February 2, 2018 - Vol. 1, Issue 19
Reimagining Harlem 18
Rudolph Brewington
Manning Marable
The Honorable Basil Paterson
Dr. Carol Morales
Charles B. Rangel
Reflecting on his childhood in Harlem, broadcast journalist Rudolph Brewington recalled, “Harlem was a poor place back then, but it had a vibrancy to it. We weren’t millionaires, we knew that, but we had a good fulfilling life.” 1 [Rudolph Brewington, THMDA 1.1.8]
Richard Plunz in A History of Housing in New York City, states of the history of Harlem’s gentrification, “In Manhattan, a last frontier for gentrification was Harlem. In 1981, when the city was planning its first auction of brownstones in Harlem, racial taboos made it inaccessible to the white middle class. But this constraint rapidly changed. Already in 1980, the proportion of Manhattan blacks who lived in Harlem had declined to 25 percent from 32 percent in 1970. In many ways, Harlem functioned as the symbolic national black capital...In addition, more than that of any other community in New York, the gentrification of Harlem raised issues about the fate of the city’s growing poor population.” 2

Decried from the headlines in articles like the 2017 “On Whole Foods, Gentrification and the Erasure of Black Harlem” 3 in The Root , to “The End of Black Harlem” 4 in The New York Times, or vehemently denied in opinions such as, “No, Gentrification Isn’t Making NYC Less Diverse” 5 in the New York Post , gentrification--wherever is occurring--is always a hot button issue. And gentrification in Harlem strikes a powerful cord, for those fighting it, denying it, or perpetuating it. The question then is, in the age of gentrification and cultural appropriation, how do we keep Harlem’s black vibrancy alive?

African American studies professor Manning Marable describes the process of gentrification in Harlem: “People don’t pay property taxes, city takes over the property. City sells off the property to whoever will buy it. Real estate speculators, corporations take over the property. They begin to invest block by block, hike up and take over properties that now are rent controlled, hike up the rents, rents overall in the community hike up dramatically. Here in Harlem between 2002 and 2004 rents have gone up, median rent has gone up 40 percent in two years, so that drives out more people and now increasingly if you take the subway to Harlem--all the whites who used to get off at 96 th Street now they keep riding, keep riding. And so increasingly, white middle, upper middle class people and black elites, buppies are moving to Harlem and working families are moved.” 6 [ Manning Marable, THMDA 3.10.7]

Searching for the root cause of such gentrification stories, radical community activist Matt Hern turned away from identity politics and developed a critique of capitalism in What a City is For: Remaking the Politics of Displacement, stating : This tendency toward the countercultural blaming of yuppies, hipsters, gentry, whoever, is appealing because it allows somewhere to aim our frustrations and someone to identify by the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the facial hair they have. But it also obscures the structural conditions that make gentrification, and typically racialized gentrification, not just an unfortunate issue policy makers have to scramble to ameliorate but an inevitability, nay a requirement, of late capitalist urbanism.” 7

Former New York political leader Basil Paterson also reflected upon the gentrification of Harlem during his interview, “I used to say years ago: they can gentrify Fort Greene, but they’re not going to gentrify Harlem, ‘cause even I have friends who are afraid to visit me in Harlem. That’s no longer true. Harlem is no longer the monster name that scares people away. You walk down a street in Harlem any Sunday morning and see young white women pushing their strollers and their babies, you see white women pushing their strollers at night, and they feel secure. I hope they feel secure. It’s changing. I just worry and wonder about where are the people going who’ve been forced out, ‘cause when they put up these condos and rental apartments that have rents and fees that are well beyond what the people who were there before could afford, where have they gone? I’ve asked some real estate brokers I know, where have the people gone? They say they don’t know, some people say they went to the Bronx, New York. The Bronx is being developed, too. Went to Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn’s being developed, too. Where are these people going? What’s happening to them?” 8 [The Honorable Basil Paterson, THMDA 1.2.4].

