Izzi Spiller’s Band

A photo dated by an Ebay seller to 1936 of Harlem students in a percussion class.

The drummer on the right has a drum with Izzie Spiller’s Band.

Note the teacher, seated at the piano, and the white-faced drummer figure that is the focal point for the students’ gaze.

Harlem Sign

For $9,000 you can have an early 20th-century tailor and furrier sign:

Note the interesting (if inconsistent) font (look at the A’s)

East Harlem Author’s Book Launch at Fordham University

Professor Magda Teter’s new book: Christian Supremacy: Reckoning with the Roots of Antisemitism and Racism will be launched tomorrow, at 4 PM and feature a panel discussion on the common roots of anti-Black racism and antisemitism. Teter’s book is published by Princeton University press.

Tuesday, May 16, 4 PM

In-person at Fordham University at Lincoln Center, McNally Amphitheater, 140 West 62nd Street, or virtually on zoom.

REGISTER: https://fordh.am/17q

First Known Record of Baseball in Harlem

The November 1. 1856 edition of Porter’s Spirit of the Times, has the first known evidence of a Harlem baseball team.

The paper records a competition between Harlem and The Continental Club, that Harlem won, 18 to 17. Details on the score, below:

The item is for sale on Ebay.

Landmarking in Harlem

Minton’s Playhouse and an apartment building in Hamilton Heights where jazz pioneers Duke Ellington and Noble Lee Sissle once lived may soon be listed and landmarked.

Thelonius Monk, Howard McGhee, Roy Eldridge, and Teddy Hill outside Minton’s Playhouse in 1947. Photo via WikiCommons

Minton’s Playhouse on West 118th Street was the birthplace of bebop, an improvisational style of jazz, came to prominence during the 1940s. Over three decades, the club hosted famous house bands, star headliners, and informal jam sessions, according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The five-story Renaissance Revival hotel where Mintons was located was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book. Minton’s remained a center of jazz music throughout the 1950s and 60s and was the location where several important live albums were recorded by artists including Tony Scott, Stanley Turrentine, and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. The club stayed open until 1974 after a fire damaged the building.

The other Harlem building is maybe over the border into Hamilton Heights, but is deeply linked to Harlem is a limestone and terracotta apartment building at 935 St. Nicholas Avenue where for more than 20 years, legendary jazz musicians Edward “Duke” Ellington and Noble Lee Sissle lived.

Ellington lived in the building from 1939 to 1961, at the height of his career. Sissle resided in the building from 1950 to 1972, in the later part of his career.

When he lived in the building, Ellington wrote many songs that have become American jazz standards like “Sophisticated Lady” and “Satin Doll.” Sissle, who was a member of the Harlem Hellfighters during World War II, became known as the unofficial “Mayor of Harlem” during his time on St. Nicholas Avenue, writing for both the “New York Age” and “New York Amsterdam News” and hosting a local radio show.

The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad Way‘ Approved and Scheduled to Receive Sign

Gothamist reported on the recent controversial co-naming of 127th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem as “The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad Way” supported by Councilmember Kristin Jordan. Opponents of co-naming this street after Elijah Muhammad referenced that Muhammad and others in the Nation of Islam had frequently espoused and encouraged anti-Semitic and anti-white sentiment.

Harlem’s councilmember stated:

“It is actually not OK to erase Black leaders who are not pleasing to white people,” Jordan told her colleagues during the full Council vote. “I profoundly vote aye on Elijah Muhammad Way.”

Back In The USSR

During the interwar period – the 1930’s in particular – several Black intellectuals and artists were both attracted to the USSR and courted by the USSR. For all Black Americans experiencing everpresent racism and violence in this country, the Soviet Union looked intriguing as an alternative society that espoused racial equality. The Soviet Union, in turn, welcomed the opportunity to highlight racial inequality in the United States and to demonstrate the multiculturalism of the Soviet republics.

A number of Harlem residents traveled to the USSR and returned with a wide range of experiences and impressions. Here are a few that took that journey:

The Jamaican-born American writer and poet Claude McKay (1890-1948) was involved in left-wing politics from a young age, seeing socialism as a pathway to liberation for Black Americans. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik’s rise to power, McKay traveled to the Soviet Union for the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, where he delivered his speech “Report on the Negro Question.” In the speech McKay outlines the struggle of Black workers in the U.S. and their role in the labor movement. McKay would later become disillusioned with communism after the Soviet Union failed to sanction Italy for Mussolini’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia.

Zentralbild- We-Fr 23.11.1960 VII. Bundeskongress des DFD. 1. Tag – In der festlich geschmückten Berliner Dynamo-Sporthalle wurde am 23.11.1960 der VII. Bundeskongress des Demokratischen Frauenbundes Deutschlands eröffnet. An dieser Tagung der größten Frauenorganisation in der Geschichte Deutschlands nehmen weit über 1 400 Delegierte und Gäste teil. Die Bedeutung des Kongresses wird durch die Anwesenheit von Vertreterinnen der Internationalen Frauenbewegung aus 17 Ländern der Erde unterstrichen. Der dreitägige Kongress wird sich mit dem Beitrag der Frauen und Mütter im Kampf zur Sicherung des Friedens und zum Aufbau des Sozialismus in der DDR beschäftigen. UBz. Mrs. Petterson aus den USA während der Konferenz im Präsidium.

Louise Thompson Patterson (1901-1999) was a civil rights activist and college professor who helped found the Harlem Branch of the Friends of the Soviet Union in 1932. She was instrumental in the resistance to injustices faced by Black women due to their gender, class, and race that she called “triple exploitation.” Patterson founded the left-wing Vanguard group and hosted its concerts, readings, and Marxists discussions from her Harlem apartment. She traveled to the Soviet Union in 1932 aboard the same ship as her close friend Langston Hughes, and wrote about the conditions of minority communities and women in the Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine. Patterson later said that Russia was the only place where she could forget she was Black.

