Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Old and New Harlem

I am in Harlem to do additional research on my biography about Regina Andrews at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Stephen Schwartzman Building (formerly known as the 42nd Street & Fifth Avenue Branch currently celebrating their 100th anniversary). I am staying at Harlem's first new hotel in nearly 45 years, Aloft. When various African American intellectuals and artists came to Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance they often found housing in Harlem's YMCA/YWCA for "colored" people which until Aloft, was one of few hotel options still in existence in Harlem. Regina actually resided at the mid-town YWCA when she applied for a job at the 42nd Street Branch Library. Did she know about racial customs? Maybe the proprietors of the mid-town YWCA didn't know she was "colored." However, her New York Public Library interviewer declared that she was colored and sent her to Harlem to work at the 135th Street Branch. Regina hadn't been to Harlem at that point and decided to room with a friend who was moving to New York City.

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