This is another installment of FootNotes, a regular series of conversations with authors of recent works of NYC history. Today’s interview is with Alice Elliott, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, about her new documentary Miracle on 42nd Street. This interview was conducted by Adam Tanaka, a PhD candidate in urban planning at Harvard whose research focuses on affordable housing. Tanaka is currently working on a documentary about Co-op City in the Bronx.
Few, if any, New York neighborhoods have been studied as intensively as Harlem, and no period in Harlem’s history has received as much attention as the Roaring Twenties. In his debut book, Whose Harlem Is This, Anyway?, the historian Shannon King shows us a less familiar, yet more representative and perhaps ultimately more telling, side of interwar Harlem. In place of the tales of towering intellectuals, brilliant artists (and their canny boosters), and “the making of a ghetto,” King shines a light on the grassroots struggles — with police, landlords, and employers — which collectively “comprised the fulcrum of Harlem’s political culture” and paved the way for the remarkable upsurge of protest politics of the 1930s and 1940s. An associate professor of history at the College of Wooster, King is also a native New Yorker, raised in Harlem and the South Bronx. A Scholars-in-Residence fellowship from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture allowed him to return to Harlem to conduct research for Whose Harlem Is This, Anyway?
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