Langston Hughes (1901-1967) is one of the most famous figures from the Harlem Renaissance and beyond. Like many of his contemporaries in the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes was drawn to communism as an alternative to the United States’ government and society. In the early 1930s, Hughes was invited to the Soviet Union with other Black Americans to make a film about racial discrimination in the United States. While the film was never made, it allowed Hughes to explore parts of the Soviet Union largely closed off to other Americans at the time, namely throughout Central Asia. Langston reflected on these travels in poetry and prose, like in his 1934 book “A Negro Looks at Soviet Central Asia.”

The multi-talented Paul Robeson (1898-1976) is remembered as a singer, actor, two-time all-American football player, academic, staunch political activist, and 20th-century civil rights figure. While working in London in the 1920s, Robeson became involved with striking miners and came to identify strongly with the communist cause. Robeson first traveled to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. When asked by Soviet reporters about his experience, Robeson said: “Here I am not a Negro but a human being for the first time in my life … I walk in full human dignity.” During the McCarthy era, Robeson was blacklisted for his Black nationalist and anti-colonialist advocacy. Robeson’s U.S. passport was revoked in 1950, leaving him unable to travel or perform abroad for the following eight years.

Color Stock Film of Harlem 1963

A shout-out to Harlem Bespoke who mentioned this Pathe 8 minute film of stock images of New York City in 1963:

If you want to focus on the short section on Harlem, scrub over to 5:15 on the YouTube video.

Janes Walk – A Great Day In Harlem

Join members of Landmark East Harlem (LEH) for a walk around a roughly 12-block area that LEH has proposed for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. A residential section with clear borders, it retains much of its original Victorian character, with long rows of Italianate and neo-Grec brownstones punctuated by the spires of neo-Gothic churches. The earliest buildings date to the time when Harlem was a rural village not yet annexed to the City of New York. The area also includes clusters of new-law tenements dating from the turn of the 20th century, ultramodern townhouses, tasteful contemporary conversions, 32 New York City landmarks, and the brownstone stoop that served as the site of Art Kane’s iconic 1958 photo, “A Great Day in Harlem.” A virtual tour will be available at www.landmarkeastharlem.org

05/06/2023 01:00 PM – 02:15 PM


Walking around neighborhood, will be slow walking pace and wheelchair access, but uneven surfaces. All of tour takes place on sidewalk.


RSVP is required and capacity is limited. Meeting location, ending location, and directions will be provided via email before walk date.



Harlem’s Worlds Fair, 1883

No, the Harlem World’s Fair did not happen in 1883, nor did it happen at all. But it was proposed in this great illustration from Demarest’s Monthly Magazine, November 1879 (thank you to Harlem Bespoke that originally drew my attention to this image):

The fair would essentially be on the Columbia University land, and stretch from Morningside Park to Riverside Park, and bound on the south side by 110th, and on 125th, on the north.

Note the elevated line entering the frame on the bottom left, on 9th Avenue, then zig zagging to 8th Ave. in the curve of death (a ‘popular’ suicide location before the train was rerouted underground under Central Park West:

In the postcard above, note St.John’s the Devine under the tracks, in the distance – just one arch built.

Stoop Sale On Sunday

Harry Belafonte: Harlem’s Lion 

(March 1, 1927 – April 25, 2023)

He recorded and performed in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards. He also starred in several films, including Carmen Jones (1954), Island in the Sun (1957), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).

Belafonte considered the actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson a mentor, and he was a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. As he later recalled

“Paul Robeson had been my first great formative influence; you might say he gave me my backbone. Martin King was the second; he nourished my soul.”

Throughout his career, Belafonte was an advocate for political and humanitarian causes, such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement and USA for Africa. From 1987 until his death, he was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He was a vocal critic of the policies of the George W. Bush presidential administration. Belafonte acted as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.

Belafonte won three Grammy Awards (including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award), an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. In 1989, he received the Kennedy Center Honors. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994. In 2014, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy’s 6th Annual Governors Awards and in 2022 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Early Influence category.

Harlem Culture Crawl

West Harlem, treasured for its cultural legacy, vibrant multicultural community, and renowned religious and academic institutions, invites visitors to the Harlem Culture Crawl to explore some of the neighborhood’s established and lesser-known cultural organizations. Over this weekend-long festival from April 28 to 30, explore Harlem’s neighborhoods and experience why Harlem is at the helm of culture today.

Harlem Culture Crawl Weekend is self-guided – some venues are open access, others ticketed, and many are free with rsvp-required. Use the guide below to learn more and plan your weekend. REGISTER on this site to stay up-to-date and for a print guide and map.

We hope you will visit many of the sites and enjoy everything from Latin Jazz, Chamber Music, Contemporary Art, Shopping Harlem-made items, and Historic House Tours.

General Grant’s Birthday

Black Home Ownership

Earlier in April, Blandon Casenave presented to HNBA at our monthly meeting. Blandon is a native New Yorker and independent political analyst, with over thirty-years of activism in the African-American community, who was born and raised in Brooklyn and now resides in the Bronx.

Blandon’s work on the erosion of the Black middle class is insightful and well researched and visualized. He graciously provided the slides from his presentation for you to go over at your leisure and to forward to others who might be interested in the data behind what we all instinctively and anecdotally, know.

Register for the Candidates’ Forum

Harlem will choose a new City Council Member. Hear from the candidates and ask your questions.