Traveler Lifes

Browse Traveler lifes Travel to get information about the world's most popular places, tourist Attraction, holiday destinations, vacation spot, historical places, where to go, places to visit, things to do, best places to stay, top hotel and restaurant, Activities, adventure, tourism information, travel tips and travel guide with expert advice...

Monday, December 25, 2023

Harlem, New York - history and attractions

  Rajesh Kumar Rana       Monday, December 25, 2023

Harlem, New York  - history and attractions
Harlem, New York skyline

Harlem, New York

Harlem is one of the most famous areas of New York and the best place to get acquainted with the original culture of black Americans. It is located in the northern part of the district and the island of Manhattan.

The middle part of Manhattan is full of skyscrapers, and in Harlem you will not find buildings higher than 3-6 floors. In its southern part, the houses are similar to Dutch, English and other European buildings. Colorful advertising signs are rare.

125th Street is considered the main street of Harlem. But residents of the area call it King Street in honor of Martin Luther King, the leaders of the Black Rights Movement. Usually it is from this street that acquaintance with the area begins.

Harlem 125th street 

125th Street or King Street is one of the most famous streets in Harlem, named after the great fighter for the rights and freedoms of African Americans, Martin Luther King. On this street are the most interesting and symbolic places in Harlem, one of which can safely be called the Harlem Studio Museum - its cultural heart. It constantly hosts exhibitions of talented black artists and photographers, and other cultural events. Not far from the museum is the legendary Cotton Club, opened in 1923 by gangster Owney Madden. The walls of this place still remember the sounds of jazz played by the great Duke Ellington. Today, anyone, regardless of skin color, can come here to listen to magical jazz performances.

125th Street or King Street is one of the most famous streets in Harlem, named after the great fighter for the rights and freedoms of African Americans, Martin Luther King.

Harlem, New York - History

Walking through the streets

Its borders are

  • in the north - along the western street 155,
  • in the south - along 110 West Street, Morning Side Avenue, etc.,
  • in the west along the Hudson River,
  • in the east along the Harlem River and 5th Avenue.

Harlem covers an area of ​​10.3 km² with a population of 335,109 (2000 data).


The birth and formation of the district

On the site of present-day Harlem, the first settlement of Europeans appeared in 1637. They were Dutch colonists, they occupied rather picturesque places full of green hills and clear lakes. For several years, local Indians from the Lenape tribe attacked this village, until the Dutch destroyed them. Since 1658, the settlement has been called New Harlem, after the name of the flourishing Dutch city of Haarlem: "Haaro-heim" (according to another version - "Harulahem") is translated as "green grove".

INTERESTING: "Harlem" in translation - "Green Grove", or literally - "a high place on the sand, which is covered with trees."

The English arriving in Harlem were also attracted by the fertile lands, and in the 18th century, they constantly fought with the Dutch for the right to possess them. The last "Battle of Harlem Heights" destroyed almost all the buildings, and destroyed the green hills.

Economic growth.

The economic boom in Harlem occurred at the end of the 18th century. The area was inexpensive to live in, and poor Jewish and Italian families began to flock here. The influx of people and the opening of new businesses provoked intensive housing construction. So by the middle of the XIX century, Harlem becomes the most expensive area of ​​New York.

Since 1850, under the leadership of Arnold Compen, the area was inhabited not just by wealthy people, but by those who still made some kind of contribution to society. And gradually, half of the inhabitants of Harlem was either a philanthropist, or a famous politician, or a significant creative person - an artist, writer, musician.

Massive influx of blacks.

After the abolition of slavery in 1862, white people became wary of their black neighbors and rushed out of Harlem, freeing up even more space. In 1878, thanks to the famous millionaire Patrick Murray, 50 African-American families moved here for permanent residence. Then groups of Negroes began to settle in Harlem. In 1904, a massive influx of African Americans began from Georgia, Virginia, South and North Carolina, looking for work and protection from oppression. The white population, for the most part, did not recognize African Americans and their rights, oppressing them in every possible way. The secret society of the Ku Klux Klan carried out terrible reprisals against blacks; lynchings spread to the southern parts of America. Therefore, the African American population began to move en masse from south to north, where conditions for them were much better.

In other areas of New York, the black population was denied housing. Then a black realtor, Philip Peyton, appeared, and provided visitors with cheap apartments in Harlem. By 1930, the population of Harlem consisted of 70% blacks, and by 1947 - 100%.

The Italian mafia, which operated in Harlem in the 1920s, was replaced by local gangs of blacks, Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Since that time, the crime rate has only increased.

INTERESTING FACT: In the 1930s, about 30 criminal gangs operated in Harlem, each of which controlled 20 neighborhoods. At the head of one of the most influential organization's was Madame Stephanie Saint-Clair.

Harlem Renaissance (1919-1929).

