Films at the Schomburg: The Watermelon Woman

March 15, 2017 | 6:30pm – 8:30pm

watermelon-womanThe Watermelon Woman made its debut 30 years ago. Written and directed by Cheryl Dunye, it became the first feature film by a queer African-American woman. The lead character, played by Dunye, finds parallels between herself and 1930s actress Fae Richards, popularly known as “The Watermelon Woman,” a domestic servant stereotype or “Mammy” played by many black women in her time. The film explores the historical exclusion of black queer women working in Hollywood. Dunye will appear in conversation following the screening. Join us as we explore race, sexuality, history, and finding one’s identity in archival sources.

Cost: Free. Firs come, first seated. For free events, we generally overbook to ensure a full house. Registration via

RSVP.  All registered seats are released 15 to 30 minutes before start time, so we recommend that you arrive early. Guests, please note that holding seats in the Langston Hughes Auditorium is strictly prohibited and there is no food or drinks allowed anywhere in the Schomburg Center.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture – 515 Malcolm X Boulevard at 135th Street


Columbia and Barnard celebrate acquisition of Arthur Mitchell’s archives with symposium

Columbia recently acquired the archives of dancer and choreographer Arthur Mitchell, who rose to fame in the 1950s when he became the first African-American principal dancer in the New York City Ballet.Article Image

Now 81, Mitchell hopes to use his archives, which will be held in Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library starting in 2017, as a way to bridge the growing gap between Columbia and Harlem due to the University’s Manhattanville expansions. The archives, which include photographs, posters, programs, clippings, correspondence, early film footage, and video content, chronicle Mitchell’s career.

Mitchell was honored on Monday night at Barnard with a screening of a film about his career and a panel discussion that featured famed actress and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, ballerina and Co-chair of Faculty at the School of American Ballet Kay Mazzo, and members of the Barnard dance department.

Continue reading

By Veronica Suchodolski | October 27, 2015

Republican William Hayward: Commanding Officer of the Harlem Hellfighters

On June 2, President Barack Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor on Henry Johnson (1897-1929) for his heroism during World War I when he had been a private in the all-African-American 369th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed “the Harlem Hellfighters.” The award was made possible when an historian working with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s office, found a contemporaneous account of his heroism in a letter by his commanding officer, Col. William Hayward, printed in the September 4, 1918 Congressional Record. (Hayward wrote the letter to Johnson’s wife as Johnson was recuperating from his wounds. It is reprinted in full in Emmet J. Scott’s 1919 book, The American Negro in the World War here. The dramatic story of Johnson was well known in the United States within hours of the event. It was named “The Battle of Henry Johnson.”
That Johnson, who died in 1929, was buried in Arlington Cemetery came to light in 2001 by a Tuskegee Airman named Johnson who believed at the time that he was his relative.  See here and here. Johnson’s receipt of the Medal of Honor marks, presumably, the last chapter of the story of the Harlem Hellfighters.
By James Thunder | July 29, 2015

Honoring the Legacy of Norma Merrick Sklarek: The ‘Rosa Parks of Architecture’

The year was 1928. It was the year that the world saw the first fully air-conditioned office building open, Amelia Earhart make norma-merrick-sklarek_blog-1her first Atlantic Ocean flight and the last recording of Ma Rainey, “Mother of Blues.”

That same year in Harlem, where wealthy residents of color were becoming land owners, Dr. Walter Ernest Merrick and Amy Merrick’s child, Norma Merrick Sklarek, was born. Their daughter would later make history as the first female Black architect. Little did they know how impactful the 1928 earmarking of 640 acres of land by the Los Angeles City Council for a new airport would be to Sklarek, until 58 years later when her completed design on the historic Terminal One for the landmark Los Angeles International Airport was unveiled.

“Until the end of World War II, I think there was strong discrimination against women in architecture. The schools had a quota, it was obvious, a quota against women and a quota against blacks. In architecture, I had absolutely no role model. I’m happy today to be a role model for others that follow,” Sklarek said.

Continue reading

By Chérmelle D. Edwards | May 18, 2015

WWI ‘Harlem Hellfighter’ Henry Johnson to Receive Medal of Honor

They called Sgt. Henry Johnson “Black Death,” a soldier from the all-black “Harlem Hellfighters” unit who fought off two Image: Henry Johnsondozen Germans with a gun and then a knife during World War I.

But when the war ended and the lauds from President Theodore Roosevelt and the French, who awarded him their nation’s highest award for valor, the “Croix de Guerre avec Palme,” faded into the recesses of American history, Johnson couldn’t even get a pension. It was an era of racial segregation and Johnson, who spoke out against racism in the Army in a 1919 speech, died at age 32 after having spent his post service career as a porter for the rail service.

Now, nearly a century after his efforts in battle, the White House announced this week that Johnson will receive the Medal of Honor. Johnson and another WWI veteran, William Shemin, a Jewish sergeant who lied about his age in order to serve, and eventually led a platoon in battle, will be awarded the nation’s highest military honor on June 2.

