Harlem Renaissance Photo Essay

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The publication of “Harlem Gang Leader” was a watershed moment, leading to offering Parks a job and making him the first (and, for 20 years, the only) African-American photographer on the staff of a major American magazine or newspaper.

Despite this, Parks was troubled by the photo essay.

He felt that although the young gang leader Leonard “Red” Jackson did live in a world marked by fear and violence, the emphasis the magazine’s editors placed on these aspects of life in Harlem created a one-dimensional story.

Yet Parks also acknowledged that without the violence, might never have published the essay.

His most famous images, such as century America and have become iconic images, defining their era for later generations.

They also rallied support for the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, for which Parks himself was a tireless advocate as well as a documentarian.Like Brooklyn before it, Harlem is not immune from gentrification.And like Brooklyn, many original inhabitants are being pushed out to make way for white collar workers and Whole Foods.Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, Langston Hughes… It is a complex story which highlights the impact government policies had and continue to have on minorities in America. Whilst remnants of the hardship many people there endure are still visible today, Harlem is more than the negative stories written about it. Small businesses run by African-Americans populate this iconic street—and not just the conventional brick and mortar stores.It’s common to be accosted by African braiders the minute you jump off the subway, each haggling to give you the best price to braid or weave afro hair.Jimi Hendrix got his start here after winning amateur night. Then there’s the Studio Museum in Harlem, a gallery established in 1968 to promote the work of artists of African descent.You have Red Rooster where live music is performed every night and Sunday brunch is a must.Owned by Ethiopian-Swede celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson, it serves up comfort food whilst celebrating the diversity and richness of African-American cuisine.Just downstairs, is Ginny’s Supper Club, where live performances—including I’m told—a gospel brunch, bring the space to life.And in Harlem, enterprising people from around the world, trade their wares. One of the most recognisable spots on the street is the legendary Apollo Theater.In a city that has some of the wealthiest people in the world, it’s a stark contrast to see just how hard many New Yorkers have to work to put food on the table. There isn’t a notable African American musician from 20th century who hasn’t played at this venue. Their images still grace the walls of this historic venue.


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