Harlem Now and Then: From Harlem Renaissance to today…

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Harlem post card
Today, we’re taking you back in time, to look back at the storied past and transformation of our beloved neighborhood: Harlem!

Before it became a Manhattan neighborhood, Harlem was actually a village named Nieuw Haarlem. It has ever since kept its independent spirit and its own culture, which distinguish it from other New York neighborhoods.

 

Harlem’s golden age started in the 1920’s: an extraordinary era for arts, music and culture called the Harlem Renaissance. Back then, the neighborhood was mostly inhabited by African-Americans, and it had become home to renowned Black writers, intellectuals, and progressive thinkers. It was also the time of iconic jazz artists such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and famous Harlem Jazz clubs like the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.

cotton-club

 

© Dr. Wendy Longo/FlickrCommons
© Dr. Wendy Longo/FlickrCommons

appollo-2000

In the 50’s and 60’s, the neighborhood slowly started to turn into a ghetto while poverty, delinquency and crime progressed. It was the time of charismatic Black leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X who fought for equal rights for Black people. The civil rights movement also took form in local churches, which slowly multiplied throughout the neighborhood. Gospel music then came into its own, while people gathered in churches to find peace and comfort. Today, we can still count over 400 churches in Harlem!

church

Only in the 90’s will Harlem start rising back from its ashes. Ambitious projects are launched to rehabilitate urban spaces, renovate streets and take down unsalubrious buildings. More stores start opening in Harlem and an increased police presence helps fight drug crime in the neighborhood.

125st-harlem

Today, thanks to the general renovation of the neighborhood and its “new face,” Harlem has become more and more attractive, seducing investors and visitors alike. With the security issue gone, people can now wander the streets of Harlem in peace, to discover its unique atmosphere, attend a Gospel service in one the local churches, have lunch or a drink in a trendy bar or restaurant, or admire the neighborhood architectural treasures.

125th
Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library/Schomburg Photographs and Prints Division.

There is so much more to do and see in Harlem. If you are interested in Harlem history and want to learn more about this fascinating neighborhood, join us on our Harlem guided visits: Harlem Gospel Tour et Harlem Jazz Tour.

Did you enjoy looking at these old-school pictures? What do you like about Harlem and what is your best souvenir? Let us know in the comments!

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