#352 The Birth of Black Harlem

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Manage episode 284783020 series 2790521
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How did Harlem become Harlem, the historic center of Black culture, politics and identity in American life? This is the story of revolutionary ideas -- and radical real estate.

By the 1920s, Harlem had become the capital of Black America, where so many African-American thinkers, artists, writers, musicians and entrepreneurs would live and work that it would spawn -- a Harlem Renaissance.

But in an era of so much institutional racism -- the oppression of Jim Crow, an ever-present reality in New York -- how did Black Harlem come to be?

The story of Harlem begins more than three and a half centuries ago with the small Dutch village of Nieuw Haarlem (New Haarlem).

During the late 19th century Harlem became the home of many different immigrant groups -- white immigrant groups, Irish and German, Italian and Eastern European Jews -- staking their claim of the American dream in newly developed housing here.

But then an extraorindary shift occurs beginning in the first decade of the 20th century, a very specific set of circumstances that allowed, really for the very first time, African-American New Yorkers to stake out a piece of that same American dream for themselves.

This is a story of real estate -- and realtors! But not just any realtor, but the story of the man who earned the nickname the Father of Harlem.

Part one of a two-part show on the origins of Harlem.

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