 saw the second Harlem riot. A black soldier knocked down a policeman who then shot him. An onlooker shouted that the soldier had been killed, and this news spread throughout the black community and provoked rioting. A force of 6,600, made up of city police, military police and civil patrolmen, in addition to 8,000 State Guardsmen and 1,500 civilian volunteers was required to end the violence. Hundreds of businesses were destroyed and looted, the property damage approaching $225,000. Overall, six people died and 185 were injured. Five hundred people were arrested in connection with the riot.

1946–1969, the civil rights movement

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Harlem was the scene of a series of rent strikes by neighborhood tenants, led by local activist Jesse Gray, together with the Congress of Racial Equality, Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU), and other groups. These groups wanted the city to force landlords to improve the quality of housing by bringing them up to code, to take action against rats and roaches, to provide heat during the winter, and to keep prices in line with existing rent control regulations. According to the Metropolitan Council on Housing, in the mid-1960s, about 25% of the city's landlords charged more for rent than allowed by law.[75]

Many groups mobilized in Harlem in the 1960s, fighting for better schools, jobs, and housing. Some were peaceful and others advocated violence. By the early 1960s, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) had offices on 125th street, and acted as negotiator for the community with the city, especially in times of racial unrest. They pressed for civilian review boards to hear complaints of police abuse, a demand that was ultimately met. As chairman of the House Committee of Education and Labor at the start of the 1960s, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. used this position to direct federal funds to various development projects in Harlem.[76]

The influence of the southern nonviolent protest movement was muted in Harlem. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the black leader most respected in Harlem,[77][78] but at least two dozen groups of black nationalists also operated in New York. The most important of these was the Nation of Islam, whose Temple Number Seven was run by Malcolm X from 1952 - 1963.[79] Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights in 1965. The neighborhood remains an important center for the Nation of Islam.

The largest public works projects in Harlem in these years were public housing, with the largest concentration built in East Harlem.[80] Typically, existing structures were torn down and replaced with city-designed and managed properties that would, in theory, present a safer and more pleasant environment than those available from private landlords. Ultimately, community objections halted the construction of new projects.[73]

From the mid-20th century, the terrible quality of local schools has been a source of distress. In the 1960s, about 75% of Harlem students tested under grade levels in reading skills, and 80% tested under grade level in math.[81] In 1964, residents of Harlem staged two school boycotts to call attention to the problem. In central Harlem, 92% of students stayed home.[82] In 1977, Isiah Robinson, president of the New York City Board of Education, was quoted as saying that "the quality of education in Harlem has degenerated to the level of a custodial service."[10] As of May 2006, Harlem is the heart of the charter schools movement in Manhattan; of the 25 charter schools operating in Manhattan, 18 are in Harlem.[83]

In 1963, Inspector Lloyd Sealy made history becoming the first African-American officer of the NYPD to command a police station, the 28th precinct located in Harlem.[84] Community relations between Harlem residents and the NYPD were strained as civil rights activists requested that the NYPD hire more black police officers, specifically in Harlem. In 1964, across Harlem's three precincts, the ratio was one black police officer for every six white officers.[85] Allegations of police brutality and corruption among Harlem's populace,[85] and with the low percentage of black officers on the NYPD, relations between the black community and the police department remained strained. A riot broke in the summer of 1964 following the fatal shooting of an unarmed 15-year-old black teenager by an off-duty white police lieutenant. One person was killed, more than 100 were injured, and hundreds more were arrested. Property damage and looting were extensive. The riot would later spread out of Manhattan and into the borough of Brooklyn and neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the heart of Brooklyn's African-American community. In the aftermath of the riots, the federal government funded a pilot program called Project Uplift, in which thousands of young people in Harlem were given jobs during the summer of 1965. The project was inspired by a report generated by HARYOU called Youth in the Ghetto.[86] HARYOU was given a major role in organizing the project, along with the National Urban League and nearly 100 smaller community organizations.[87]

In 1966, the Black Panthers organized a group in Harlem, agitating for violence in pursuit of change. Speaking at a rally of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Max Stanford, a Black Panther, declared that the United States "could be brought down to its knees with a rag and some gasoline and a bottle."[88]

In 1968, Harlemites rioted in despair after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., as did black residents in other U.S. cities. Two people died—one stabbed to death in a crowd and another trapped in a burning building. Mayor John Lindsay helped to quell the rioting by marching up Lenox Avenue in a "hail of bricks" to confront the angry crowds.[89]


By some measures, the 1970s were the worst period in Harlem's history. Many of those Harlemites who were able to escape from poverty left the neighborhood in search of safer streets, better schools and homes. Those who remained were the poorest and least skilled, with the fewest opportunities for success. Though the federal government's Model Cities Program spent $100 million on job training, health care, education, public safety, sanitation, housing, and other projects over a ten-year period, Harlem showed no improvement.[90]

