Historic Architecture, Cultural Landmarks, and People
With Eric K. Washington
“There is so much to see in Harlem!” Langston Hughes’ apt quote kicks off a decidedly quirky overview tour. Walking between Harlem’s visceral and commercial main streets—from 135th Street down to 125th Street—the tour takes several cues from the subject of Eric’s upcoming book, “Boss of the Grips,” a long-overdue biography of James H. Williams (1878-1948), the head of Grand Central Terminal’s Red Caps, whose role in the cultural nexus of Harlem and American railroads made him an influential force of the Harlem Renaissance. Waypoints reflecting Harlem as a varying seat of Victorian gentility, African-American migration, Jazz-age jive and current gentrification may include such sites and themes as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; WPA-era art projects; the new Central Harlem Historic District, the exuberant, and often gender-bending performance scene; the Harlem YMCA; Strivers’ Row; New Amsterdam Musical Association; Astor Row, Apollo Theatre and Harlem’s prolific, but nearly forgotten artist’s “super model” Maurice Hunter.