Constrained but not contained: Patterns of everyday life and the limits of segregation in 1920s Harlem

Stephen Robertson's article, "Constrained but not contained: Patterns of everyday life and the limits of segregation in 1920s Harlem," has appeared in The Ghetto in Global History: 1500 to the Present, edited by Wendy Z. Goldman and Joe William Trotter, Jr. (Routledge, 2017). The article is based on the presentation he gave to the Sawyer… Continue reading Constrained but not contained: Patterns of everyday life and the limits of segregation in 1920s Harlem

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Basketball in 1920s Harlem

Sports loomed large among the entertainments patronized by Harlem's residents in the 1920s.   Basketball occupied the most prominent place. Romeo Dougherty, sportswriter for the Amsterdam News, argued that, "Here in Greater New York and New Jersey basketball has meant more to us than baseball for the latter sport among colored people has been so closely… Continue reading Basketball in 1920s Harlem

The Death Penalty comes to Harlem, 1925: William Hoyer murders his wife and daughter

The shots with which twenty-five-year-old William Hoyer killed his wife Jennie and five-year-old daughter Sylvia were fired at 430 St Nicholas Avenue, but the events leading up to those murders wove through the spaces of Harlem.  Rich evidence of this case survives because Hoyer was ultimately executed for the crime, one of ten black residents… Continue reading The Death Penalty comes to Harlem, 1925: William Hoyer murders his wife and daughter

Frank Hamilton: A life in debt in Harlem

Frank Hamilton*, a twenty-three-year-old born in Memphis, Tennessee, raised in Arkansas, and educated at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, was placed on probation in 1928 after stealing three suits from the midtown clothing store where he worked as a porter. (*This name is a pseudonym, used at the request of the Municipal Archives) He had… Continue reading Frank Hamilton: A life in debt in Harlem

Perry Brown: A Lodge member’s life in Harlem

Perry Brown* was a forty-five-year-old born in Pennsylvania, who was placed on probation after stealing coats from the building of which he was superintendent in 1930.  (*This name is a pseudonym, used at the request of the Municipal Archives).That crime came in response to his wife Pauline's long illness, and was a marked departure from… Continue reading Perry Brown: A Lodge member’s life in Harlem

Catholics in 1920s Harlem

Catholic churches were spread throughout Harlem, reflecting an organization that assigned each parish a particular part of the neighborhood. Unlike other religious denominations, the Catholic Church did not leave Harlem as blacks occupied the neighborhood. Catholic parishes retained white members into the 1930s, and even as blacks slowly came to dominate congregations, white clergy still… Continue reading Catholics in 1920s Harlem

“This Harlem Life” in the Journal of Social History

Our article "This Harlem Life: Black Families and Everyday Life in the 1920s and 1930s" has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Social History.  (It appeared in the Fall 2010 issue). The article uses the Probation Department files to reconstruct the lives of five men "to highlight what the black metropolis offered those… Continue reading “This Harlem Life” in the Journal of Social History

Churches

Churches were the most prominent black places and institutions in Harlem. They made a powerful impression on visitors to the neighborhood, such as the (white?) journalist who wrote in The Independent in 1921 that “In the main, [Harlem] is impressive. Especially the churches.” This map shows 52 black church buildings located in the neighborhood. They… Continue reading Churches