The deterioration shows up starkly in the statistics of the period. In 1968, Harlem's infant mortality rate had been 37 for each 1000 live births, as compared to 23.1 in the city as a whole. Over the next eight years, infant mortality for the city as whole improved to 19, while the rate in Harlem increased to 42.8, more than double. Statistics describing illness, drug addiction, housing quality, and education are similarly grim and typically show rapid deterioration in the 1970s. The wholesale abandonment of housing, described in the "Ghettoization" section above, was so pronounced that between 1976 and 1978 alone, central Harlem lost almost a third of its total population, and east Harlem lost about 27%.[90] The neighborhood no longer had a functioning economy; stores were shuttered and by estimates published in 1971, 60% of the area's economic life depended on the cash flow from the illegal "Numbers game" alone.[91]

The worst part of Harlem was the "Bradhurst section" between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Edgecombe, from 139th Street through 155th. In 1991, this region was described in the New York Times as follows: "Since 1970, an exodus of residents has left behind the poor, the uneducated, the unemployed. Nearly two-thirds of the households have incomes below $10,000 a year. In a community with one of the highest crime rates in the city, garbage-strewn vacant lots and tumbledown tenements, many of them abandoned and sealed, contribute to the sense of danger and desolation that pervades much of the area."[92]

Plans for rectifying the situation often started with the restoration of 125th Street, long the economic heart of black Harlem.[93] By the late 1970s, only marginalized and poor retail remained.[94] Plans were drafted for a "Harlem International Trade Center," which would have filled the entire block between 125th Street and 126th, from Lenox to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, with an center for trade with the third world. A related retail complex was planned to the west, between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and St. Nicholas. However, this plan depended on $30 million in financing from the federal government,[93] and with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency of the United States, it had no hope of being completed.[94]

The city did provide one large construction project, though not so favored by residents. Starting in the 1960s and continuing through the 1970s, Harlemites fought the introduction of an immense sewage treatment plant, the North River Water Pollution Control Plant, on the Hudson River in West Harlem. A compromise was ultimately reached in which the plant was built with a state park, including extensive recreational facilities, on top. The park, called Riverbank State Park, was opened in 1993 (the sewage plant having been completed some years earlier).[95]

By 1980, the City of New York owned 60% of all residential property in Harlem,[96] and began auctioning these properties to the public in 1985. Only a small fraction would be sold at this time, and later scandals would temporarily halt the sales altogether.


The city's sale of confiscated houses was intended to improve the community by placing property in the hands of people who would live in them and maintain them. In many cases, the city would even pay to completely renovate a property before selling it (by lottery) below market value.[97] The program was soon beset by scandal—buyers were acquiring houses from the city, then making deals with churches or other charities in which they would inflate the appraised values of the properties and the church or charity would take out federally guaranteed 203(k) mortgage and buy it. The original buyer would realize a profit and the church or charity would default on the mortgage (presumably getting some kind of kickback from the developer).[98][99] Abandoned shells were left to further deteriorate, and about a third of the properties sold by the city were tenements which still had tenants, who were left in particularly miserable conditions. These properties, and new restrictions on Harlem mortgages, bedeviled the area's residential real estate market for years.

From 1987 through 1990, the city removed long-unused trolley tracks from 125th Street, laid new water mains and sewers, installed new sidewalks, curbs, traffic lights, street lights, and planted trees. Two years later, national chains opened branches on 125th Street for the first time -- The Body Shop opened a store at 125th street and 5th Avenue (still extant as of 2009), and a Ben & Jerry's ice cream franchise employing formerly homeless people opened across the street.[100] The development of the region would leap forward a few years later with the introduction of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, which brought $300 million in development funds and $250 million in tax breaks.[101]

Plans were laid for shopping malls, movie theaters, and museums. However, these plans were nearly derailed in 1995 by the "Freddy's Fashion Mart" riot, which culminated in political arson and eight deaths. These riots did not resemble their predecessors, and were organized by black activists against Jewish shop owners on 125th street.[102]

Five years later, the revitalization of 125th Street resumed, with the construction of a Starbucks outlet backed in part by Magic Johnson (1999), the first supermarket in Harlem in 30 years,[101] the Harlem USA retail complex, which included the first first-run movie theater in many years (2000),[101] and a new home for the Studio Museum in Harlem (2001). In the same year, former president Bill Clinton took office space in Harlem. In 2002, a large retail and office complex called Harlem Center was completed at the corner of Lenox and 125th.[101] There has been extensive new construction and rehabilitation of older buildings in the years since.

