The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Harlem

Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was headquartered in Harlem from 1918 to 1927.  The organization generally appears in accounts of Harlem on parade, on the occasion of its conventions.  However, the UNIA occupied more than the streets. Its headquarters was on West 135th Street, as were the offices of a number of the… Continue reading The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Harlem

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Harlem’s Beauty Parlors

Beauty parlors were the most prevalent form of black business in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s.  When George Edmund Haynes, the black sociologist and founder of the Urban League, surveyed the neighborhood's businesses in 1921 he found 103 hairdressers, compared to 63 tailors, pressers and cleaners and 51 barbers.  Simm's Blue Book, a directory… Continue reading Harlem’s Beauty Parlors

Harlem’s Soapbox Speakers

Soapbox or street corner speakers were a feature of everyday life in Harlem from World War One to the 1960s.  Each year, the appearance of speakers was heralded as a sign of spring, and they were particularly prevalent through the summer months, when the heat led residents of Harlem to spend most of their leisure… Continue reading Harlem’s Soapbox Speakers

Traffic Accidents in 1920s Harlem

In the mid-1920s, an average of almost ten people a day, including two children, suffered injuries in automobile accidents between 130th and 155th Streets. Reports of those accidents regularly appear in the black press, and occasionally in The New York Times, and in some cases led to felony prosecutions that appear in the District Attorney's… Continue reading Traffic Accidents in 1920s Harlem