We had a very full, awesome day in Harlem yesterday (Sunday). It began with a gospel church service and then a very detailed street tour covering the important locations of our three key authors. These were embedded in the wider cultural history of Harlem. Eric (our team leader began with a talk on why this was a very rare event for his tour company). In fact we -ACU students- are the only group he has taken around Harlem (last year and this year). The reasons for this he explains beautifully in the following audio:
Here is a glimpse of our Gospel experience which took place in this converted cinema- one of the earliest cinemas in the city:
We were then joined by two other guides: African American Cedric and Merissa- both of whom guided us through Harlem last year as well. Their knowledge of the district and their passion for the literature arising was awesome to witness. Here was Cedric expatiating on the Brown Stone House in which Maya Angelou lived and gave parties:
And here is snippet of Cedric delivering this address in Video: Thank you Cedric for your wonderful rendition!
In the same location we were reminded of the close connection between James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. It was James Baldwin who in fact challenged Maya to write the autobiography that became such a classic text. Merissa had many additional stories to tell about Baldwin’s role here:
Here is more on James Baldwin in this context:
Here are further significant Aspects of Harlem History for our Understanding of our Texts
A really significant part of Harlem’s History (the African American Renaissance) begain in the time of the Speak-Easy. Here is Cedric about this:
And here is a one-time speak-easy now turned into a Church: the irony!
Here are a few more key stopping points. You will also notice how this very strong young man has made the centre of Malcolm X Boulevard his personal gym!
We finally came to the Schomburg Centre for Research in African American Art and Culture. This is a site that should not be missed. Langston Hughes’ ashes are interred at the entrance, expressing his central role in the Harlem Renaissance. This centre is open during the week and it is strongly recommended that we revisit this during the week.