Sign attacking Barack Obama outside the Atlah World Missionary Church in the former Harlem Club at 123rd Street and Lenox Avenue

In January 2010, The New York Times reported that in "Greater Harlem," which they defined as running from the East River to the Hudson River, from 96th Street to 155th Street, blacks ceased to be a majority of the population in 1998, with the change largely attributable to the rapid arrival of new white and Hispanic residents. The paper reported that the population of the area had grown more since 2000 than in any decade since the 1940s.[61]

The neighborhood's changes have provoked some discontent. James David Manning, pastor of the ATLAH World Missionary church on Lenox Avenue, has received press for declaring a boycott on all Harlem shops, restaurants, other businesses, and churches other than his own. He believes that this will cause an economic crash that will drive out white residents and drop property values to a level his supporters can afford.[103] There have been rallies against gentrification.[104]

Harlem landmarks

Hotel Theresa building at the corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and 125th Street
St Martin's Episcopal Church at Malcolm X Blvd and 122


The New York Public Library operates the Harlem Branch Library at 9 West 124th Street,[105] the 115th Street Branch Library at 203 West 115th Street,[106] and the 125th Street Branch Library at 224 East 125th Street, near Third Avenue.[107] The Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, diagonally across 125th Street from the Apollo Theater, opened it doors in September 2007 in the former Blumstein's Department Store building.

