“Harlem hadn’t always been a community of Negroes.” — Malcolm X

Listen Siblings, I come in peace,

“History is not everything, but it is the starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, but more importantly, what they must be.”  — Dr. John Henrik Clarke

Malcolm X left gems in his autobiography.  With the lessons that I teach, our advancement, if we only listened, would be imminent.  For our ancestor teaches us here about how Harlem was started.  Harlem is a result of the European’s tribal nature.  The Dutch did not want to live by the Germans who didn’t want to live by the Irish, who did not . . . Italians, European Jews, Africans!  If Europeans were less tribal–there would be no Black Harlem!

But this isn’t the only lesson.  Malcolm X here documents our possession of Wall Street, Greenwich Village, Pennsylvania Station and 52nd Street.  That we had these areas empowers the whole reparations movement–the English stole this land from us and we can legally reclaim it!  More, it gives new meaning to “Occupy Wall Street”–A meaning Europeans don’t want you to have!

Finally, to get to Malcolm, I want you to realize how Harlem originated as an “Arts and Entertainment” capital of African people.  “Arts and Entertainment” intrinsically deals with European patronage.  This is why the “Cotton Club” had all White clientele.  And why “Like it is” (A Public Affairs program) was replaced with “Here and Now” (an Arts and Entertainment program.)

What we are doing at the African Blood Siblings is congregating African people for the sake of African Liberation.  This exclusively deals with African patronage.  Every responsible African should take it upon herself to follow African Blood Siblings and help finance its operation.

For wherever you are, if you intelligently organize, you can make a community.  Gather 12 people, elect a leader amongst yourselves, then contact me.  I will teach you intelligent organization, and you shall be a Community leader.

Will your self thusly.  Write the ABS about helping to build African Blood Siblings Community Centers.  Subscribe, share, love.  Without further ado:

Excerpt from Chapter 5 of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X:”

That, in fact, was one of my biggest surprises: that Harlem hadn’t always been a community of Negroes.

It first had been a Dutch settlement, I learned. Then began the massive waves of poor and half-starved and ragged immigrants from Europe, arriving with everything they owned in the world in bags and sacks on their backs. The Germans came first; the Dutch edged away from them, and Harlem became all German.

Then came the Irish, running from the potato famine. The Germans ran, looking down their noses at the Irish, who took over Harlem. Next, the Italians; same thing — the Irish ran from them. The Italians had Harlem when the Jews came down the gangplanks — and then the Italians left.

Today, all these same immigrants’ descendants are running as hard as they can to escape the descendants of the Negroes who helped to unload the immigrant ships.

I was staggered when old-timer Harlemites told me that while this immigrant musical chairs game had been going on, Negroes had been in New York City since 1683, before any of them came, and had been ghettoed all over the city. They had first been in the Wall Street area; then they were pushed into Greenwich Village. The next shove was up to the Pennsylvania Station area. And then, the last stop before Harlem, the black ghetto was concentrated around 52nd Street, which is how 52nd Street got the Swing Street name and reputation that lasted long after the Negroes were gone.

Then, in 1910, a Negro real estate man[1] somehow got two or three Negro families into one Jewish Harlem apartment house.

The Jews flew from that house, then from that block, and more Negroes came in to fill their apartments. Then whole blocks of Jews ran, and still more Negroes came uptown, until in a short time, Harlem was like it still is today — virtually all black.

Then, early in the 1920’s music and entertainment sprang up as an industry in Harlem, supported by downtown whites who poured uptown every night. It all started about the time a tough young New Orleans cornet man named Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong climbed off a train in New York wearing clodhopper policemen’s shoes, and started playing with Fletcher Henderson. In 1925, Small’s Paradise had opened with crowds all across Seventh Avenue; in 1926, the great Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington’s band would play for five years; also in 1926 the Savoy Ballroom opened, a whole block front on Lenox Avenue, with a two-hundred-foot dance floor under spotlights before two bandstands and a disappearing rear stage.

Harlem’s famous image spread until it swarmed nightly with white people from all over the world. The tourist buses came there. The Cotton Club catered to whites only, and hundreds of other clubs ranging on down to cellar speakeasies catered to white people’s money. Some of the best-known were Connie’s Inn, the Lenox Club, Barron’s, The Nest Club, Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, and Minton’s. The Savoy, the Golden Gate, and the Renaissance ballrooms battled for the crowds — the Savoy introduced such attractions as Thursday Kitchen Mechanics’ Nights, bathing beauty contests, and a new car given away each Saturday night. They had bands from all across the country in the ballrooms and the Apollo and Lafayette theaters. They had colorful bandleaders like ‘Fess Williams in his diamond-studded suit and top hat, and Cab Calloway in his white zoot suit to end all zoots, and his wide-brimmed white hat and string tie, setting Harlem afire with “Tiger Rag” and “St. James Infirmary” and “Minnie the Moocher.”

Blacktown crawled with white people, with pimps, prostitutes, bootleggers, with hustlers of all kinds, with colorful characters, and with police and prohibition agents. Negroes danced like they never have anywhere before or since. I guess I must have heard wenty-five of the old-timers in Small’s swear to me that they had been the first to dance in the Savoy the “Lindy Hop” which was born there in 1927, named for Lindbergh, who had just made his flight to Paris.

Even the little cellar places with only piano space had fabulous keyboard artists such as James P. Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton, and singers such as Ethel Waters. And at four A.M., when all the legitimate clubs had to close, from all over town the white and Negro musicians would come to some prearranged Harlem after-hours spot and have thirty- and forty-piece jam sessions that would last into the next day.

When it all ended with the stock market crash in 1929, Harlem had a world reputation as America’s Casbah. Small’s had been a part of all that. There, I heard the old-timers reminisce about all those great times.

Note:

[1] Philip A. Payton, Jr.

5 thoughts on ““Harlem hadn’t always been a community of Negroes.” — Malcolm X

    1. Onitaset Post author

      The knowledge herein is due our ancestors.

      The work here is ‘listening.’ We already hear our ancestors, but we need to ‘listen’ to them.

      Just the same, I ought listen to you, as you ought listen to me.

      This is how we learn.

      I’ll keep up the good work–for you and others.

      Please help spread the good work that good works will be commonplace.

      Yours,

      Reply
      1. omalone1

        sadly, I came to know this vivid picture of Harlem through the lyrics of Big L.
        in regards to The Autobiography, there is so much in it, just like Carter Woodson’s text.
        I especially like what he says about mirrors presenting a disturbing reflection for Europeans

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