Harlem Then and Now

Pages: 1 2

By the time I was growing up on West 145th Street in the 1940s, its inhabitants were by no means limited to doctors and lawyers, or even clerks and secretaries.

But the pattern of internal self-sorting continued. With the later breakdown of racial barriers in housing, many of the black middle class and those aspiring to be middle class moved completely out of ghettoes like Harlem. It became a much worse place, for that and other reasons.

Complaints that the old neighborhood is going downhill have been made by people of all races. Even though that may be true, it can be misleading when the people who lived in those neighborhoods have moved up economically, and now have more upscale housing in more genteel neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the newcomers in their old neighborhoods may likewise be living in better housing than they had before. People moving up often means neighborhoods moving down.

Nevertheless, it is painful for me to realize that youngsters growing up in the same places in Harlem where I grew up more than 60 years ago have far less chance of rising economically, educationally or otherwise.

Harlem youngsters today undoubtedly have more material things than I had in my day. I was 23 years old, and living in Washington, before I had a television set, given to me by my sister when she bought a new television set for herself.

But what I got growing up in Harlem was an education that equipped me to go on to leading colleges and universities, long before there was affirmative action. That is what youngsters growing up in Harlem today are very unlikely to get — and affirmative action in college admissions is no substitute, if you come in unequipped to make the opportunity pay off.

People didn’t live in fear of drive-by shootings, in the Harlem of my day, if only because we had nothing to drive by in. Old photographs of Harlem show ample parking space on the streets. It was not an idyllic community, by any stretch of the imagination, but it had values that mattered in our daily lives, and common decency was in fact common. No material things can substitute for that.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

Pages: 1 2

  • mlcblog

    Sweet. I love nostalgia, especially when there's a history worth considering, as this one is.

  • Schlomotion

    I enjoyed this article and was also amused to consider that the 1940's tenement housing was also the 1970's tenement housing that I grew up in. But hey, at least some kind soul added asbestos to keep the pipes warm.

    • aleric_kong

      On asbestos:

      ' "The majority of evidence is bogus," said Lester Brickman, a law professor and asbestos expert at Yeshiva University's Benjamin Cardozo Law School.

      "It's a scam. It's the biggest scam in the history of the universe. There's nothing bigger, never was."

      Brickman's opinion is supported in part by a recent study in the professional journal Academic Radiology in which researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore asked six independent reviewers to re-examine 492 X-rays submitted by plaintiff lawyers to support their clients' claims of lung scarring. The initial X-ray readers had reported lung abnormalities in 95.9 percent of the films. The independent reviewers found them in 4.5 percent. '

      another trial lawyer's scam which helps to destroy US healthcare to let scumbag lawyers like John Edwards sue doctors and steal their houses. But hey, federal mandates to force employers to pay for the worker's $3 birth control and $10,000 sex changes are the real issue.

  • lisag

    What makes anyone get ahead or have a better life? Changing their behavior. It's hard to tell someone how their life will change. They have to do it and see the results. Sometimes the change is slow, sometimes there are setbacks, but change will come. People don't want to change because it is hard work and it is easier to sit in a funk and expect others to better your life.

  • g_jochnowitz

    New York City Councilman Peter Vallone feels that the increasing problems concerning crime are the result of not having enough police officers and not cracking down on illegal weapons. http://www.amny.com/urbanite-1.812039/more-cops-s

  • artcohn

    My mother was born in 1914 in Harlem on e.103 street between First and Second ave.Nowdays it would be called East Harlem or Spanish Harlem. It was a Jewish enclave of Jews from Byelo-Russia (Minsk).
    Youngsters in Harlem CAN get a good education today because of Deborah Kenny and the Harlem Village Acadamy, which she founded. http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/11/smallbusiness/deb

    • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ JasonPappas

      And they can also go across town to CCNY and get a good college education like I did.

  • A. Keen Observer

    It isn't that youngsters CAN'T get a good education now. It's that they DON'T WANT one. You don't need to be educated to be part of a flash mob and get stuff for free.