Ethnic Enclaves in NYC: Harlem By: paul frAnzOni jr

For the Photo Essay project, I choose to do the ethnic enclave of the neighborhood of Harlem in New York City. This enclave has an incredibly interesting history and has evolved a lot throughout the years. Located in the northern section of the borough Manhattan, Harlem has a population which is known to be predominately African American. In 1950, the population of the neighborhood was almost entirely black with a record high of 98% of its residents. To this day, Harlem remains to be an ethnic enclave for African American making up 70% of the population in 2010. Originally, Harlem was a Dutch neighborhood named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. This changed in the early 1900s as an influx of African Americans moved to the neighborhood during the great migration. Throughout the entirety of the 20th century, Harlem has been the Mecca of African American culture in regard to art and music.


The Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 30s brought an incredible change to the makeup of the neighborhood. This cultural revolution brought an unprecedented amount of artistic, musical, and theatrical work from Harlem and any single African American community to date. The Harlem Renaissance inspired so many to break the mold and change their lives as well as the lives of others. One of the many outputs of the renaissance included the creation of the world renowned Apollo Theater which has played host to many great productions and actors throughout the years. Along with the Apollo theater, Harlem also produced many great play writes such as Orson Welles who put together an all black production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Another pride of the neighborhood is the Harlem Boy's Choir and the Harlem Girl's Choir which both toured the nation performing and educatineg African American youth. When thinking of great artists, poets, and musicians from Harlem names like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Langston Hughes all come to mind. Without doubt, Harlem has served as a cultural center for African Americans.

Harlem and Hip-Hop

Hip Hop in the late 20th and early 21st century exploded in the city of Harlem. The beloved genre of music which includes rap has gained incredible recognition and love worldwide and Harlem is recognized as a huge contributor to it's success. Paul Winley was a producer from Harlem who had an effect on Hip-Hop which is still felt today. Winley paved the road for many young African American artists in Harlem by inspiring them through his productions. When asked, Winley asserted, "My heart and soul have always been in Harlem". In Harlem, a museum opened up to celebrate the rich culture of Hip Hop and the history of the genre as well as its evolution in the neighborhood. The Hip Hop Culture Center's slogan is, "Preserving the history of Hip Hop and educating urban youth with an eye to the future". Famous Harlem emcee Mutulu Olugbala better known as M1 gave his insight on Hip Hop, "Even the word hip-hop itself is a code word for black culture, which has such a great history." Without the influence from artists from Harlem, the genre of would not be the same as it is today.

Harlem Architectural Art

One trademark on the neighborhood of Harlem is the incredible art and paintings on the buildings. Over time, many parts of the neighborhood has evolved into walk through museums as buildings are covered in painting making for a truly beautiful and unique scene. Many of the murals celebrate the African American culture which has been a huge part of the identity of the neighborhood. If one were to visit Harlem they would learn so much about the culture and history by looking at the neighborhood's buildings alone and the art which covers them. This gives the streets an incredible vibrance and is inspiring to look at. Once plain and ordinary brownstones have been completely transformed into beautiful works of art giving the city life.

Religious Life in Harlem

Throughout the history of the neighborhood of Harlem, religion has always played a huge role in daily life of its residents, especially the African American population. In Harlem alone, there are 400 Churches which are attended daily by its residents. For the most part, Christian denominations dominate the religious culture of the neighborhood including Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Roman Catholic. The Abyssinian Baptist Church (pictured) has been incredibly influential to Harlem population as it has been a large gathering place for worship since its inception. A feature of religious life unique to Harlem which shows the devout spirituality of the people of the city are "storefront churches" which take place in empty stores or brownstones giving people many opportunities to worship along with their own Church. This is a testament to how large a role religion plays in the lives of those whole call Harlem home. Without doubt, religion has certainly shaped the culture of Harlem and helped make it into the unique place which it is.

As shown in this spark page, the culture in Harlem is rich. This area has changed throughout the years but has kept a devotion to the arts and religion. The African American culture unique to Harlem has stretched far beyond the neighborhood and effected the entire world. This ethnic enclave in New York City is one which has changed people around the globe.


"Harlem Globetrotting." Unwedded Bliss. N.p., 07 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.

"History of Harlem". Web. 17 Jan. 2017

Morris, Colin. "Columbia News ::: Celebrating Harlem's Hip-Hop History." Columbia News ::: Celebrating Harlem's Hip-Hop History. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.

Rule, Sheila (April 15, 1994). "The Voices and Faces of Crown Heights". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. p. 1.

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