Bad Girl

The Harlem Renaissance novel Bad Girl is a fascinating work that takes place in a white Harlem world that is feeling the presence of a growing Black Harlem.

The author, Vena Delmar, opens her novel on a bustling summer day at the 125th Street piers (where Columbia’s Manhattanville campus is now) with the lead character – Dot – attempting to get out of the stifling heat of Harlem for a day on the water. In the confusion that follows, Dot meets Eddie and a romance ensues.

Delmar penned a number of scenes where Dot is on the cusp of the racial lines in Harlem, and she has Dot speculate on the lives of others – those Black residents living only a courtyard away.

As the romance between Dot and Eddie continues, the two of them plot to move out of Harlem – foreshadowing the post-WWII phenomena known as white flight, and begin to setup a home in the outer reaches of suburban Inwood.

The title – Bad Girl – refers to Dot’s rebellious and scandalous nature and her pregnancy. Indeed, the birth of their son (in suburban Inwood) is the concluding scene in the novel.

The novel was adapted for the screen as a black-and-white silent film that was nominated for Best Picture, and took home Oscars for Borzage’s direction as well as Edwin Burke’s writing adaptation.

Harlem Earth Day

Save the date – April 27, 2024.