See also


  1. ^ Pierce, Carl Horton, et al. New Harlem Past and Present: the Story of an Amazing Civic Wrong, Now at Last to be Righted. New York: New Harlem Pub. Co., 1903.
  2. ^ New York Magazine, Harlem article
  3. ^ 30th Precinct, New York City Police Department.
  4. ^ 28th Precinct, New York City Police Department.
  5. ^ 32nd Precinct New York City Police Department.
  6. ^ 23rd Precinct, New York City Police Department.
  7. ^ 25th Precinct, New York City Police Department.
  8. ^ a b Ellis, Edward Robb (1966). The Epic of New York City. Old Town Books. pp. 52. 
  9. ^ Ibid, Pierce, 1903, p. 1
  10. ^ a b c d "To Live In Harlem," Frank Hercules, National Geographic, February 1977, p.178+
  11. ^ Introduction to Harlem USA, John Henrick Clarke, 1970
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Harlem, the Village That Became a Ghetto," Martin Duberman, in New York, N.Y.: An American Heritage History of the Nation's Greatest City, 1968
  13. ^ Riker, James. Revised History of Harlem (City of New York): Its Origin and Early Annals: Prefaced by Home Scenes in the Fatherlands; or, Notices of Its Founders Before Emigration. Also, Sketches of Numerous Families, and the Recovered Histories of Land – Titles. New York: J. Riker, 1881, pp. 588 – 591.
  14. ^ Hoffman, Eugene Augustus. Genealogy of the Hoffman Family: Descendants of Martin Hoffman, with Biographical Notes. Pub. Dodd and Mead, 1899, pp. 262 – 264.
  15. ^ a b c d "The Growth and Decline of Harlem's Housing", Thorin Tritter, Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, January 31, 1998
  16. ^ Malcolm, Bruce Perry, Station Hill, 1991. page 154-155
  17. ^ a b c d "The Making of Harlem," James Weldon Johnson, The Survey Graphic, March 1925
  18. ^ "Negro Districts in Manhattan," The New York Times, November 17, 1901
  19. ^ "Negroes Move Into Harlem," New York Herald, December 24, 1905
  20. ^ Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphnso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p.26
  21. ^ a b "Africa-Conscious Harlem," Richard B. Moore, in Harlem U.S.A., 1971 ed. p.37
  22. ^ "118,000 Negroes Move From The South", The New York World, November 5, 1917
  23. ^ a b "Harlem's Shifting Population" by Andrew Beveridge August 27, 2008
  24. ^ "Harlem, the Making of a Ghetto," Gilbert Osofsky, in Harlem U.S.A., 1971 ed. p.13
  25. ^ Osofsky, "Making of a Ghetto", in Harlem: A Community in Transition, 1964, p.20
  26. ^ "Loans To White Renegades Who Back Negroes Cut Off," Harlem Home News, April 7, 1911
  27. ^ "Landlord Brings in Negroes to Get High Rents," The New York Times, January 27, 1920
  28. ^ "Gilbert Osofsky, 1963"
  29. ^ "Powell Says Rent Too High," New York Post, March 28, 1935
  30. ^ "Harlem Stirs, 1966, p.17"
  31. ^ "Harlem, the Making of a Ghetto," Gilbert Osofsky, in Harlem U.S.A., 1971 ed. p.12
  32. ^ Malcolm, Bruce Perry, Station Hill, 1991. page 155
  33. ^ Demographia population density figures
  34. ^ a b Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphnso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p.29
  35. ^ Malcolm, Bruce Perry, Station Hill, 1991. page 156
  36. ^ New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, Jacob Tilove, 2006. p.1021
  37. ^ "City Hall Holds The Key. Harlem's renaissance finds lots of friends, and a few foes," Christian Science Monitor, March 12, 1987
  38. ^ a b c d The Economic Redevelopment of Harlem, PhD Thesis of Eldad Gothelf, submitted to Columbia University in May 2004
  39. ^ "After the Shell Game", S. Jhoanna Robledo, New York Magazine, March 26, 2007, p.69. The article states that, after rocketing upwards for many years, prices on shells have settled to about the same level in 2007 as they had been in 2005. Examples are given of sales around $800,000.
  40. ^ "New boy in the 'hood," The Observer, August 5, 2001
  41. ^ a b "244,000 Native Sons", Look Magazine, May 21, 1940, p.8+
  42. ^ Inside U.S.A., John Gunther, 1947 specifically cites a black man named A. A. Austin who owned many properties.
  43. ^ The Economic Development of Harlem, Thomas Vietorisz and Bennett Harrison, Praeger Special Studies in U.S. Economic and Social Development, 1970, p.37, p.45, p.238
  44. ^ The Big Bands Database, My Harlem Reverie
  45. ^ Jim Williams, "Need for Harlem Theater", in Harlem: A Community in Transition, 1964. p.158
  46. ^ "Jam Streets as 'Macbeth' Opens", The New York Times, April 15, 1936
  47. ^ "Gatehouse Ushers in a Second Act as a Theater", The New York Times, October 17, 2006
  48. ^ "Harlem Losing Ground as Negro Area," New York Herald Tribune, April 6, 1952
  49. ^ Powell, Michael. "Harlem's New Rush: Booming Real Estate", The Washington Post, March 13, 2005. Accessed May 18, 2007. "The transformation of this historic capital of Black America has taken an amphetamined step or three beyond a Starbucks, a Body Shop and former president Bill Clinton taking an office on 125th Street."
  50. ^ Brooks, Charles. "Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America - nonfiction reviews - book review", Black Issues Book Review., March-April, 2002. Accessed May 18, 2007. "There's a mystique that surrounds Harlem --with its rich historical tradition, literature, music, dance, politics and social activism. Consequently, Harlem is referred to as the "Black Mecca" the capital of black America, and arguably the most recognized black community in the country."
  51. ^ Alphonso Pinkney & Roger Woock, Poverty and Politics in Harlem, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p.27
  52. ^ "The New Heyday of Harlem," Tessa Souter, The Independent, Sunday, June 8, 1997
  53. ^ Fact Not Fiction In Harlem, John H. Johnson, St. Martin's Church, 1980. p.69+
  54. ^ a b Harlem U.S.A., ed. John Henrik Clarke, introduction to 1971 edition
  55. ^ [1] Parade website
