This Was Harlem (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Harlem continues to fascinate students of American culture. Contemplating the glitter of the Apollo Theatre, the economic vitality of Seventh Avenue, and the poverty and crime of the back streets, many observers see in the community an emblem of both the promise and the contradictions of American pluralism. In addition to attracting nearly every Afro-American artist and intellectual of the twentieth century, Harlem has commanded the attention of Euro-American artists from Eugene O’Neill and Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow to Orson Welles and Norman Mailer. One of the few places where blacks and whites could meet on roughly equal terms, Harlem, especially during the 1920’s, seemed to promise a true synthesis of Euro-American and Afro-American culture. To some extent, as modern jazz and novels such as Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952) attest, the promise was at least partially fulfilled. Even those suspicious of the appearance of racial harmony frequently envision Harlem as an ideal setting for the development of Afro-American political or cultural unity. Whether advocating the Pan-Africanist philosophy of Marcus Garvey or the democratic socialism of A. Philip Randolph, these thinkers see Harlem as a nearly perfect base for their organizational efforts. Still, tensions and stereotypes continue to frustrate the plans of pluralists and nationalists alike. Combined with the unmistakable decline of Harlem’s importance to the mainstream cultural life of New...
(The entire section is 2540 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Choice. XX, October, 1982, p. 335.
Christian Science Monitor. June 16, 1982, p. 17.
Commentary. LXXIV, September, 1982, p. 76.
Journal of American History. LXIX, December, 1982, p. 738.
Library Journal. CVII, March 1, 1982, p. 548.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. July 18, 1982, p. 3.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, May 9, 1982, p. 7.
Saturday Review. IX, April, 1982, p. 62.
Time. CXIX, May 10, 1982, p. 117.
(The entire section is 50 words.)