The Growth of Black Harlem
By 1904, nearly all of the vacant land in Harlem had been built upon, and inflation and property vacancies led to a real estate crash. Seeing an opening for development, especially as older ethnic communities began to emigrate from the area, Black real estate entrepreneurs led by Philip Payton Jr. began to bring black tenants into vacant Harlem properties.
In 1910, census records show Central Harlem as being 10% Black; by 1930, this would increase to more than 70%. The NAACP’s Harlem chapter, which would later become the largest in the country, began operations in 1910. Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association followed suit in 1916.
Throughout colored America, from Massachusetts to Mississippi, and across the continent to Los Angeles and Seattle...Harlem is indeed the great Mecca for the sightseer, the pleasure-seeker, the curious, the adventurous, the enterprising, the ambitious and the talented of the whole Negro world.James Weldon Johnson
When James Weldon Johnson wrote these words in 1925 at the apex of the Harlem Renaissance, he gave voice to the widespread excitement, optimism, and pride that this tiny, one-and-a-half square mile district had sparked in Black people the world over.