Harlem, NYC StoryMap

Harlem, NYC StoryMap

Harlem, which has long been a testing ground for architectural and urban strategies, has seen (and continues to see) many cycles of economic upheaval, creative output, shifting cultural landscapes, and struggles over the right to the city. By tracing Black-designed places in Harlem, this StoryMap will highlight the importance of Black urbanists in shaping Harlem’s historical and contemporary identities.

Interactive StoryMap

To explore Harlem’s evolution through the lens of Black-designed places, click here to engage with the Harlem StoryMap.

The Harlem StoryMap was composed by Thandi Nyambose, student in the Master of Urban Planning program at Harvard Graduate School of Design.

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.

James Weldon Johnson, Black Manhattan (1930)

James Weldon Johnson, Black Manhattan (1930)

Meik Magazine

A Closer Look

To explore Harlem’s evolution through the lens of Black-designed places, click here to engage with the Harlem StoryMap.