Harlem Histories and Boardroom Lessons

Sam Roberts in The New York Times:

HarlemNearly a century ago, during the Harlem Renaissance, the activist and writer James Weldon Johnson described his neighborhood as “a city within a city, the greatest Negro city in the world.” But he wondered, “Are the Negroes going to be able to hold Harlem?” “When colored people do leave Harlem,” he wrote, “their homes, their churches, their investments and their businesses, it will be because the land has become so valuable that they can no longer afford to live on it.” He was correct in predicting in 1925 that “the date of another move northward” — as when blacks had displaced Jews, long after Harlem had begun as a Dutch suburb — “is very far in the future.” Three new books explore Harlem’s evolution since then.

In “Harlem: The Crucible of Modern African American Culture” (Praeger, $48), Lionel C. Bascom, who teaches in the department of writing, linguistics and creative process at Western Connecticut State University, argues that the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was not a distant, passing phase, but “a period that left indelible influence” on black culture and beyond. Still, by the early 21st century, greater Harlem’s majority population was no longer black, as Johnson had foretold. What happened to the poorest tenants and small shopkeepers? Would the neighborhood lose its cultural cachet as its inhabitants were increasingly priced out?

More here. (Note: At least one post throughout February will be in honor of Black History Month)

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