Peter Moskowitz agrees about the danger of turning a blind eye to community displacement in How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood , stating, “Gentrification is a system that places the needs of capital (both in terms of city budget and in terms of real estate profits) above the needs of people. When we think of gentrification as some mysterious process, we accept its consequences: the displacement of countless thousands of families, the destruction of cultures, the decreased affordability of life for everyone.” 9

However, not all Harlem residents are resistant or pessimistic in the face of the changes brought by Harlem’s gradual gentrification. Lifelong Harlem resident and dentist Dr. Carol Morales stated during her interview: “I’m excited about the development. They call it the ‘New Harlem Renaissance.’ There is so much going on in Harlem today, so much construction is being done. There’s so many different other ethnic groups are moving into the area because of that. This is prime real estate right here. From this area you can reach any part of New York City. All of the highways will stop here at 135th Street. All of the bus service. And we have the New York Transit service, everything stops here in Harlem. So I’m excited about that. A little concerned about the displacement of the older businesses that have been here all during the trenches, we might call of them mom and pop stores, that are being forced out. And because of that, you know Congressman Charles Rangel lives in this building. And he was responsible to help influence the President Bill Clinton to come to this area. They call it the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, to start a small business initiative here in Harlem. I think they chose like eight small businesses in Harlem, and to bring in technical support of those businesses. To show them how to compete with the new Harlem that’s being developed. And our office was one of those businesses that were chosen.” 10 [Dr. Carol Morales, THMDA 1.3.10].

Brian D. Goldstein concludes in The Roots of Urban Renaissance “Gentrification of Harlem was often a two-way street, with chain stores, wealthier residents, and outside money coming into Harlem, and Harlemites themselves creating space for or seeking the growth of those phenomena. Their history demonstrates that one cannot paint neighborhoods with a broad brush and assume that all residents wanted the same thing for their community. Harlemites brought multiple visions and competing aspirations to the project of city building in the late twentieth century. In the process, they debated and reimagined what it meant to construct their ideal city.” 11 Within this reimaging of Harlem, however, should be space to preserve the heart, the essence and the history of this vibrant black enclave.

The HistoryMakers Archive in Action
Brandeis University 12
At Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, M.A. candidate in Ancient Greek and Roman Studies Zachary Elliott focuses his research on marginal figures in ancient literature. His thesis centers on the narrative role of Telemachus in The Odyssey and post-heroic children in myth. Under the guidance of his faculty advisor, Professor Joel Christensen , Elliott presented the paper “Using Oral Histories to Conceptualize the Place of Classics in Marginalized Communities” at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies, where he utilized The HistoryMakers Digital Archive as his primary research material.

For his paper, Elliott looked at over 100 references to ancient authors and texts in the interviews, like that of public relations chief executive A. Bruce Crawley , and found that the archive included diverse approaches to ancient sources and to the field of Classics. Of his findings, Elliott stated to us via email, “I concluded that the pervasive demographic and diversity issues which Classics experiences are not inherent to the content of the field; rather, they develop from problematic presentations of material which alienate participants from diverse backgrounds and reify the field’s perception as monolithically white” and that “While this is not my primary area of research, I believe firmly that the study of reception through archives like The HistoryMakers provide insights too frequently overlooked. I hope to continue to raise awareness of the resource and encourage those who are considering the history of Classics in African American communities to use the archive.”

For more information about Zachary’s paper click here , or to follow him on Twitter @zbradleyelliott
Please share with us your stories of how you incorporate The HistoryMakers Digital Archive in your curriculum and research! We'd love to hear from you!

"That Story Has Not Been Told"
The HistoryMakers Remembers Wyatt Tee Walker 13

We were saddened to hear of the passing of HistoryMaker and civil rights leader Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker on January 23, 2018, but proud of the incredible legacy he left behind. Walker first made a name for himself as an organizer in Virginia. He headed the local NAACP chapter and the statewide CORE chapter, and once led a boycott of segregation by walking into the public library in Petersburg, Virginia and asking to check out a biography of Robert E. Lee. Walker was promptly arrested.