Continue reading

By Halimah Abdullah | May 15, 2015

Malcolm X’s physical day declared an international holiday

“Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world,” Malcolm X once said.“Without education, you’re not going anywhere in this world,” Malcolm X once said.

Tuesday, grassroots activists from throughout the tristate area will commemorate the remarkable legacy of one of Harlem’s greatest advocates for Black people to be a self-determining community. A number of local events have been scheduled for May 19 to acknowledge the 90th anniversary of Malcolm X’s physical birth and 50th annual cycle of an exclusive cultural ceremony commemorating his legacy.

Beginning Tuesday morning, Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro American Unity will sponsor the annual pilgrimage to where his and his wife Betty’s bodies are interred, Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y.

Continue reading

By AUTODIDACT 17 | May 14, 2015

The Queen Of Harlem’s Underworld Of Organized Crime: Madam Stephanie St. Clair, The Inspiration Behind Gotham’s Fish Mooney

Stephanie St. Clair was born in Martinique, an island in the East Caribbean in 1886 and came to the United States via Marseilles, France. In 1912 she arrived in Harlem. She was known for her deep involvement in the seedy gangster underworld. According to those who knew her, she was arrogant, sophisticated and astute to the ways of urban life. She reportedly told people that she was born in “European France” and was able to speak “flawless French” as opposed to the less refined French spoken by those in the Caribbean. Whenever people questioned her national origin, she would always respond in French. St. Clair also spoke Spanish.  Noted for her fierce temper, St. Clair spouted profanity in various languages when angered or outraged by some perceived slight or injustice. Her eloquent sense of fashion was well- known throughout Harlem where she was referred to as Madame St.Clair.  In in the rest of Manhattan and other city boroughs, she was referred to as “Queenie.”

St. Clair developed the first numbers bank located in Harlem. Here she and her partners, including Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, made the first significant criminal fortunes in black New York.  Initially they had little competition except for rival Casper Holstein but by the 1930s their undisputed control over Harlem’s numbers rackets was challenged.  After the Great Depression began and Prohibition ended in 1932, a number of white New York mobsters saw their profits rapidly diminish. They turned to the lucrative Harlem illegal gambling scene to supplement their loss revenue. Led by Dutch Schultz, a coalition of non-Harlem gangsters engaged in a bloody war with St. Clair and her allies for control of organized crime in that community.  Over 40 people were killed in gangland related violence including often the murder of Harlem numbers operators.

Continue reading

By BLACKTHEN | April 22, 2015

Revisiting Gordon Parks’ Classic Photo Essay, ‘Harlem Gang Leader’

552784.jpgHarlem Gang Leader” introduced Gordon Parks to America. LIFE magazine, which published the photo essay in its Nov. 1, 1948, issue, had every reason to be proud of the man it called “a young Negro photographer.” He had, it said, spent “four hectic weeks” exploring the world of Red Jackson, the 17-year-old leader of the Midtowners, a gang in Harlem, making hundreds of photographs. Most of the 21 pictures that LIFE’s editors chose for the story evoked the deep shadows and pervasive anxiety of classic film noir. Parks’ field notes provided the raw material for a narrative that mirrored the photographs’ sense of foreboding.  The photo essay, while largely compassionate, ultimately depicted Jackson’s existence as one that was shaped by senseless violence and thwarted dreams.

In many ways Parks viewed “Harlem Gang Leader” as a success. Years later, in a memoir, he recalled that “[s]ympathetic letters, along with a few vitriolic ones, poured in” to LIFE’s offices and that Henry Luce, the magazine’s founder, sent him “a congratulatory note.” When Wilson Hicks, LIFE’s longtime photo editor, offered him a position as a staff photographer soon afterwards, he happily accepted, making him the first, and for many years only, African American photographer at the magazine.

Yet it is unlikely that “Harlem Gang Leader,” with its emphasis on violence and pessimistic conclusion, fulfilled the hopes that Parks brought to the project. In 1946 Ebony, a magazine similar to LIFE that catered to an African American audience, reported that Parks had been looking for an opportunity to work on a photo essay about juvenile delinquency among black youth for some time. He believed that gang members were simply “good, poor kids gone wrong,” Ebony wrote.  He felt that if he could “show enough of the kids’ home background on film, he can . . . show the way out of juvenile crime to any social agency which wants to wipe it out.”

A year later Ebony offered Parks the chance to produce a story that was, in effect, a trial run for “Harlem Gang Leader.” (See slides 19 and 20 in the gallery above.) For a photo essay about Harlem’s Northside Testing and Consultation Center, a mental health clinic founded by African American psychologists Mamie and Kenneth Clark, he employed amateur models to create a number of “hypothetical cases” to illustrate the therapy that the clinic offered to troubled youth. Among Parks’ case studies was “Bob,” a young gang leader. A series of photographs showed “Bob’s” transformation under Dr. Kenneth Clark’s care, from a rough gang leader in the first of Parks’ photographs to an obedient son and eager student in the last.
Read more: Gordon Parks’ Classic Photo Essay, ‘Harlem Gang Leader’ |

GFBrandenburg's Blog

A researcher has looked into the claims of Eva Moskowitz and her Harlem Success Academy that they do a much better job of educating the exact same types of kids than do the local public schools.

