BACKGROUND Harlem has been an epicenter for black culture for decades, especially during the Harlem Renaissance. During times of racial tensions, which still go on today, Harlem has served as a safe space where black people can mingle amongst themselves, celebrating life with music, art, and good food. However, even Harlem in all its black excellence is not immune to the effects of gentrification. From new housing complexes offering “affordable” housing to the introduction of Whole Foods, Harlem is slowly being bleached of its melanin. This booklet aims to highlight some of Black Harlem’s most notable sites, in the hopes that continuous recognition will aid their preservation.
SYLVIA’S RESTAURANT 328 Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY 10027
Sylvia’s Restaurant was founded in 1962 by the late Sylvia Woods, nicknamed the “Queen of Soul Food”. This restaurant became renowned for its delicious and hearty servings of soul food, being referred to by some as the “World’s Kitchen”.
Historically, soul food was not as desirable as it is today. Soul food originated during slavery times, in which white slave owners would only give slaves the “leftover” and “undesirable” cuts of meat, such as pig feet and chicken wings. However, soul food has become synonymous with some of the most delicious foods in the world. Notable visitors of Sylvia’s restaurant included Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, and Spike Lee. All that have dined here speak highly of it. In walking distance of the Apollo Theater, the restaurant has become a popular location for tourists and townspeople.
THE LANGSTON HUGHES RESIDENCE 20 E 127th St, New York, NY 10035 African-American poet and writer Langston Hughes (1902-67) was one of the foremost figures of the Harlem Renaissance.
He lived on the top floor of the rowhouse at 20 East 127th Street for the last 20 years of his life.
He also used the space as his workroom where he wrote “Montage of a Dream Deferred” (1951) and his second autobiography, “I Wonder as I Wander (1956).
His residence at in Harlem was landmarked and East 27th Street was renamed “Langston Hughes Place.”
MINTON’S PLAYHOUSE 206 W 118th St, New York, NY 10026
The Minton Playhouse is home to the history of jazz music. It was founded in 1938 by Henry Minton, the saxophonist for which the establishment gets its namesake.
Minton’s Playhouse played a huge role in the creation of modern jazz. Anyone who’s anyone in the world of jazz has performed at Minton’s, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong to name a few. Minton’s was also where Bebop was started, thanks to regular performers Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. This small Harlem nightclub has left a large impact on the history of Jazz music and the African American people.
The Apollo Theatre is one of the most famous entertainment venues associated with African American culture. Located in Harlem, the Apollo was built in 1913 by Jules Hurtig and Harry Seamon, originally named Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater. Fifteen years later, during the Harlem Renaissance, the theatre was purchased by Bill Minsky and renamed the 125th Street Apollo Theatre. Ironically, both the audience and entertainers at the Apollo were white at the time. In 1932, Sydney S. Cohen and Morris Sussman purchased the Apollo, reopening the Apollo as a theatre targeted toward black audiences. For many years, the Apollo was the only New York City Theatre to hire black entertainers. The Apollo Theatre has hosted performances by many famous and influential black entertainers, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Luther Vandross and Lauryn Hill to name a few.