This is a turning point in the history of the Negro people and the time of its ethno-cultural self-expression. The abolition of slavery after the Civil War and the resettlement of African Americans in Harlem contributed to a surge in its development in music, literature and art. It was at this time that jazz and its various variations appeared here, turning Harlem into a popular musical place in New York. Many of the black writers are also becoming famous - Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, James Weldon Johnson, Richard Wright, Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neil Hurston. Get famous artists Palmer Hayden and Johnson.

The decline of the Harlem Renaissance is associated with the worst economic crisis in American history. But his achievements influenced the cultural and political future of the Negro people, including paving the way for the struggle for their rights.

The Great Depression.

In 1929, the Great Depression began, the population of Harlem lost their jobs, and the area itself became like a slum. Its eastern part, which began to be called Spanish Harlem or El Bario, was especially affected, as Puerto Ricans began to leave en masse from here.

Against the background of such a socio-economic aggravation, riots began, the largest of them happened on March 19, 1935. In 1940, about 100 murders were committed in Harlem.

The second half of the 20th century saw the peak of criminal violence, associated for the most part with the absence or shortage of schools, hospitals, and reasonable management.

In the mid-60s of the twentieth century, the number of murders in Harlem increased - they were committed 6 times more than the average for New York.

Approximately half of the children in this area lived in incomplete families, the lack of guardianship led to an increase in juvenile delinquency. But the biggest problem was drug addiction - 70% of New York's drug addicts were concentrated in Harlem.

During the strikes of the 1950s and 1960s, the demands of the people to improve the appearance of streets and houses were heard. A major Harlem Revival project was launched, thanks to which the disadvantaged area is gradually taking on a noble look.

By the end of the 70s, Harlem was flooded with students. Gradually, the percentage of African Americans is declining, although Harlem does not cease to be their political center.

Decline in crime.

Thanks to New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in the 1990s, Harlem experienced a renaissance again. It significantly slowed down the activities of criminal gangs in the area. Since that time, Harlem has become, if not respectable, then quite a decent area.

Since the mid-1990s, the police have  pursued an aggressive policy, continuing to reduce criminal activity. So, according to the New York Police Department, if in 2000 there were 1.7 thousand robberies, then in 2010 - already 1.1 thousand.

In Harlem, the process of gentrification is actively going on - this is the restoration of dilapidated city blocks with the further attraction of wealthier residents. Today, young people of creative professions are settling in Harlem, shops of novice designers are opening.

FUN FACT: In 2001, former US President Bill Clinton opened his office at 55 West 125th Street in a powerful way to tame the gangster spirit of Harlem.

Locals say their sons hang out in the streets because they can't get a job. There are still few who go on to study after school.

James Payne, a Harlem businessman, said of his son: “He chose to be there (on the street) and I see it. If he had enough discipline to understand that he must go to college, do everything and wait, let the blessings come to him gradually. But they don't think at that level."


Currently, the area has a reputation as a respectable place.

It has many interesting places worth visiting and activities for entertainment.

  • For example, the Harlem Studio Museum constantly hosts exhibitions dedicated to black culture, shows the work of local artists and photographers.
  • Not far from the museum is the legendary Cotton Club, the most famous jazz club of the 1920s, where Duke Ellington played. It was opened in 1923 by gangster Owney Madden. Negroes were here as workers, and gangsters kept order. Gradually the club became a cult place for jazz lovers from all over the world.
  • The famous Apollo Theatre. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was a common variety show venue, where every Wednesday Harlem discovered new talent among African Americans. It was here that Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five (with Michael Jackson) performed for the first time. The most famous musicians performed here. Not far from the theater lived Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lesane Parish Crooks.
  • On the next street is the National Jazz Museum, which only highlights the huge role of Harlem in the development of jazz music.
  • Religious life in Harlem is reflected in the many church buildings. These are mainly Baptist churches, but among them there is also an Orthodox church. But the main part of the local church communities gather in houses and apartments without advertising, and it is rare to see a sign that Christians are meeting here.
  • One block from 125th Street is the Marcus Garvey Memorial Park , named after a figure for the rights and freedom from oppression of a black nationalist of the 20th century. This is a favorite vacation spot for residents of Harlem.

I recommend, you can visit the National Jazz Museum to learn more about the history and development of this amazing musical direction. And, of course, one cannot ignore the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where Ella Fitzgerald sang and Stevie Wonder began his dizzying path to success.


There are a lot of disabled people in Harlem: in a wheelchair or with sticks. Whether this is connected with a criminal past is not known. But the stroller here is not a sentence, but rather a different way of life.

Harlem has come a long way from the founding of villages by the Dutch in picturesque places to the settlement of the area by blacks and gentrification. The rebellious spirit of the area has also found expression in hip-hop culture. Harlem is the cradle of this musical genre. Many famous rappers, such as Tupac Shakura, Cam'ron, Ma$e, Sean Combs ("Puff Daddy"), also came from here.

Today, Harlem is an amazing and interesting place, securing the title of the center of African American culture: a huge number of talented actors, jazzmen and hip-hop performers gather here.


Thanks for reading Harlem, New York - history and attractions

« Prev Post