3 Things Harlem Gave Us

by A Collier

3 Things Harlem Gave Us

Harlem is a rich source of black history, culture, and influence. Since the early 1900s, it has had a majority black population, and its impact on the black experience is still felt today. Here are 3 things Harlem gave us.

Harlem is a rich source of black history, culture, and influence. Since the early 1900s, it has had a majority black population, and its impact on the black experience is still felt today. Here are 3 things Harlem gave us.

Jazz Music

New York City is still considered the world’s jazz capital – you thought it was New Orleans, didn’t you?

Harlem became a top spot for jazz acts during the Harlem Renaissance – many of the greatest artists and musicians like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington rose to fame at the famous Cotton Club and the diverse population of the area created new sounds and influences that are unmistakable hallmarks of the music genre to this day.

Chicken ‘n’ Waffles

We all know how great this combo is, but did you know it was invented in Harlem as a direct result of the jazz era? Check out the scoop from this Time Out article:

“After its 1938 opening, Wells Supper Club in Harlem was the last stop for jazz greats like Sammy Davis, Jr., Gladys Knight and Nat King Cole. Catering to its night-owl talent, Wells created the perfect dish for acts who’d missed dinner but couldn’t wait till breakfast: leftover fried chicken on a sweet waffle.”

Nat King Cole loved it so much, he held his wedding ceremony at Wells!

Harlem Renaissance

While the Harlem Renaissance gave us a great number of songs, poems, and other creative works from up-and-coming black artists, its impact lies in its community.

Because Harlem was (compared to the oppressive South) a haven for blacks in a post-slavery era, it became a symbol for people of color everywhere. Harlem’s community was the first place where black men and women truly felt their voices could be heard.

And those voices had a lot of powerful things to say, as seen in the amazing classics that came from the era like:

  •  Langston Hughes: wrote novels, short stories, plays, and poems. Arguably, his most famous poem was entitled “Harlem”. Here’s a video of Hughes reading his poem “I, Too
  • Billie Holiday: jazz singer, most famous song was “Strange Fruit” (hear here sing it here)
  • Zora Neale Hurston: author, playwright, and filmmaker – most famous work was Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Louis Armstrong: jazz trumpeter, most famous songs include the iconic “What a Wonderful World”
  • Aaron Douglas: widely considered “one of the most accomplished and influential visual artists of the Harlem Renaissance”. Check out some of his art here.

The Next Voices of Harlem

Harlem America Digital Network is here to amplify the next generation black voices, from Harlem and around the globe. Check out our website to learn more about our small business membership packages.

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