Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America

Jonathan Gill, Grove, $29.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1910-0
Historian Gill documents Harlem's transformation from the early days of Dutch settlements and farms to its apogee as the site of one of the 20th century's most influential musical and literary flowerings in a dense, deftly told history. The author takes us from colonial Harlem, so strategically important in the American Revolution, to the 20th-century crucible of African-American arts and intellectual development, a place so vaunted that "Negroes wanted to go to Harlem the way the dead wanted to go to heaven." He invokes a veritable who's who of the black arts and intelligentsia who either called the neighborhood home or launched their careers in its embrace. Gill's analysis of Harlem's decline in the 1970s and the concomitant unemployment and crime is thorough, although his account of the Black Panthers and his analysis of the era's various "disturbances"—particularly a 1967 riot following a fatal episode of police brutality—wants a more nuanced interpretation. From the 1994 economic revitalization to the specter of gentrification, Gill makes a persuasive case that "change is Harlem's defining characteristic," and readers of this vibrant history will appreciate every step of its singular evolution. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/01/2010
Release date: 02/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-8021-4574-1
MP3 CD - 978-1-5318-2575-1
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