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From the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s, through the civil rights movements in the 60’s, and until today with its ongoing renaissance, Harlem has always played a pivotal role in African American history. While visiting Harlem, you’ll come across a number of Harlem monuments honoring prominent African American figures. Here is our list of 5 Harlem monuments you should not miss and the inspiring destinies of the figures they are representing.
Frederick Douglass Memorial
Where to see it: Frederick Douglass Circle – 110th Street and Central Park West
(Born in 1817 or 1818 – February 20th, 1895)
One of the most famous Harlem monuments is dedicated to Frederick Douglass. Douglass was a major activist, author and speaker. Born into slavery around 1818 in Maryland, he escaped to become an eminent abolitionist leader and one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, advising prominent political figures such as American presidents, and offering lectures on various major causes, including women’s rights. His impressive work served as an inspiration to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s and was even referenced by President Donald Trump in 2017 speech for Black History Month.
His statue was crafted by sculptor Gabriel Koren while the memorial circle was designed by artist Algernon Miller.
Harriet Tubman Memorial
Where to see it: W 122nd Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard
(Born in 1821 or 1822 – March 10th, 1913)
Harriet Tubman was also a major activist and abolitionist. Born into slavery, she escaped to become an Underground Railroad’s “conductor,” helping other slaves to escape. Over ten years, she made over 15 trips into the South and escorted more than 300 slaves to freedom. She was also a nurse, a Union spy, and women’s suffrage supporter. Her story has recently been told in the movie Harriet, in which she is brilliantly portrayed by Cynthia Erivo.
Her memorial, also known as Swing Low, was created by sculptor Alison Saar.
Duke Ellington Memorial
Where to see it: Duke Ellington Circle – 110th Street and Fifth Avenue
(April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974)
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was a famous American composer, pianist, and the leader of a big-band jazz orchestra, which he led for over 50 years. According to many, Duke Ellington was the greatest jazz composer and bandleader of his time and his contributions to jazz and American music are still unparalleled. His most famous works include Satin Doll (1953), It don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) (1932), In a Sentimental Mood (1935), Caravan (1936), I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good” (1941). He also collaborated with legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and John Coltrane.
His statue, one of the most famous Harlem monuments, was crafted by sculptor Robert Graham.
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Memorial
Where to see it: 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard
(November 29, 1908 – April 4, 1972)
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was a Baptist pastor, an activist and an American politician, who represented the Harlem neighborhood in the United States House of Representatives from 1945 to 1971. In addition, he was a prominent and controversial figure of the civil rights movement and was also the first person of African-American descent to be elected from New York to Congress.
His memorial was sculpted by artist Branly Cadet.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Sculpture
Where to see it: Esplanade Gardens between 147th and 151st Streets
(January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister and one of the most prominent civil rights activist from the mid-50’s to his assassination in 1968. He is most famous for his belief in nonviolent protest to advance his cause and his “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and organized the Selma marches to Montgomery in 1965.
His sculpture was designed by Stan Sawyer
Learn more about the history of Harlem and Harlem monuments by joining our guided tours of the neighborhood. Accompanied by a friendly and knowledgeable licensed guide, you’ll get to know everything about Harlem, from the Harlem Renaissance to today, and witness its ongoing renaissance.
– Join our Harlem Gospel tours on Wednesdays or Sundays, ;
– Spend an unforgettable evening in Harlem on our Soul Food and Jazz tour (Mondays and Thursdays) ;
– On Fridays, take a tasty trip through Harlem on our walking food tour, including 4 delicious tastings if delicious local specialties.
During the whole month of February to celebrate Black History, we will publish a series of articles honoring African American culture and history. Stay tuned for more!