  56. ^ Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphnso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p.31
  57. ^ The Economic Development of Harlem, Thomas Vietorisz and Bennett Harrison, Praeger Special Studies in U.S. Economic and Social Development, 1970, p.19
  58. ^ a b "Congestion Causes High Mortality," The New York Times, October 24, 1929
  59. ^ McCord C and HP Freeman. "Excess Mortality in Harlem." New England Journal of Medicine 322(1990):173-177
  60. ^ Timothy Williams, "In an Evolving Harlem, Newcomers Try to Fit In," New York Times, September 7, 2008, P. A33
  61. ^ a b "In Harlem, Blacks Are No Longer a Majority," Sam Roberts, The New York Times, January 6, 2010, p.A16
  62. ^ a b Francis A.J. Ianni, Black Mafia, 1974
  63. ^ "Inside Story of Numbers Racket", Amsterdam News, August 21, 1954
  64. ^ Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphonso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p.33
  65. ^ "Harlem Speaks: A Living History of the Harlem Renaissance." Wintz, Cary.
  66. ^ "How New York Cut Crime", Reform Magazine, Autumn 2002 p.11
  67. ^ "Compstat - Volume 16 No.4 - 32nd Precinct" (PDF). nyc.gov. NYPD Compstat unit. 2009-01-26. http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/crime_statistics/cs032pct.pdf. Retrieved 2009-01-28. 
  68. ^ a b "New York's Racial Unrest: Mounting Negro Anger Swells Protests," Layhmond Robinson, The New York Times, August 12, 1963, p.1
  69. ^ Fact Not Fiction In Harlem, John H. Johnson, St. Martin's Church, 1980., p.52+
  70. ^ "Africa-Conscious Harlem," in Harlem U.S.A.," John Henrick Clarke, ed. 1971, p.50
  71. ^ "Africa-Conscious Harlem," in Harlem U.S.A.," John Henrick Clarke, ed. 1971, p.51
  72. ^ The Power Broker, Robert Moses, p.252, p.318-319, p.490, p.491, p.509-514, 525-561, 578, 589, 736, 834, 1086, 1101
  73. ^ a b East Harlem's History, New Directions: A 197-A Plan for Manhattan Community district 11 (Revised 1999)
  74. ^ "Four Men of Harlem -- The Movers and the Shakers," in Harlem, U.S.A., John Henrik Clarke, 1971 edition, p.262
  75. ^ "Harlem Stirs, 1966, p.27
  76. ^ "Four Men of Harlem -- The Movers and the Shakers," in Harlem, U.S.A., John Henrik Clarke, 1971 edition, p.264
  77. ^ Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphnso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p.41
  78. ^ Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphnso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p.99
  79. ^ E. U. Essien-Udom, "The Nationalist Movements of Harlem", in Harlem: A Community in Transition, 1964, p.97
  80. ^ "A Landmark Struggle," Lisa Davis, Preservation Online, November 21, 2003
  81. ^ Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphnso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p.33
  82. ^ "Harlem Stirs, 1966, p.104
  83. ^ New York Charter Schools Association
  84. ^ New York City Police Museum: A History of African Americans in the NYPD
  85. ^ a b "No Place Like Home", Time Magazine
  86. ^ Youth in the Ghetto: A Study of the Consequences of Powerlessness, Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc., 1964
  87. ^ Poverty and Politics in Harlem, Alphonso Pinkney & Roger Woock, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970
  88. ^ "Black Panthers Open Harlem Drive", Amsterdam News, September 3, 1966
  89. ^ The Ungovernable City, John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York, Vincent J. Cannato, p.211
  90. ^ a b "Harlem's Dreams Have Died in Last Decade, Leaders Say," New York Times, March 1, 1978, p.A1
  91. ^ "The Black Mafia Moves Into the Numbers Racket," Fred J. Cook, New York Times, April 4, 1971
  92. ^ "Harlem Battles Over Development Project," Shipp, E. R.. New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Jul 31, 1991. pg. B.1
  93. ^ a b "Harlem Pins Revival Hopes on New Plans for 125th Street," New York Times, May 20, 1979
  94. ^ a b New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, Jacob Tilove, 2006. p.1007
  95. ^ New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, Jacob Tilove, 2006. p.1039
  96. ^ New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, Jacob Tilove, 2006. p.1015
  97. ^ New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, Jacob Tilove, 2006. p.1016
  98. ^ "Harlem Tenants Fear Displacement After 203(k) Scandal"
  99. ^ "SRO Limbo: After Arrests in the HUD Scandal, Will Its Victims Lose Their Homes?" Andrew Friedman, Village Voice, January 16 - 22, 2002
  100. ^ New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, Jacob Tilove, 2006. p.1009
  101. ^ a b c d New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium, Robert A. M. Stern, David Fishman, Jacob Tilove, 2006. p.1011
  102. ^ "'Freddy's Not Dead'," Peter Noel, Village Voice, December 23, 1998
  103. ^ "A Pastor’s Mission to Destroy Harlem," Timothy Williams, New York Times, February 22, 2008
  104. ^ "Residents Continue to Rally Against Gentrification in Harlem," Stephanie Basile, IndyMedia, May 30, 2008
  105. ^ "Harlem Branch Library." New York Public Library. Retrieved on January 30, 2009.
  106. ^ "115th Street Branch Library." New York Public Library. Retrieved on January 30, 2009.
  107. ^ "125th Street Branch Library." New York Public Library. Retrieved on January 30, 2009.
  • WPA Guide to New York City 1939
  • "Harlem: The Making of a Ghetto. Negro New York, 1890-1930". Gilbert Osofsky, 1963
  • TIME Magaine, vol. 84, No.5, July 31, 1964. "Harlem: No Place Like Home"
  • Newsweek, August 3, 1964,. "Harlem: Hatred in the Streets"
  • Harlem Stirs, John O. Killens, Fred Halstead, 1966
  • Francis A. J. Ianni, Black Mafia: Ethnic Succession in Organized Crime, 1974
  • "Crack's Decline: Some Surprises from U.S. Cities", National Institute of Justice Research in Brief, July 1997

