Black History Podcasts

Harlem Before The Renaissance: Making a mecca for Black America

PODCAST “If we were to offer a symbol of what Harlem has come to mean in a short span of twenty years, it would be another statue of liberty on the landward side of New York. Harlem represents the Negro’s latest thrust towards Democracy.” — Alain Locke

EPISODE 353 This is Part Two of our two-part look at the birth of Black Harlem, a look at the era before the 1920s, when the soul and spirit of this legendary neighborhood was just beginning to form.

The Harlem Renaissance is a cultural movement which describes the flowering of the arts and political thought which occurred mostly within the Black community of Harlem between 1920 and the 1940s.

Seventh Avenue in Harlem in 1932. Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

In particular the 1920s were described by writer Langston Hughes as “the period when the Negro was in vogue.” The moment when the white mainstream turned its attention to black culture. 

But how Harlem become a mecca of Black culture and “the Capital of Black America”?

Reception for the Harlem Hellfighters

This is the story of constructing a cultural movement on the streets of Upper Manhattan in the 1910s. From the stages of the Lafayette Theater to the soapboxes of Speakers Corner. From the pulpits to the salons (both hair and literary)!

WITH stories of Marcus Garvey, Madam C.J. Walker, Arturo Schomberg and many more.

AND the origin of a beloved Harlem treasure, at home at the Apollo Theater.

Listen to HARLEM BEFORE THE RENAISSANCE on your favorite podcast player or from the player below:

Three ladies in Harlem, 1925

The Tree of Hope, sitting across from the Lafayette Theatre and Connie’s Inn.

The stump of the Tree of Hope still inspired hopefuls for many years before it was taken to the Apollo Theater.

James Reese Europe and the Clef Club Band, 1914.

Courtesy the New York Public Library

The home and salon of Madam C.J. Walker.

Madam C.J. Walker became one of Harlem’s most successful and prominent business owners.

A’Lelia Walker with dancer Al Moore 

Courtesy Madam Walker Family Archives

Hubert Harrison — the ‘Black Socrates’ — whose fiery speeches on Speakers Corner galvanized political activity in Harlem.

Marcus Garvey in a UNIA parade, 1924.

Photo by James Van Der Zee 

Garvey speaking at Liberty Hall, 1920

Library of Congress

The first part of the Birth of Black Harlem two-part series:

…and a newly produced version of our earlier show on the Hotel Theresa.

In addition, these people and events play a big role in this week’s show:

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6 replies on “Harlem Before The Renaissance: Making a mecca for Black America”

One of the reason that Harlem became such a popular destination for many Black Americans and black immigrants, has much to do with the real estate work done by Phillips A. Payton. He created quality housing for us in Harlem and this became extremely attractive to not only well to do blacks but those looking for new opportunities. Being redlined and segregated created opportunities to live side by side with the great talents and minds who came to nyc for what everyone comes to nyc for.

Continue to send information on The Harlem Renaissance Can you send me information on Billie Holiday and her contribution to the Harlem Renaissance and especially about her song Strange Fruit and how this song effect the people of color and white desent and how the Government try to force her to not sing it

Thank you, Mr Cortez. I am completing the 4th Part of IS201 In The Dark (3 parts streaming on YouTube) which I plan to follow up on with stories about Black historical figures in Harlem –especially those who are rarely mentioned. Appreciate the comments.

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