Walker first met Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a young minister in 1952, and the two formed a lifelong relationship. “We were both PKs, preacher’s kids,” remembered Walker, “So we had a lot in common.” 14 [Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, THMDA 1.1.8]. In 1960, when Dr. King asked him to direct the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Walker immediately agreed. He brought the full force of his organizing skills to SCLC, quickly turning the organization into a regional force. He remembered Roy Wilkins’ skepticism at the start of his tenure in Atlanta. “Somebody told him I was going to Atlanta to help. And he said very tersely, ‘He’ll be back.’ And I decided then I’d be a success.” 15 [Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, THMDA 1.1.9].

Walker also took a leading role in organizing protests throughout the South. He helped coordinate the Freedom Rides and several protests in Birmingham, Alabama including Project C, as well as the 1963 March on Washington. When asked about his legacy, Walker pointed specifically to “the Birmingham campaign, which led to the desegregation of America. That was the turning point in the desegregation struggle.” 16 [Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, THMDA 1.2.10]. In his later life, Walker remained committed to civil rights. He served as a special assistant on urban affairs to New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller from 1965 to 1975, and was an election supervisor in South Africa when Nelson Mandela was elected as president in 1994. In 1967, Walker took his place at the pulpit of the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem, where he served until 2004. 

When asked during his interview how he would like to be remembered, Walker stated simply, "Well, because of my organizational history and the 1963 Birmingham Alabama campaign, I would like to be remembered as the man who desegregated America. Because the Birmingham campaign led directly to the desegregation of the nation, and that story has not been told." 17 [Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, THMDA 1.2.12].

This week, 24 new interviews were added to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive:
DWinifred Neisser

Television executive Winifred Neisser (1953 - ) served as Vice President of Movies and Miniseries and Vice President of Family Programming for NBC Productions, and went on to become Senior Vice President of Movies for Television and Miniseries for Sony Pictures Television.
Tracey Edmonds

Film producer and entertainment manager Tracey Edmonds (1967 - ) was the founder and CEO of Edmonds Entertainment Group, which produced numerous films and television shows including Soul Food, Josie and the Pussycats, Good Luck Chuck, Who’s Your Caddy? and Jumping the Broom.
Milton Coleman

Newspaper editor Milton Coleman (1946 - ) was the managing editor of The Washington Post. He also served as president of the American Society of News Editors and the Inter-American Press Association.
Sheila Robinson

Marketing chief executive and publisher Sheila Robinson (1961 - ) was the founder, publisher and CEO of Diversity Woman magazine and author of the book Lead By Example: An Insiders Look at How to Successfully Lead in Corporate America and Entrepreneurship.
Rudolph Brewington

Broadcast journalist Rudolph Brewington (1946 - ) was the co-founder of 'Black Agenda Reports.' He received a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 1990 for his investigative series, 'Domestic Surveillance: America's Dirty Little Secret.'
Jim Vance

Broadcast journalist Jim Vance (1942 - 2017 ) anchored WRC-TV Channel 4 in Washington, D.C. for forty-five years. He was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2007.
Anthony Samad

Journalist and political science professor Anthony Samad (1957 - ) authored numerous political columns and scholarly publications, including '50 Years After Brown: The State of Black Equality in America.' He also founded the Urban Issues Forum of Greater Los Angeles.
Sheila Gregory Thomas

Television producer and writer Sheila Gregory Thomas (1938 - ) created, produced and hosted the television program The Magic Door. She also wrote about her family history for the African American National Biography project.
Cornell Leverette Moore

Corporate lawyer Cornell Leverette Moore (1939 - ) was a partner in the Dorsey and Whitney, LLP law firm, and was elected Grand Sire Archon, Grand Boulé of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity in 2004.
The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson

U.S. congresswoman The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson (1935 - ) serves in U.S. House of Representatives, where she has been a leading voice on issues of civil rights, health care and science education.
Molefi Kete Asante

African american studies professor Molefi Kete Asante (1942 - ) developed the theory of Afrocentricity. He also founded the first Ph.D. degree program in African American studies at Temple University.
Erroll Davis, Jr.

