Harlem YMCA

In the 1940s the Harlem YMCA on 135th Street was eager to produce a film that highlighted how the ‘Y’ offered job training, healthy recreation, and cultural development. With a tight budget, producing a sound film would have been costly, so the clever use of handwritten intertitles suggested a letter written home about the YMCA and the wealth of activities available.

The resulting film is very much a product of its time and can be readily categorized as an example of ‘uplift’ non-fiction. In the film, job training, for example, focuses on a narrow set of racially restricted professional roles.

For the longer outtakes version from the Harmon Foundation, see:

Harlem Renaissance Memorabilia

Bookplates for sale on Ebay from a major (white) figure in the Harlem Renaissance and the force behind the James Weldon Johnson Collection and preservation of Harlem Renaissance material at Yale Library.



The JWJ Collection, founded in 1941, is a key archive of African American history and culture. With more than 13,000 volumes and hundreds of linear feet of manuscript material, it is one of the most consulted collections in the Yale Library. Representative manuscripts suggest the richness of the collection: Richard Wright’s Native Son; Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; W.E.B. Du Bois’s Harvard thesis, “The Renaissance of Ethics” (which contains annotations by William James); James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man and God’s Trombones; and Langston Hughes’s The Weary Blues. Examples of the abundant correspondence include letters between Owen Dodson and Adam Clayton Powell; Joel Spingarn and W.E.B. Du Bois; and Georgia Douglas Johnson and William Stanley Braithewaite. The correspondence of James Weldon Johnson and Walter White documents the early history of the N.A.A.C.P. Also present are music manuscripts by W.C. Handy and Thomas “Fats” Waller, among others.

The collection was established by Carl Van Vechten to honor the remarkable life of his good friend, the author, professor, lawyer, diplomat, poet, songwriter, and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson. Van Vechten was approached by Bernhard Knollenberg, Yale’s head librarian, who told him, “We haven’t any Negro books at all.” These were, Van Vechten recalled, “precisely the right words to convince me that Yale was the place” to gift his personal archive and library, a relatively small but significant collection that reflected his abiding interest in and commitment to black people and black culture. Following Van Vechten’s gift, Johnson’s widow, Grace Nail Johnson, contributed her late husband’s papers, leading the way for gifts of papers from Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White and Poppy Cannon White, Dorothy Peterson, Harold Jackman, and Chester Himes. The collection also contains the papers of Richard Wright and Jean Toomer, as well as groups of manuscripts or correspondence of such writers as Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, and Wallace Thurman.

Harlem Women Strong

Tomorrow on Tuesday, February 15th at 7 pm, bring your concerns, and questions to Harlem Women Strong’s  OFFICE HOURS.  

Join Harlem Women Strong and friends from the Literacy Academy CollectiveDyslexia Alliance for Black Children, Decoding Dyslexia NYC, and a VNSNY Mobile Crisis Team Social Worker for an opportunity to get 1-on-1 referrals.  

Does your child have, or do you know someone raising kids with school anxiety, or are grade levels behind? We believe this is a systemic problem that the NYC Mayor and Chancellor of Education are looking to address. In the meantime, we would like to offer any family, in or out of Harlem, the opportunity to speak to experts about their concerns about their child’s challenges in school to gain access to possible resources and information. 

Please be sure to share this important event with those in need of support and information. Please register here.


Harlem Women Strong —
Debbie Meyer
Dyslexia Plus in Public Schools Task Force
Guest Blogger: https://educationpost.org/network/debbie-meyer/

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