Converging Cultures in Harlem

Memory “can travel, as individuals travel, and it can be embodied, written down, painted, represented, communicated and received in distant places by isolated individuals, who can then, through them, be remembered and reunited with the collective.”

The aim of my project is to understand the experience of southern African Americans in Harlem between 1920 and 1940. By comparing aspects of their lives, including art, music, family life, religion, food, and photography, I aim to find how the Great Migration shaped the culture of southern African Americans who migrated to urban centers in the North, especially Harlem. There are a few questions I hope to answer throughout this project: What aspects of Southern culture were brought to the North during the Great Migration? What aspects were forgotten or abandoned? Did the Great Migration make Southern culture more Northern, or vice versa? In what aspects of the culture of African Americans in Harlem between 1920 and 1940 do elements of Southern culture appear? How did the Harlem culture remember the Great Migration and the South?

To better understand the influence of the Great Migration on Harlem culture and to answer the questions listed above I will do background research on my own as well as hands-on research in Harlem. I will be spending much of my summer reading books and journals about the Great Migration and African American culture in Harlem between 1920 and 1940. For the second part of my project I will travel to New York City. I will do archival research at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to supplement my readings. I will utilize its Art and Artifacts Division; Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Division; Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division; and Photographs and Prints Division. I will conclude my research in New York by visiting Harlem to compare its present cultural life to that between 1920 and 1940. I will examine the present culture of the area in its food, religious practices, demographics, and public monuments and museums.


  1. Anna Glendening says: