Harlem Renaissance: Then & Now

From the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a predominantly African-American neighborhood. It is located in the northern section of the Manhattan borough of New York City. Harlem spreads out from the Hudson River to the East River or Harlem River, and from 110th Street to 155th Street.

harlem

From Haarlem To Harlem

Harlem was founded in the 17th century as a Dutch outpost and has seen dramatic development from being a farming village, a revolutionary battlefield, a resort town, a commuter town, and the epicenter of African-American culture. Harlem was originally called Haarlem when it was settled by European Dutch immigrants.

During the American Revolution, Harlem was burned down by the British and took a long time to rebuild in comparison to the growth that was taking place in Manhattan during the late 18th century. Growth came again after the American Civil war that saw Harlem experience an economic boom in 1868. Harlem became a place of refuge for New Yorkers as well as an increasing number of poor Jews and Italians. Slowly but surely the Jewish and Italian numbers started to decline as the black and Puerto Rican numbers increased.

The early twentieth century saw large numbers of blacks move to northern industrial cities as they fled Jim Crow’s South and the culture of lynching violence. By 1910, Central Harlem was almost 10% black and by 1930 the number had increased to 70% black.  Around the time World War I was ending, Harlem was linked to the New Negro movement, and later the explosion of art and music known as the Harlem Renaissance.

As the years have gone by Harlem has had a solid black population, so much so that by 1950 98% of the population was black.

Showtime: Musical & Nightlife Features

As already mentioned, the Apollo Theater is a musical highlight in Harlem, but there are other musical offerings that carry on the Harlem Renaissance tradition:

  • Minton’s Playhouse: Established in 1938, this club was the setting for a jazz revolution, and apparently this is the place where bebop was birthed. Nowadays it operates as a jazz supper club with a house band of talented musicians.
  • Showman’s Jazz Club: From the time it was built in 1942, Showman’s Jazz Club is one of Harlem’s original old school jazz clubs. The club has featured legendary artists like Sarah Vaughan, Eartha Kitt, and Duke Ellington. At the moment you can catch evening performances by jazz and blues pros.
  • Cotton Club: For those looking to relive Harlem in the 1920s, the Cotton Club is the place to go. Patrons can find a 13-piece combo that draws in crowds.

Soul Food Dining

At the moment Harlem is experiencing a gourmet rebirth with new dining hot-spots showing up in uptown near Frederick Douglass Boulevard. Celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson is leading this new Harlem food rebirth with his Red Rooster Harlem restaurant, serving reinterpreted comfort food classics. Other modern Harlem food places include:

  • Melba’s Restaurant: This busy foodie spot boasts a menu with handed down favorites from restaurateur, Melba Wilson’s South Carolina grandmother. This is apparently where Oprah’s ‘bestie’ Gayle King, likes to eat too and raves about the place.
  • Vinatería: Not quite your Southern mama’s cooking, but at Vinatería you’ll find a selection of cheese and charcuterie imported from Spanish butchers and dairy farmers.

If you are looking for the traditional style of soul food dining, don’t worry their menus haven’t been gentrified, you can find visit some of these places:

  • Sylvia’s ‘Soul Food’ Restaurant: Established in 1962, this famous soul food cooking has it all from fried catfish, collard greens and smothered chicken. Sylvia’s is so popular that it has grown from being a 35 seater eatery to 450 seater restaurant.
  • Amy Ruth’s: Founded in 1998, Amy Ruth’s offers an Alabama inspired menu with smothered pork chops, honey-dipped fried chicken and a whole menu for waffles!
  • Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread Too: Even President Bill Clinton eats at this spot where the menu includes a Miss Mamie sampler of shrimp, chicken, and short ribs.

Click here to learn more about tours you can take in the neighborhood.

Getting There

The MTA provides the public transportation services in Harlem, including the NYC subway and regional bus operations. The 2, 3, A, B, C and D trains take you to Harlem as well as the 1, 4, 5 and 6 lines as alternative options.

Emergency Services

Harlem is well known for its crime rate and therefore, the New York City Police Department patrols five precincts all within Harlem. Contact the NYPD 28th Precinct in case of emergencies:

2271-89th Ave, New York, NY 10027-5319

(212) 678-1611

There are nine firehouses that operate in Harlem operated by the New York City Fire Departments.

For hospital emergencies visit:

Harlem Hospital Center
506 Lenox Avenue
New York, NY 10037
Phone: (212) 939-1000

By |2018-01-16T15:04:51+00:00November 3rd, 2015|New York|

About the Author:

Laurence P. Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law. As an experienced personal injury attorney, Mr. Banville helps clients recover compensation from those responsible for his clients' injuries. Our firm is located in New York City, serving clients from the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.

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