External links

Coordinates: 40°48′32.52″N 73°56′54.14″W / 40.8090333°N 73.9483722°W / 40.8090333; -73.9483722

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Manhattan/Harlem and Upper Manhattan article)

From Wikitravel

Upper Manhattan is a large, relatively under-visited area of Manhattan that ranges from 125th Street to Inwood Hill Park on the west and from about 96th Street northward (the island of Manhattan tapers off unevenly on the east) on the east. The area includes the well-known neighborhood of Harlem, recognized globally as a center of African-American culture and business. Other areas of interest include the neighborhoods of Washington Heights, a center of Dominican culture in New York and the home of The Cloisters museum and the huge Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center; and Inwood, the home of the last remains of the marshes and forests that once covered the island.


Upper Manhattan is a large and fascinating place where the identity and characteristics of the neighborhoods change almost every few blocks. Harlem itself consists of several neighborhoods each with its own distinct culture and history. Spanish Harlem, also known as El Barrio, is the famous heart of Puerto Rican culture in the United States. Once known as Italian Harlem, today this area on the East River, bounded by 96th Street and 125th Street, is a polyglot mixture of renovated and gentrified streets sharing space with West African immigrants in single room occupancy hotels and the many Latinos who still live in the area.

Further north and west, centered around 125th Street, is the Harlem of the Harlem Renaissance, the center of African American culture in the early twentieth century. While old standbys like Sylvia's soul food restaurant and the Apollo Theater are still going strong, Harlem and particularly 125th Street are amidst a renaissance as new homeowners renovate historic brownstones and new development surges. A new Marriott hotel is planned for 125th and Park, and former President Bill Clinton's offices are in the neighborhood as well. There are famous churches in the area, such as the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and some of these have famous gospel choirs.

The Western side of Harlem, is now roughly divided into Manhattanville, an area being developed as a new campus by Columbia University; Hamilton Heights, north of about 133rd street and south of 155th street which contains City College, the alma mater of quite a few Nobel Prize winners and other notables; and Sugar Hill, east of Amsterdam Avenue and north of 145th street, an area that was always associated with African American culture but is best known because of the Ella Fitzgerald rendition of Take the `A' Train. The entire west side of Harlem is a surprising mix of run down streets with car repair garages, stately single family town houses, and boarded-up buildings. Even further west, along Riverside Drive running all the way to 165th street, are delightfully preserved apartment buildings from the turn of the twentieth century.

North of Harlem are Washington Heights and Inwood, unlikely to be on most tourists' radar screen except for The Cloisters but also fast improving from their days as by-words for urban blight. Washington Heights is the acknowledged center of Dominican culture in New York. Today, it is an ethnic mix with recent immigrants from Bangladesh and young artists and professionals in search of low rents rubbing shoulders with long term Dominican residents in the South and the Jewish residents of the northern Cabrini Boulevard area. Columbia University's Medical School and Hospital, New York Presbyterian Medical Center, dominates the neighborhood. At the northern end of Washington Heights, The Cloisters, a medieval museum and gift of the Rockefeller family, lives inside the beautiful Fort Tryon Park. Further north lies the neighborhood of Inwood, a very dense, mostly residential area, and Inwood Hill Park, a marshy and forested park that is the best approximation of what Manhattan island was five hundred years ago.


The original village of Harlem was established in 1658 by Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant and named Nieuw Haarlem after the Dutch city of Haarlem. Throughout the Dutch, British, and colonial periods, rich farms were located in the region's flat eastern portion, while some of New York's most illustrious early families, such as the Delanceys, Bleeckers, Rikers, Beekmans, and Hamiltons maintained large estates in the high, western portion of the area.

In the early 1900s, particularly in the 1920s, African-American literature, art, music, dance, and social commentary began to flourish in Harlem. This African-American cultural movement became known as "The New Negro Movement" and later as the Harlem Renaissance. More than a literary movement, the Harlem Renaissance exalted the unique culture of African-Americans and redefined African-American expression. African-Americans were encouraged to celebrate their heritage.

Ironically, during the 1920s and 30s, many African-Americans were excluded from witnessing performances of much of the great music that members of their community were creating. Many jazz venues, like Small's and the Cotton Club (where Duke Ellington played) were open to white customers only. The Savoy, which was integrated, was closed down by municipal authorities in the 30s amid concern over interracial relationships engendered by the easy mixing there. Fortunately, segregation in New York clubs is long past, and visitors to Harlem can still listen to jazz over a meal or a few drinks today.

Get in

By subway

Many subway lines pass through the neighborhood. The A, C, and 1 go up the West Side to Manhattanville, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, Inwood and Fort Tryon Park. The 2 and 3 go up Lenox Avenue more or less in the center, and the 4, 5, 6 on the East Side. The B and D go up 8th Av. and St. Nicholas Av. along with the A and C as far as 155 St., then go under the Harlem River to Yankee Stadium and other stops in the Bronx. The A and D and the 4 and 5 are fast express trains during the day, as the A and D whiz passengers from 59 St. directly to 125 St., while the 4 and 5 go from 86 St. to 125 St. in one stop.

By commuter train

Metro North Railroad has a station at 125th Street and Park Avenue with easy connections to and from the Hudson Valley and Connecticut. See the By train section on the main New York City page for more info.

By bus

There is plenty of MTA bus service to the area. The M4 makes its slow way up to the Cloisters from the Village via the East Side (Madison on the way up and Fifth Avenue on the way down), across 110th St., and via Broadway and Fort Washington Av. further north - a nice way to see the changing face of Manhattan but a very slow way! There is a large commuter bus terminal under the ramps to the George Washington Bridge (175th Street between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue) with service to points to suburban New Jersey and New York.

