GOSPEL TRUTH ABOUT HARLEM; Singing the Praises of Uptown New York, a No-Go Zone No Longer

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), December 5, 1999 | Go to article overview

GOSPEL TRUTH ABOUT HARLEM; Singing the Praises of Uptown New York, a No-Go Zone No Longer


Byline: STEVE TURNER

UNTIL recently the idea of spending a night in Harlem would have had all the allure of swimming with sharks. A potent combination of poverty, racial tension and drugs effectively turned Manhattan north of Central Park into a no-go area for tourists and even most New Yorkers.

Times have changed. Under the Clinton administration Harlem, as part of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, has been given [pounds sterling]185 million of public money. In practical terms that has meant the streets cleaned, derelict buildings restored and new businesses started up.

This is good news for Harlem Spirituals Inc, who have operated jazz and gospel tours to the area since 1984. Even though the only trouble they've had in that time has been a whisky bottle smashed on the side of a coach, the diminishing fear factor makes tourism north of 96th Street more attractive to visiting Europeans, Japanese, Scandinavians and South Americans.

Harlem Spirituals run several trips uptown each week to look at architecture and sample food, visit sites of historical interest and listen to music. I took the Wednesday morning Gospel on a Weekday tour followed the next night by Soul Food and Jazz.

Both trips had the same tour guide, a multilingual Alabamian concert pianist named Peggy Taylor, who told us everything from the size of the area (5.5 square miles) to the average annual income for a family of four ([pounds sterling]12,500) and the rate of unemployment (16 per cent).

Even though I knew that Harlem had cleaned up its act, I still felt myself slipping into war correspondent mode as the familiar sights of theatres and pavement cafes slipped behind the air-conditioned coach.

The last time I visited, in 1976, I'd spent the night patrolling with two police officers from the 28th precinct, then the smallest yet most dangerous in Manhattan. Its homicide rate was greater than most cities in the world.

This time the atmosphere was noticeably different. The burnt-out cars and scattered garbage were gone. Graffiti was barely visible except as an approved form of decoration on steel shutters. Instead of the junkies furtively collecting on street corners, there were ordinary scenes of community life - a man rolling a car wheel, children playing basketball and baseball.

For the greatest part of its history Harlem has been synonymous with culture, fashion and the good life.

Drugs, dereliction and crime came late. In the 17th Century it was the fashionable place for New Yorkers to build country estates. By the end of the 19th, when the ethnic mix was still largely English, German and Dutch, it had a philharmonic orchestra, an opera house and a yacht club.

During the First World War, as Southern blacks moved north to take jobs in the munitions factories, the ethnic balance changed. By 1930 Harlem had a black population of 200,000 and was home to a generation of Afro-American poets, novelists, painters, musicians and intellectuals.

This history is visible through the architecture. The Morris-Jumel Mansion, used by George Washington in 1776, looks like a plantation home. The great Gothic mass of the Cathedral of St John Divine (still unfinished after 107 years) could have been imported from Europe.

The smart turn-of-the-century townhouses gave way to the large, anonymous apartment blocks of the Thirties.

Sugar Hill, which I had associated with hip-hop culture because Sugar-hill was the first distinctive rap recording company, is actually the most prestigious section of Harlem - 'sugar' being slang for money. Convent Avenue is a tree-lined street of stone houses which are now being picked up by downtowners for $750,000 (almost [pounds sterling]500,000) instead of the $1.5 million they'd pay elsewhere in Manhattan.

The heart of Harlem is 125th Street, where we were set down for a 30-minute walkabout. Here stands the legendary Apollo Theater which was a showcase for black talent in the Thirties, and which, in the Sixties, became the place where off-duty white rock stars such as Mick Jagger would come to check out James Brown. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

GOSPEL TRUTH ABOUT HARLEM; Singing the Praises of Uptown New York, a No-Go Zone No Longer
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.