Harlem, the area bounded by 110th and 178th Streets, was originally settled by Dutch farmers in the mid-1600s. By the early 1800s, residential development of the area had begun and western Harlem became a fashionable, middle-class white suburb. When the bottom fell out of the real estate market at the beginning of the 1900s, African-American families moved into the “decent housing” that was being abandoned. In the 1920s, Harlem became world-famous as a center for black arts and culture, where jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway performed at the Cotton Club. Today, the area is divided ethnically between Spanish Harlem (known as “El Barrio”), located east of Fifth Ave., and African-American Harlem, located north of St. Nicholas Ave. and 125th Street. The beautiful brownstone churches and cultural centers are revitalizing this historic area that is still considered “Manhattan’s ghetto.”

Don’t Miss:

  • The Apollo Theatre – showcase for African-American performers’ talents
  • Shabazz Market – outdoor market named in honor of civil rights activist Malcolm X’s widow
  • Abyssinian Baptist Church – N.Y.’s oldest African-American congregation
  • Schomburg Center for Research – contains the world’s largest archive relating to African-American heritage


Harlem History

Apollo Theater Interactive Timeline

Article written by Sarah Wyland

Sarah Wyland
Sarah never gets in trouble for being on Facebook and Instagram at work, because its her job. As social media manager, she gets to tell the stories of travelers, teachers, and interesting places. Other titles she enjoys include dog mom to Knox, barre instructor, Crossfit athlete, avid reader, and world traveler.