(Un)Common Stock

This rather dull piece of Harlem ephemera – a 5 shares worth of stock in the Harlem Stock Exchange – doesn’t on it’s surface have much going for it.

Almost the only thing of interest here is that of the $100,000 total amount of stock, a certain Julius D. Westmoreland owned 5 shares.

And this stock was certified on this day, February 1, in 1921.

What makes this dull document interesting is this stock exchange was an investment vehicle to pool Black Harlem’s assets into a Black real estate company that could transform Harlem.

The brochure (below) is from the collection of the University of Massachusetts and would have been printed to distribute and encourage investment in a large, Black firm that would be capable of financing the purchase and management of real estate throughout Harlem.

The brochure lists trustees and directors – note the inclusion of John E. Nail, of Nail and Parker real estate. John Nail got his start in the real estate business working for Philip A. Payton, Jr.’s Afro-American Realty Company, another real estate firm catering to African American customers in New York City. In 1905, he founded the Nail-Parker Company with Henry G. Parker and bought real estate in Harlem.

By 1925, Nail’s business owned around fifty apartment buildings in the Harlem area. Nail became the most important Black real estate agent in New York City, and sat on the Real Estate Board of New York and the Housing Committee of New York; in each case he was the only Black member.

In the brochure (below), the section on “The Need” notes how white capital’s racist refusal to back Black investment opportunities or Black businesses demanded a Black collective (monetary) response in order to build moneys available for the Black (business) community.

After the Great Depression struck, Nail’s business entered bankruptcy in 1933. Nail died in 1947. Harlem developed as a Black community of renters rather than owners.

To read the full brochure, see:


As Seen In Harlem