Education administrator Erroll Davis, Jr. (1944 - ) served as the chancellor of the University System of Georgia and was appointed superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools in 2011.
Steve Smith

Education administrator Steve Smith (1964 - ) was appointed deputy superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools in 2011.
Perry Howard

Architecture professor Perry Howard (1952 - ) was a distinguished faculty member at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. He was involved in numerous landscape architecture projects in Florida, North Carolina, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and South Carolina.
Reverend Dr. Arthur Rocker, Sr.

Civil rights activist Reverend Dr. Arthur Rocker, Sr. (1955 - ) was the founder and chairman of Operation People for Peace, Inc.
Wenda Weekes Moore

Civic leader Wenda Weekes Moore (1941 - ) served as the first African American chairperson of the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents and was chair of the Board of Trustees for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Handy Lindsey, Jr.

Foundation executive Handy Lindsey, Jr. (1952 - ) was one of the leading African American luminaries in the field of philanthropy, serving as an executive of The Chicago Community Trust, the Field Foundation of Illinois and the Cameron Foundation.
William "Sonny" Walker

Management consulting entrepreneur, civil rights activist, and nonprofit chief executive William "Sonny" Walker (1933 - 2016 ) served as an important member of the board of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and worked as Coretta Scott-King's speech writer.

Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson

Religious leader Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson (1949 - ) was the senior pastor of the Grace Baptist Church and the chairman of the National Action Network.

Dinizulu Gene Tinnie

Public artist and humanities professor Dinizulu Gene Tinnie (1942 - ) designed the inaugural museum space of the Boston African American Museum in 1974, and also designed exhibitions and installations at the Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale. His works can be seen in numerous locations around Miami and Boston.
Norma Pratt

Transportation chief executive Norma Pratt (1945 - ) was the president and CEO of Rodgers Travel, Inc., the oldest African American travel agency in the nation.
Elynor Williams

Corporate executive Elynor Williams (1946 - ) became Sara Lee Corporation’s first African American corporate officer serving as vice president for public responsibility.
Elzie Higginbottom

Real estate developer Elzie Higginbottom (1941 - ) was the chairman and CEO of East Lake Management and Development Corporation, the largest minority-owned real estate company in Illinois.
Reginald Van Lee

Management consultant Reginald Van Lee (1957 - ) is an executive vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton.
1.   Rudolph Brewington (The HistoryMakers A2013.318), interviewed by Julieanna Richardson, November 22, 2013, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 8, Rudolph Brewington describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood
2.      Richard Plunz, A History of Housing in New York City. Columbia University Press, September 6, 2016.
6.      Manning Marable (The HistoryMakers A2005.228), interviewed by Shawn Wilson, December 5, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 3, tape 10, story 7, Manning Marable talks about the gentrification of Harlem in New York City
7.      Matt Hern, What a City is For: Remaking the Politics of Displacement MIT Press, September 23, 2016.
8.      The Honorable Basil Paterson (The HistoryMakers A2007.016), interviewed by Shawn Wilson, January 18, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 4, The Honorable Basil Paterson talks about the gentrification of Harlem
9.      Peter Moskowitz, How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood . PublicAffairs, March 7, 2017.
10.   Dr. Carol Morales (The HistoryMakers A2003.220), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, September 20, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 10, Dr. Carol Morales talks about redevelopment and gentrification in Harlem, New York
11.   Brian D. Goldstein, The Roots of Urban Renaissance, Harvard Univeristy Press. February 1, 2017.
12.   Photo courtesy of Zachary Elliott, with permission. Can be found at:
13.   Wyatt Tee Walker, with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dan Farrell, New York Daily News. Can be found at:
14.  Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker (The HistoryMakers A2010.069), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 24, 2010, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 8, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker recalls when he first met the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  
15.   Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker (The HistoryMakers A2010.069), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 24, 2010, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 9, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee
16.  Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker (The HistoryMakers A2010.069), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 24, 2010, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 10, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker reflects upon his legacy    
17. Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker (The HistoryMakers A2010.069), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 24, 2010, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 12, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes how he would like to be remembered
18.   Harlem Street Signs 1989, Copyright to Matt Weber. Can be found at:

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