Harlem Race Riot, 1935

   Harlem, in New York City, is an area a few blocks north of 125th Street bounded by Seventh Avenue and Lenox Avenue that became the center of the city’s African American population from the early 1900s onward. In 1914, the black population was estimated to be 50,000. This number increased dramatically following the Great Migration of African Americans from the South during World War I. By 1930, Harlem was almost an entirely black community numbering more than 200,000, and it had become the cultural capital for African Americans—the center of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. The migration of black Americans into New York continued during the 1930s, and by 1940 the total black population of the city was 458,000, of which about 300,000 lived in Harlem. Conditions in this ghetto were deplorable, with many families crammed into tenement buildings, sharing toilet facilities, and in some cases lacking such amenities all together. Thousands lived in cellars and basements. Much of the property and businesses in Harlem were white-owned, while African Americans worked low-paying jobs, often as menials. As black unemployment soared during the Great Depression, resentment against the discrimination and prejudice increased until finally, following an incident involving a black youth in a white-owned store, the anger exploded into a riot on 19 March 1935. After two days of chaos, primarily directed at property, three African Americans were dead, 30 people had been injured, and more than $2 million worth of property had been damaged.
   See also Detroit Race Riot; Harlem Race Riot, 1943.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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