During the Harlem Renaissance Black people became known for setting trends, defining culture, and innovating art. Black people settled in Harlem as they sought a promised land to escape the violence of the South and usually subtle hostilities of the North. Within this community, Black people would funnel their hopes and miseries into creative art forms that would define a generation and provide inspiration for many more to come.
A profile of Dorothy Height, an activist for civil and women’s rights who helped to organize the March on Washington and spent decades leading the YWCA and NCNW.
The area in New York City referred to as Harlem has existed under its current name for about 360 years.
Usually, with these historical profiles, I try to be as succinct as possible and focus on just the relevant Black History. But, to understand Harlem’s present and put it in context, we need at least an overview of it’s more distant and complete past.
The Book of Harlan by Bernice McFadden tells the story of a Black musician from Harlem who travels to Paris around the time the city falls to the Nazis. But it’s about much more. It also covers moments from the Black experience from about the 1920’s to the 1960’s/1970’s.
In some ways Manchild in the Promised Land is a book about a rambunctious boy and his group of friends coming of age in the 1940s-1950s. In a different place and if Claude Brown were a different race, this could have been an innocent and heart-warming story. But, on the gritty streets of Harlem, Claude’s life is rife with violence, crime, and despair from a young age.