The 1920s Harlem Renaissance Is Still Being Celebrated Today
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The Harlem Renaissance Can Still Be Seen All Over The Manhattan Neighborhood, Even As It Changes

Exterior, nighttime view of the marquee of the Cotton Club nightclub, New York, New York, early 1930s. The signage advertises a performances by Bill Robinson and Cab Calloway. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The Harlem Renaissance occurred before the Great Depression, WW2, and numerous inventions; however, it’s still celebrated and recognized today.

In the 1920s, Harlem was the epicenter of Black culture in New York City. Jazz music filled the streets like traffic, speakeasies, and other nightclubs kept the liquor flowing and the dice rolling in the face of prohibition, and entertainers, including Cab Calloway and Josephine Baker, pushed the fashion trends.


Publicity still portrait of Cab Calloway in a zoot suit starring in the all-Black-cast musical ‘Stormy Weather,’ 1943. (Photo by John Kisch Archive/Getty Images)
(Eingeschränkte Rechte für bestimmte redaktionelle Kunden in Deutschland. Limited rights for specific editorial clients in Germany.) Baker, Josephine (*03.06.1906-12.04.1975+) , Taenzerin und Saengerin, USA / F, – in einem Bananen-Tanz in der Brick-Top-Bar, Paris (das erste Foto, das J.Baker in einem stilisierten Bananen Kostuem zeigt), – 1925, – Aufnahme: Murray Korman, New York (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Today, Harlem has changed in many ways, including the demographic of its population, but those who live and work there are keeping the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance alive,

“Harlem is a community unlike any other,” Thelma Golden, director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, told Conde Nast Traveler last year, “It’s deeply united, and its residents have continued to build and sustain the cultural institutions, historic places of worship, incredible culinary scene, and more.”

According to CNTraveler, the neighborhood’s culinary scene also brought many to the area, including Marcus Samuelsson. He opened Red Rooster in 2010 to celebrate and honor the Harlem supper clubs of the renaissance while adding his international flair to the cuisine, rooted in his Ethiopian heritage and Swedish upbringing.

“I think as a Black person growing up outside America, I’ve always had great admiration of the idea of a Black Mecca,” Samuelsson told the traveler. “Harlem is and was that place. It was very aspirational for me.”

Other signs of the Harlem Renaissance can be found in everything from Langston Hughes’ books to the Cotton Club to the art of painter, writer, mixed media sculptor, and quilter Faith Ringgold, born in the neighborhood in 1930 at the height of the Harlem Renaissance.

Although Harlem has been dealing with gentrification that has led to thousands of its Black residents leaving the neighborhood due to skyrocketing rents, young Black professionals that are still in the area have allowed it to maintain its business acumen while many of the neighborhood’s cultural landmarks including the famous Apollo Theater ensure that the period and its impact on Black culture to this day is not forgotten.

The neighborhood is also still a home for Black arts. It is still home to the National Jazz Museum and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.