In the autumn of 1960, Harlem would have struck few people as an obvious place to stay. Long famous as the heartland of black New York, the northern tip of Manhattan had an unenviable reputation for poverty, robbery and murder. Asthma, venereal disease and tuberculosis rates were shockingly high; the streets were full of rubbish; drug addiction was rising fast. And many of the area’s brick tenements, writes the historian Simon Hall, were ‘little more than rat-infested slums’
Yet there was no denying that Harlem had an energy, a life force, rivalled by few other parts of the city. At all hours, recorded the poet LeRoi Jones, who later changed his name to Amiri Bakara, the streets were full of ‘young girls, doctors, pimps, detectives, preachers, drummers, accountants, gamblers, labor organizers, postmen, wives, Muslims, junkies … an endless stream of Americans, whose singularity in America is that they are black and can never honestly enter into the lunatic asylum of white America’…. Click here to read full article.