The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America
Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America. Grove. Feb. 2011. c.496p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780802119100. $29.95. HIST
Gill (humanities, Manhattan Sch. of Music) offers a largely objective overview of a community usually studied only for its most distinctive, arguably most exciting, phase—the Harlem Renaissance of art and literature in the 20th century. He traces the entire history of this initially isolated northern outpost of Manhattan through its cycles as a refuge for different groups of both the propertied and the poor. Among possible surprises is that New York City did not annex Harlem until 1873 and that it served as an important home for Jews, Italians, and Puerto Ricans as well as for African Americans. The book demonstrates how Harlem experienced aspects of urbanization, marginalization, immiseration, and gentrification as well as its share of political corruption, organized crime, and cultural flowering.
VERDICT This comprehensive, engagingly written treatment appears to be well researched; however, although it is buoyed by illustrations, a bibliography, and an index, the absence of source notes makes it more useful to general readers than to scholars. Anecdotes and vignettes about iconic places such as the Polo Grounds, 125th Street, the Apollo Theater, and the Globe Trotters should please New York City history mavens. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]

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