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Our article “Harlem in Black and White: Mapping Race and Place in the 1920s,” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Urban History.  It should appear at the end of 2012.  The abstract reads:

In the 1920s, as Harlem emerged as the largest black city in the world, a significant white presence remained in the neighborhood.  Whites not only frequented nightlife, they owned and operated the vast majority of Harlem’s businesses, policed its streets, staffed its schools and hospital, drove its public transport and most of the vehicles travelling its streets, delivered goods, collected rent and insurance payments, and patronized sporting events. Scholars have only made briefly mention of this presence and its impact on everyday life, portraying race relations as harmonious and inconsequential in a neighborhood represented as a segregated refuge from whites.  Drawing on black newspapers and legal records, and using the Digital Harlem site to map and visualize that evidence of the white presence, reveals a very different picture, of interracial encounters that often led to conflict, and of Harlem as a place of contestation, negotiation, resistance, and accommodation.

The map below captures part of the white presence in Harlem, locating the institutions staffed by whites, some of the posts patrolled by police, and the routes traveled by the buses and streetcars driven by whites.  The streets serviced by public transport also featured the neighborhood’s businesses, most staffed as well as owned by whites.  Other maps relating to the white presence in Harlem are already on the blog, in posts on traffic accidents, street vendors, and ice dealers.

Whites in Harlem (Bus routes, Streetcar Routes and Police Patrols appear in the list of Event Types)

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An article about Digital Harlem, “Putting Harlem on the Map,” is part of Writing History in the Digital Age, a collection of articles being developed through open peer review.  The editors solicited contributions addressing these questions: Has the digital revolution transformed how we write about the past — or not? Have new technologies changed our essential work-craft as scholars, and the ways in which we think, teach, author, and publish? Does the digital age have broader implications for individual writing processes, or for the historical profession at large?

“Putting Harlem on the Map” discusses how Digital Harlem changed how I thought about and understood the neighborhood in the 1920s.  You can post feedback on the article until November 14 by following this link

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Our article, “The Black Eagle of Harlem,” has appeared in Beyond Blackface: African Americans and the Creation of American Popular Culture, 1890-1930, a collection edited by Fitz Brundage and published by the University of North Carolina Press.

The article is a study of Hubert Julian, the black aviator, parachutist and celebrity, considering him as a product of Harlem and the modernity of the 1920s and 1930s.  Julian launched himself into prominence with two parachute jumps over Harlem in 1923 and became a fixture flying over funerals and parades.  He also made an ill-fated effort to fly across the Atlantic in 1924, drawing a crowd of around 20,000 to watch him takeoff from the Harlem River, on a flight that lasted only a few moments before the plane crashed into Flushing Bay.  Successful or not, Julian captivated Harlem as a black exponent of the quintessentially modern marvel of flight.

But Julian’s style proved as fascinating as any of his accomplishments.  He donned clothing ranging from uniforms to the morning dress of an English gentleman, and promoted himself as a spectacle that drew the attention of the black, and on occasion, white press.  He attached himself to Marcus Garvey’s UNIA, and later, Father Divine, had various roles in Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia, and even co- produced one of Oscar Micheaux’s films.  “On the move, on the make,” Hubert Julian embodied the spirit of the 1920s.

For more, see the post “Hubert Julian in Harlem”

Review of Beyond Blackface: Journal of American History (2013) 99 (4): 1267-1268.

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Marcy Sacks, Associate Professor of History at Albion College, and author of Before Harlem: The Black Experience in New York City Before WW1, reviews Playing the Numbers in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of American History

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Our article “Disorderly Houses: Residences, Privacy and the Surveillance of Sexuality in 1920s Harlem” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of the History of Sexuality. It will appear in 2012/2013.

The article argues that despite overcrowding, Harlem’s residences  provided privacy, due to the regular, extended absence of residents at work, the willingness of those not bound by familial ties to look the other way, the ability to pass as married or as heterosexual, and the limited surveillance conducted by public and private authorities.  Residents used that privacy not simply for the marital sexuality that reformers promoted, but for homosexual, extramarital and premarital sexual activity, ranging from casual relationships to informal unions, and to operate venues that commodified privacy and gave others space for the same kinds of sexual expression.

There are several maps already posted on this blog that are related to the article’s arguments.  The police focus on street prostitution rather than what happened inside residences is evident in the map of prostitution arrests.  Divorce raids, which offer a glimpse of the privacy that unmarried couples could obtain in residences, are mapped in this post.  The night life venues that residents operated in their homes for a black clientele, away from the nightclubs and speakeasies frequented by whites, can be found on the map of Harlem’s nightlife.

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Our article, “This Harlem Life: Black Families and Everyday Life in the 1920s and 1930s,” has now been published in the Journal of Social History, in the Fall 2010 issue.  <update, 19 July 2011: as six months have elapsed since its publication, I can now provide a copy here>.  I’ve already posted maps and discussions of the lives of the five men who feature in the article: Morgan Thompson, Perry Brown, Fuller Long, Frank Hamilton and Roger Walker.

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Another review of our book, Playing the Numbers, has appeared, in the July/August issue of The Atlantic, available online – and accompanied by this great illustration

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