  • The Cloisters, [1]. Located on four acres overlooking the Hudson River in Fort Tryon Park, the building incorporates elements from five medieval French cloisters--quadrangles enclosed by a roofed or vaulted passageway, or arcade--and from other monastic sites in southern France. There are various artworks on display in the museum, with the Unicorn Tapestries being the most famous. Admission is by donation, just as in its parent museum, the Metropolitan Museum. You may pay the suggested price, more, or less, as you wish..  edit
  • Fort Tryon Park. One of New York's most beautiful, is an expanse of rolling hills high above the Hudson. It contains some of the highest natural elevations on the island and is a great place to picnic or stroll in good weather and look at the great views of the New Jersey Palisades across the river.  edit
  • Apollo Theater, 253 West 125th Street (between Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. and Frederick Douglass Blvd.; Subway: A, B, C, D, 2 or 3 train to 125th St.), [2].  edit
  • Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue (between 103rd and 104th Sts.; Subway: 6 to 103rd St. or the 2 or 3 to 110 St.; Bus: M1, M2, M3, M4 or M106), +1 212 534-1672, [3]. Rather large, interesting museum with all kinds of documentation of events in the history of this city and delightful artifacts of life in earlier periods, such as the extensive collection of 19th century dollhouses complete with miniature furniture.  edit
  • El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue (at 104th Street), [4]. The only US museum devoted to Puerto Rican culture.  edit
  • Hamilton Grange National Monument, 287 Convent Avenue. Built in 1802 (and physically shifted from its original location) this was the home of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers and the first Secretary of Treasury. Hamilton Grange is temporarily closed for renovation.  edit
  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 135 St. and Malcolm X Boulevard (Subway: 2 or 3 to 135 St.; Bus: M7, M102, or Bx33), [5]. A main research branch of the New York Public Library, this is a repository of priceless documents and also has various exhibitions on themes related to black history and culture.   edit
  • James Bailey House, 10 St. Nicholas Place (at W. 150th St.). Street built by architect Samuel Burrage Reed. A major mansion owned by circus entrepreneur Anthony Bailey - joined with showman Phineas T. Barnum in 1881 to form the Barnum & Bailey circus. Now Known to the children of Harlem as the Beauty and the Beast house.  edit
  • Strivers Row, [6]. Million dollar homes in an unlikely neighborhood.  edit
  • Morris-Jumel Mansion, 65 Jumel Ter. (Subway: C to 163rd St.; Bus: M2, M3, M100, or M101), +1 212 923-8008, [7]. Built in 1765, this is the oldest house on Manhattan Island. It served as George Washington's headquarters in 1776. Currently a museum set on a 1.5-acre park, it features a decorative-arts collection representing the colonial and Revolutionary War periods. Washington's office is among the 12 restored rooms.  edit
  • Audubon Ballroom, NE corner of Broadway and 165th Street. Where Malcolm X was assassinated. Only a part of the facade of the original building remains (Columbia University demolished the building in 1992).  edit
  • Studio Museum Harlem, 144 W 125th St, +1 212 864-4500, [8]. W-F, Su 12PM-6PM, Sa 10AM-6PM. $7 adults, $3 students/seniors, free for children under 12.  edit
  • Riverside Park, west of Riverside Drive. A riverfront park providing pleasant views of New Jersey and sometimes breezes off the river. Summer brings al fresco movies and music to the park.  edit
  • Marcus Garvey (Mount Morris) Park. One of the oldest parks in Manhattan. The elegant brownstones on the west and south sides of the park hint at the former grandeur of the neighborhood (many were built in the 1880s). The Acropolis, a lookout seventy feet above street level gives views of the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge, and Yankee Stadium. The Firetower, a landmark 1857 building, is the only surviving example of nineteenth century fire watchtowers.  edit
  • There are several interesting and pleasant routes for walking through Harlem, including:
    • 125th St., the most important commercial street in the neighborhood. There is a lot of street life, and a varied lineup of businesses serving the community.
    • St. Nicholas Av. in the 140s and 150s is lined with beautiful apartment houses with ornate facades and front doors. South of 142nd St., you pass by the tree-lined expanse of St. Nicholas Park.
    • Convent Av. in the 140s and 150s is also lined with pretty brownstones. It is quieter and less populated than St. Nicholas Av., which is downhill from Convent and on the other side of St. Nicholas Park.
    • Broadway north of 132nd St. or so is the center of a lively Dominican neighborhood.
    • East 116th St. is the main commercial street of East (aka Spanish) Harlem. This is actually an ethnically mixed area and no less interesting because of that.
