One hundred years ago, northern Manhattan experienced one of the most important cultural flowerings in American history. African Americans who fled the subjugation and racism of the South and migrated to Harlem gave birth to The Harlem Renaissance, a period of art, music and political action that re-shaped African American identity in the United States for the next century. With the Harlem Renaissance, the local community, including churches and black-owned businesses, thrived. Today, the neighborhood that fostered generations of African American families and traditions has become a target of gentrification. As brownstones are replaced by luxury condominiums, and local businesses give way to national chains, families and community organizations are being priced out of the neighborhood, even as some residents are fighting hard to preserve Harlem’s history and identity. In this package of stories, Dollars & Sense explores the history and legacy of Harlem, as well as the people and institutions that are on the forefront of the struggle to maintain Harlem’s African American soul. We invite you to immerse yourself in the articles, photos, documentaries and podcasts that illustrate the story of Harlem then and now, as well as the community’s hopes for Harlem’s future, 100 years after the Harlem Renaissance. To learn more about the project and read acknowledgements of the many people who helped make this package possible, click here. *During the editing process, New York was hit by COVID-19 and Dollars & Sense, along with Baruch College, had to shut down physical meetings. Over the last few weeks we communicated, edited and published this package remotely, with each of us quarantined in our apartments.
About this Project
For more than 40 years, Dollars & Sense has been publishing the very best of Baruch College’s student journalism. Our student journalists meet every week to workshop ideas on how to tell New York stories in new and compelling ways. Being New Yorkers, our aim is to always report stories from our home and keep honest representation as the cornerstone of what we deliver. This year, the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance gave us an opportunity to focus on New York’s history as well as its future. We began in October 2019 when we met with archivists at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to gather research and ideas. As a National Historic Landmark devoted to the preservation of materials that tell the story of the African-American experience and the African Diaspora, the center provided a rich trove of documents and photographs. When we initially met with Maira Liriano, Associate Chief Librarian, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, and her colleagues, Cheryl Beredo, Curator – Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, Tammi Lawson, Curator – Art & Artifacts Division Shola Lynch, Curator – Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division and Michael Mery, Acting Curator – Photographs and Prints Division, we were greeted warmly and introduced to a generous display of photographs, archival prints, manuscripts and literature. With the enthusiastic support of the Schomburg Center, we began.
Over the next few months, our team of student journalists, some of whom have never set foot in Harlem before, attended events marking the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance, visited its cultural institutions and churches, knocked on doors, and tirelessly worked on building connections in, and knowledge about, the neighborhood. We did a documentary on the i, Too Arts Collective, a non-profit organization, about its struggle to maintain its location in The Langston Hughes House. We reported on musicians, music educators and performance artists who believe in the sounds of Harlem. We wrote about The Harlem Writers Guild, a legendary staple of the multigenerational Harlem literary community. We also set out to examine how Harlem is being affected by New York’s rapidly changing economy and demographics. With the spread of gentrification, we thought it would be important to tell the story of one long-time Harlemite’s fight against foreclosure, as well as a group of individuals who worry that “their” Harlem is slipping away. This package was conceived and developed by student journalists out of a love for both journalism and New York City, and as part of a mission to tell the Harlem story. *During the editing process in mid-March 2020, New York City was hit severely by COVID-19. Dollars & Sense, along with Baruch College, shut down physical meetings. Over the next several weeks, we communicated virtually, edited and published this package from our respective homes.
This package would not have been possible without the help of Maira Liriano and her many colleagues at the Schomburg Center who welcomed us so warmly and provided the foundation for our stories. We also want to thank: –Mo Beasly for serving as a guide to some of our student journalists. –Kendolyn Walker of the i, Too Arts Collective for trusting our student journalists with telling their story, and for inviting us to An Ode to Langston. –Profs. Andrea Gabor, Vera Haller and Emily Johnson for their help and advice in the planning and editing of these stories. Most importantly, we would like to give a sincere thank you to the people of Harlem for giving us their time, their stories and for allowing us to be an extension of their voices. Kenneth Sousie, Editor-in-Chief of Dollars & Sense.