The History of Harlem.
Start writing a post
Life Stages

The Creation Of Harlem As A Black Mecca

Black migrants turned the physical space of Harlem that was deemed undesirable by White America into something to be proud of – a safe space away from white supremacy.

311
he New York Public Library. (1991). Rgroup hanging out on a stoop. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/9daf5b00-9311-0130-c9ee-58d385a7b928
The New York Public Library. "Rgroup hanging out on a stoop." New York Public Library Digital Collections.

In 1870, Harlem was transformed from an isolated rural village to Manhattan's first upper- and middle-class suburb. Spacious modern apartments and brownstones lined the streets creating a feeling of prosperity and wellness for elite New York families. At the time, Harlem was home to a very small number of African Americans that stayed in Harlem after emancipation. Others resided in densely populated enclaves throughout Manhattan, including the Tenderloin (between West 20th Street and West 59th Street), and San Juan Hill (from West 60th Street to West 64th Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues) (Jaynes, Gerald D. 2005). During the Great Migration (between 1910 and 1930), increasing numbers of African American migrants entered Manhattan but were driven further and further north due to racism, violence, housing shortages, and housing inequalities.

Harlem was specifically designed to be a home for the upper- and middle- class white world. White tenement residents and homeowners kept African Americans out of the area through restricted covenants that barred whites from selling or renting across racial lines. Tenant associations such as the Property Owners' Protective Association of Harlem regulated prices beyond the reach of poorer blacks and blatantly discriminated against wealthier blacks who might otherwise have been able to afford the move.

However, Harlem developers and realtors were faced with an inescapable problem – they had over speculated the actual amount of interest in the newly built neighborhood. Furthermore, economic recession and competition from the newly annexed city of Brooklyn and other neighboring areas even further north (thanks, in part, to the same technological advances that made northern Manhattan more accessible) meant that Harlem could not attract the number of white middle-class residents that had initially been anticipated. Black New Yorkers that were experiencing worsening conditions elsewhere and feared anti-black riots (such as those that occurred in Tenderloin in 1900 and San Juan Hill in 1905), took notice of the real estate crash and purchased the land in Harlem that panicking speculators were more than willing to sell. Taking advantage of the lack of options many Black migrants had, greedy realtors often exploited black homeowners and piled them into small rooms of one-family homes at inflated prices.

White flight eventually took place and the racially exclusive convents that were in place were broken. By the early 1920s (paralleling the Harlem Renaissance), thousands of African Americans descended upon Harlem for work, for pleasure, and to be part of this new artistic movement. Inheriting a housing stock that was less than three decades old, African Americans lived in some of the choicest property in New York City—tree-lined blocks and avenues, five and six-story elevator buildings with maid's quarters, and elegant single-family brownstones with parlors.

Though the creation of a Black Harlem allowed for a safe alternative to an unwelcoming America, between 1935-1940, one of the New Deal's most important agencies, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation or HOLC, created a redlining map that placed all of Harlem in red. As a result of redlining, black families "couldn't avail themselves of what is arguably the most significant route to family and personal wealth-building in the 20th century, which is homeownership.

Red areas represent those neighborhoods in which the things that are now taking place in the Yellow neighborhoods, have already happened. They are characterized by detrimental influences in a pronounced degree, undesirable population or infiltration of it. Low percentage of home ownership, very poor maintenance and often vandalism prevail. Unstable incomes of the people and difficult collections are usually prevalent. The areas are broader than the so-called slum districts. Some mortgage lenders may refuse to make loans in these neighborhoods and others will lend only on a conservative basis.The influx of Black residents directly coincides with the creation of Harlem as a red space.


The Committee on Civil Rights in Metropolitan New York (CCRM, pronounced crem) was one of several groups created to address civil rights by demanding access to public spaces and housing. Determined to make their new community safe from discrimination and anti-Black exclusion, African Americans in Harlem organized boycotts and fought for the right to work in their own community. Despite limitations on where they could shop, eat, play, and enjoy themselves, African Americans in Harlem managed to create places where they are not only visible, but also safe. In the spaces they designated and created, blackness was defined, redefined, and expanded. The homes, hair salons, corner stores, and jazz clubs were curated in a way that represented a desire for authenticity of self. In some ways, it was what novelist Albert Murray would refer to as an "Omni-America." Omni-America is not in the interest of "proving" the African American's American-ness, or full citizenship in the polis, but rather to give a true sense of the speaker and African America as told by themselves.
Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers

1184638

Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

746656
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series

755768
Netflix

Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

487677
Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

300686
Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?

439281

Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

14 Last Minute Valentine's Day Gifts Your S.O. Will Love

If they love you, they're not going to care if you didn't get them some expensive diamond necklace or Rolex watch; they just want you.

296391

Let me preface this by saying I am not a bad girlfriend.

I am simply a forgetful one.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

10 Helpful Tips For College Students Taking Online Courses This Semester

Here are several ways to easily pass an online course.

199585
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels

With spring semester starting, many college students are looking to take courses for the semester. With the pandemic still ongoing, many students are likely looking for the option to take online courses.

Online courses at one time may have seemed like a last minute option for many students, but with the pandemic, they have become more necessary. Online courses can be very different from taking an on-campus course. You may be wondering what the best way to successfully complete an online course is. So, here are 10 helpful tips for any student who is planning on taking online courses this semester!

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments