Harlem is a large neighborhood within the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. Since the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem was annexed to New York City in 1873. Harlem can be separated into three separate yet cohesive main sections: Central Harlem, West Harlem, and East Harlem. Harlem has been defined by a series of boom-and-bust cycles, with significant population shifts accompanying each cycle.
Black residents began to arrive en masse in 1905, with numbers fed by the Great Migration. In the 1920s and 1930s, Central and West Harlem were the focus of the "Harlem Renaissance", an outpouring of artistic and professional works without precedent in the American black community. However, with job losses in the time of the Great Depression and the deindustrialization of New York City after World War II, rates of crime and poverty increased significantly.
Today, Central Harlem has an African-American community comprising 81% of the population, creating the largest African-American community by percentage in all of New York City. Central Harlem is the most famous section of Harlem and thus is commonly referred to simply as Harlem. Central Harlem is home to the famous Apollo Theater.
West Harlem, consisting of Morningside Heights, Manhattanville, and Hamilton Heights, as a whole is predominately Hispanic. Blacks make up about a quarter of the West Harlem population. However, Morningside Heights is predominately Caucasian, with many considering it an extension of the Upper West Side due to cultural differences. Morningside Heights is known as the "Academic Acropolis of New York". Educational institutions in the neighborhood include Columbia University, Barnard College, and New York Theological Seminary.
East Harlem originally formed as a predominately Italian-American neighborhood, but its demographics have changed over the years, and it is now known as a predominately Hispanic neighborhood. Italian Harlem formed when Southern Italian immigration began in the late 19th century. Italian Harlem is notable as the founding location of the Genovese crime family, one of the Five Families that dominated Italian organized crime in New York City as part of the Mafia (or Cosa Nostra). The area began its transition from Italian Harlem to Spanish Harlem when Puerto Rican immigration began after World War I. This community of stateside Puerto Ricans is notable for its contributions to Salsa music. In recent decades, many Mexican and Dominican immigrants have also settled in East Harlem. East Harlem is also known as El Barrio and today is predominately Hispanic. The area suffers from the highest violent crime rate in Manhattan.
Since New York City's revival in the late 20th century, Harlem has been experiencing social and economic gentrification. However, Harlem still suffers from many social issues: poor adult literacy levels, a high jobless rate, poverty, drug addiction, AIDS, and restricted and segregated housing. Large portions of the population receive a form of income support from the government—with West, Central, and East Harlem respectively at 34.9%, 43.3%, and 46.5% of the population.
Harlem's historically epic crime rate has dropped significantly in recent times. However, crime remains a concern for the community, and the crime rate is still high in comparison to surrounding areas. For example, in 2012 the Upper West Side's 24th Precinct had 6 shooting victims through the first 10 months of the year. In the same time, Central Harlem's 32nd Precinct had 30 shooting victims.
Famous quotes containing the word harlem:
“I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue buses,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.”
—Langston Hughes (19021967)
“It doesnt do good to open doors for someone who doesnt have the price to get in. If he has the price, he may not need the laws. There is no law saying the Negro has to live in Harlem or Watts.”
—Ronald Reagan (b. 1911)
“Morality becomes hypocrisy if it means accepting mothers suffering or dying in connection with unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions and unwanted children.”
—Gro Harlem Brundtland (b. 1939)