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Harlem between Heaven and Hell

Monique M. Taylor
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Harlem between Heaven and Hell
    Book Description:

    Harlem brings to mind a kaleidoscope of images-the jazz clubs and cultural ferment of the 1920s and 1930s, the urban decay of the 1960s and 1970s, and the revitalization of the past twenty years. Integral to the ongoing transformation of Harlem has been the return of the African-American middle class to what had become an overwhelmingly poor area. In this lively book, Monique M. Taylor explores the stresses created by this influx, the surprising ways class differences manifest themselves and are managed, and what we can learn from examining a community in which race and class are so closely intertwined.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9424-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. introduction: Welcome to Harlem, USA
    (pp. ix-xxiii)

    Starbucks has arrived in Harlem. The upscale coffee emporium shares a corner with the 125th Street subway station, which takes in and disgorges an endless stream of travelers. At this corner, one emerges to vendors hawking incense, black-nationalist pamphlets, books and tapes, and black-themed Mother’s Day cards. Outside this key entrance to the famous black community, a sea of black, brown, and tan faces is a reminder of how far a quick subway ride transports one from downtown Manhattan. The 125th Street subway station is a portal to a black world still markedly defined by its difference.

    But to enter...

  4. chapter 1 Harlem between Heaven and Hell
    (pp. 1-27)

    A Harlem-bound express train pulls into the Ninety-sixth Street subway station on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A rider promises a trick guaranteed to dazzle an “alien brother,” star of John Sayles’s film,Brother from Another Planet. In an instant, predicts the brother’s traveling companion, he can make the white passengers disappear. The train glides into its destination on an ear-shattering screech of brakes, its doors swoosh open, and sure enough, the white riders scatter. What magic is it that leaves the Harlem-bound train absent of white passengers?

    Moviegoers attuned to New York’s racial geography will see through this not so...

  5. chapter 2 Insiders and Outsiders
    (pp. 29-55)

    A tall white tower dominates the corner of 125th Street between Seventh Avenue and Lenox Avenue. This structure, the New York State Office Building, is named for one of Harlem’s heroes—Adam Clayton Powell Jr., New York’s first black congressman. Like many buildings here, its name is a connection to the black history still alive in Harlem.

    The Adam Clayton Powell Building is testimony to the fact that, in this part of town at least, blacks have a symbolic claim to a collective past. But this black hero’s name was not added until six years after the structure came to...

  6. chapter 3 The Dilemma of Racial Difference
    (pp. 57-83)

    “Come on in and don’t mind the dust. I’m just here doing Kim’s hair.” June Wilson, a slight black woman dressed in a bright orange, yellow, and green African-print jumpsuit, welcomes me into the living room of her 145th Street brownstone. The room—a makeshift parlor with cardboard boxes for furniture, and paint-stained sheets draped about—reflects the chaos that entered Wilson’s life when she purchased this house and moved to Harlem in the late 1980s.

    The room is a wreck—exposed plaster, green paint peeling from the walls, dangling wires, tools everywhere. On one wall, a framed African print...

  7. chapter 4 Class Conflict and Harlem’s Black Gentry
    (pp. 85-127)

    Brahmin Court is an old apartment building that recalls the architectural grandeur of Harlem’s past. A fortress-like building, Brahmin Court commands the corner of 113th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard. The pungent aroma of marijuana surrounds a small group of people lingering on a dusty patch in a litter-strewn park across the way. Tall and narrow abandoned buildings reach skyward, their windows boarded against the sunlight. Here and there, doorways of neighboring buildings have been filled in with concrete blocks to bar trespassers. Passage through Brahmin Court’s gate leads into a courtyard that is planted with roses and small trees....

  8. chapter 5 Racial Bonds and the Communion of Fellowship
    (pp. 129-157)

    While the “return” to Harlem presents the opportunity for black gentry to seek out racial solidarity, their newness in the community marks them as outsiders. This outsider status initially stands in the way of realizing the goal to be seen as insiders even in a community that is racially defined. In addition, many of the ideals and actions reflecting their position as middle-class home owners contribute to tensions that potentially undermine the pursuit of a racially harmonious community.

    Years after an era in which class differences were often eclipsed by a larger system of racial caste, Harlem’s current black gentry,...

  9. chapter 6 Home Ownership and Political Participation
    (pp. 159-169)

    Just as the newcomers seek to make bonds with the community through private behavior toward their neighbors, they join in the institutional and political life of the neighborhood for similar purposes. On a May evening in 1991, I attend a meeting of the Harlem Homeowners and Taxpayers Association. The meeting is held on 125th Street in the suite of offices that house Community Board 10. A housing commissioner from the office of Housing Preservation and Development, the city agency that controls Harlem’s boarded-up brownstones and in rem properties, presides over a question-and-answer session.

    Couples young and old, mothers with children...

  10. conclusion: The End of the Line?
    (pp. 171-178)

    I’ve ridden an A train to a baseball field close to the northernmost edge of Harlem. I have an appointment with Ruth Emerson, a wife and mother who grew up in Harlem and returned nearly twenty years ago to a Sugar Hill brownstone down the block from where she was raised. She settled here with her husband, Ralph Emerson, whom she met when they were undergraduates at Cornell University. The Emersons are black, which doesn’t make it easy to pick them out among a sea of black faces—moms and dads whose screams and applause give away their booster status....

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 179-180)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 181-186)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-200)
  14. Index
    (pp. 201-206)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-207)