Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America
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From Henry Hudson's first contact with native Harlemites, through Harlem's years as a colonial outpost on the edge of the known world, Gill traces the neighborhood's story, marshaling a tremendous wealth of detail and a host of fascinating figures from George Washington to Langston Hughes. Harlem was an agricultural center under British rule and the site of a key early battle in the Revolutionary War. Later, wealthy elites including Alexander Hamilton built great estates there for entertainment and respite from the epidemics ravaging downtown. In the nineteenth century, transportation urbanized Harlem and brought waves of immigrants from Germany, Italy, Ireland, and elsewhere. Harlem's mix of cultures, extraordinary wealth and extreme poverty was electrifying and explosive.
Extensively researched, impressively synthesized, eminently readable, and overflowing with captivating characters, Harlem is an ambitious, sweeping history, and an impressive achievement.
York State’s female suffrage bill, Du Bois toured postwar France on a fact-finding mission for the NAACP and was disturbed by what he saw, especially the treatment that African-American soldiers continued to receive from their own countrymen overseas. He returned, much radicalized, to New York in April 1919 and in an editorial in the Crisis wrote the fateful words: “We return from fighting. We return fighting.” The next month the magazine, whose circulation was topping a hundred thousand,
just news and editorials critical of United States policy in Puerto Rico but fiction, advice columns, movie reviews, and cartoons. There was also a first-person column called “Ofa,” about a black Puerto Rican immigrant adjusting to life in the Big Apple. But the kind of racial diversity that dominated El Barrio seemed incompatible with the increasingly strict racial polarization favored by both blacks and whites across town in the Negro Mecca. While the mainstream politicians conducted business
ransom. Five days later Holstein was released, having turned over the bulk of his operations to Schultz. The rest of Harlem’s black numbers kingpins got the message, with the exception of “Madame” Stephanie St. Clair, the so-called Queen of Policy, a native of Martinique who spoke fluent French as she continued to direct dozens of numbers runners from her apartment at 409 Edgecombe Avenue. Harlem’s churches led the fight against “drink, drugs, dice, and dance,” and leading the leaders was the
sailors and soldiers were said to have contracted venereal diseases from women they met there. The club was able to reopen only after the owners promised to stop advertising in white newspapers. In the 1920s Harlem’s good and great had looked forward to a time when the color line might fade away. To be sure, whenever Adam Clayton Powell or A. Philip Randolph or Paul Robeson or Duke Ellington stood up, America noticed. But as Depression gave way to wartime, race was more real than ever.
a year after Hammerstein’s financial troubles with the Kaiser Wilhelm, and problems with the excavation of the site forced Hammerstein to sell his Tobacco Journal and borrow $10,000 from his brother-in-law just to keep on with construction. When the theater was finished, it was discovered that there was no box office, not surprising for a man who rarely carried cash. Hammerstein made sure to get the rest right. On that first night the audience marveled at the 130-foot-long frescoed entry to the