In the 1920s, as Harlem emerged as the largest black city in the world, a significant white presence remained in the neighborhood. Whites not only frequented nightlife, they owned and operated the vast majority of Harlem’s businesses, policed its streets, staffed its schools and hospital, drove its public transport and most of the vehicles travelling its streets, delivered goods, collected rent and insurance payments, and patronized sporting events. Scholars have only made briefly mention of this presence and its impact on everyday life, portraying race relations as harmonious and inconsequential in a neighborhood represented as a segregated refuge from whites. Drawing on black newspapers and legal records, and using the Digital Harlem site to map and visualize that evidence of the white presence, reveals a very different picture, of interracial encounters that often led to conflict, and of Harlem as a place of contestation, negotiation, resistance, and accommodation.
A post on the Digital Harlem blog includes a map that captures part of the white presence in Harlem.