  • A & D Restaurant, 360 Lenox Avenue (at 120th St.), +1 212 987-0912. Anglo-Caribbean.  edit
  • Blue Lagoon, 513 West 145th Street. Anglo-Caribbean.  edit
  • Caribbean Cafe, 2310 1st Avenue (between 118 and 119 Sts.), +1 212 426-2252. Anglo-Caribbean.  edit
  • Dia Restaurant, 1920 7th Avenue, +1 212 665-2653. American cuisine.  edit
  • El Malecon, 175 St. and Broadway. A Dominican restaurant famous for its pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken), has its flagship in this neighborhood. Go there and enjoy the food, the fresh-squeezed juice, and the Latin music on the jukebox.  edit
  • El Presidente, 3938 Broadway (at 165th Street), +1 212 927-7011. Offers another take on Dominican food, with good pork-stuffed plantains, guinea hen stew (an occasional special) and, oddly, a terrific Cuban sandwich.  edit
  • Extremes Restaurants & Bakery, 182 Lenox Avenue, +1 212 828-4487. Anglo-Caribbean.  edit
  • Harlem Revival, [9]. Upscale modern cuisine. A bright spot of food in a revitalizing neighborhood.  edit
  • Mike's Bagels, 4003 Broadway (at 168th St.), +1 212 928-2300. Fresh bagels made in-house daily.  edit
  • Patsy's Pizzeria, 2287 1st Avenue (between 117th and 118th Sts.), +1 212 534-9783. This is great old-school New York coal-oven pizza. Don't go overboard on the toppings, which are not the reason why you should go there. Get a plain pizza, and enjoy the wonder of a thin, nicely charred crust with delicious sauce and cheese that aren't heaped on but applied judiciously in a style that derives clearly from its origins in Naples. A couple should be able to down a pie or two with some salad without trouble for a meal, because the crust is so thin, but note that you can also get slices for takeout.  edit
  • Settepani Bakery, 196 Lenox Avenue (corner of 120th), +1 917 492-4006, [10].  edit
  • Sister's Cuisine, 30 East 124th Street, +1 212 410-3000. Anglo-Caribbean.  edit
  • Lenox Lounge, 288 Lenox Avenue (Subway: 2 or 3 to 125th St.), +1 212 427-0253, [11]. Catch great jazz in the Zebra Room.  edit
  • St. Nick's Pub, 773 St. Nicholas Avenue (at 149th Street; Subway: A, B, C, or D to 145 St.; Bus: M3 or M18). Another longstanding and well-known jazz venue.  edit
  • Bonita's, 527 Malcolm X Blvd., +1 212 283-8205.  edit
  • Doral Lounge, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (at 145th Street), +1 212 283-8318.  edit
  • Lickety Split, 2361 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., +1 212 283-9093.  edit
  • Londel's, 2620 Frederick Douglass Blvd., +1 212 234-6114.  edit
  • Mr B's Cocktail Lounge, 2297 7th Avenue, +1 212 283-8061.  edit
  • P. J.'s, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., +1 212 283-5812.  edit
  • Rebar, 127th 8th Ave, +1 212 627-1680.  edit
  • Cotton Club, 666 West 125th Street, +1 212 663-7980.  edit
  • Bed and Bike, 264 Lenox Avenue (between 123rd & 124th Sts.), +1 917 648-1478. Newly renovated apartment in classic Harlem brownstone, available for weekly rentals. New furnishings and new appliances. Original moldings and hardwood floors throughout. Two decorative fireplaces. Sleeps 8 comfortably. Free bicycle rentals during winter months and discounted rentals at other times. Equipped with internet access, cable TV, wi-fi, and A/C. Linens and towels included. Shorter term rentals may be available. 2000/week.  edit
  • The Harlem YMCA, 180 W. 135th Street, +1 212 281-4100 x210, [12]. Has a Health and Wellness Center and a heated swimming pool.  edit
  • Highbridge House 173rd Street Hostel, 556 West 173rd Street, +1 212 928-0393, [13].  edit
  • Highbridge House 146th Street Hostel, 307A West 146th Street, +1 212 283-1219, [14].  edit

Stay Safe

Violent crimes have declined dramatically in Harlem and Washington Heights, and the relative safety in upper Manhattan varies greatly depending on where and when one travels. Most of the tourist destinations are very safe. However, crime still exists, as it does throughout New York City. As in all neighborhoods, exercise caution when walking in the neighborhood at night. Subway stations are generally safe and are patrolled by uniformed and undercover police. Consider staying on main thoroughfares, especially after dark. Population density is generally high in Washington Heights, and most residents are Spanish speaking and friendly.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun


  1. The northern tip of Manhattan and the southern portion of The Bronx; the flash-point of racial conflict in NYC, hence, the toughest area, especially in movies and on TV.

Harlem is named after the Dutch city of Haarlem.

Simple English

Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan and was a village independent of New York City until 1873.

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Coordinates: 40°48′32.52″N 73°56′54.14″W / 40.8090333°N 73.9483722°W / 40.8090333; -73.9483722

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