The writer shows that none of those claims are true: these Moskowitz Academies do NOT enroll the same types of students; they have enormous attrition rates; and even with all that skimming and “creaming”, they are not very successful.

The post is at Diane Ravitch’s blog at .

View original post

Diversity in motion: Dance Theatre of Harlem turns 45

Beside a lively basketball court, a dancer looms over New York City’s skyline. He leaps suspended in a pas de chat, his legs like a diamond and his arms pushing into infinity. Confidently and triumphantly, this emblem sits atop the studios of Dance Theatre of Harlem, which host a vanguard that is devoted to breaking down barriers in ballet.

en pointe   |  Dancers with Dance Theatre of Harlem rehearse for next week's shows, which kick off its 45th season.

en pointe | Dancers with Dance Theatre of Harlem rehearse for next week’s shows, which kick off its 45th season.

From April 23 to 27, Dance Theatre of Harlem is celebrating its 45th anniversary. Since its founding in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell, the ensemble has proven itself to be a progressive force within the dance world, questioning the traditional image of the classical ballerina. Mitchell himself was the first permanent African-American dancer in a major company, and during the civil rights movement, he believed that it was his duty to provide a venue for young people of any race or ethnicity to try their hand at the arts. When he began Dance Theatre of Harlem, it was not the United States’ first racially inclusive collective of dancers. However, it was the first to overcome the obstacles faced by people of color in a historically white, privileged occupation and become an enduring presence.

“Ballet has been considered an elitist art form, and I think that there are people who want it to remain that way,” Artistic Director Virginia Johnson said. “It [Dance Theatre of Harlem] was really about letting people understand that the classical arts are the highest expression of humanity, and that humanity does not have a color, and that we need to challenge people to elevate themselves—whether you’re polka dot or pink or black or orange.”

Continue Reading

By Alexandra Villarreal Spectator Senior Staff Writer

Harlem Milliner Hosts ‘The Great American Hat Show’

Harriet Rosebud - Rosebud of New York

Harriet Rosebud – Rosebud of New York

HARLEM — Harriet Rosebud knows exactly how she wants a woman to feel when she slips on the black fascinator style hat with the delicate feathers that she designed and made by hand.

“The feathers are mysterious because they sweep the face,” said Rosebud. “I want a woman to feel elegant, vintage and classic.”

Rosebud, 53, has been designing and manufacturing hats for 20 years after she said she couldn’t find a nice one to fit her head.

After a two-year stint studying millinery at the Fashion Institute of Technology and another two working at a hat factory, Rosebud launched her own company called Rosebud of New York. She designs up to 4,000 hats per year from her home studio in Harlem.

Her collection includes everything from fascinators — the highly decorative pieces that sit on the side of the head attached by a band and made famous recently by Kate Middleton— to her $600 hat for the Kentucky Derby called the “Triple Crown.”

“It’s art, but it’s wearable art. That’s something I want people to understand and appreciate about hat-making,” Rosebud said.

The public will get that chance on Feb. 8 when Rosebud hosts “The Great American Hat Show” at St. James Presbyterian Church on 141st Street, a daylong event that will feature hat-making classes for adults and children and new hat collections.

“The show is to give the art form more exposure,” said Rosebud who also has a degree in political science from Florida State University. “It’s a real conversation about hats and what they mean to us.”

Hatmaking is a form of expression, said Rosebud who added that she dreams up fresh designs almost daily.

“I see something that inspires me and I’ll draw it out,” she said.

Millinery hasn’t changed much over time. Rosebud uses some of the same techniques that hat makers used centuries ago.

“A brim is a brim and a crown is a crown,” she said.

The only thing that has changed is the fabric. In the past, hats were made mostly of wool and straw. Today they can be made of almost anything including ribbon, satin, synthetic fabrics and mudcloth.

Rosebud said she’ll shape the hat on a mold using fabric before it goes through steaming, shaping and even a baking process. That shaped hat becomes the blank canvas where she plays with color before moving on to adding feathers, ribbons, crystals or silk flowers.

“Dressmakers start with a sketch, but most hat designers create the shape with molds and then design the hat. The hat is a blank canvas we paint on,” Rosebud said.

Rosebud is one of the most well-known African-American milliners in the country, especially after her collection of miniature hats took off a few years ago. She has clients in the U.S. and in Canada, some of whom will travel to The Great American Hat Show.

The Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, chairwoman of Community Board 9,  is a prolific hat wearer who owns more than two dozen of Rosebud’s designs.

For President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, Rosebud made Morgan-Thomas a white wool hat with fox trim and a big buckle that was “blinging,” and gave the notable crystal bow hat that soul singer Aretha Franklin wore that day a run for its money.

“My hat was better than Aretha’s. She should have had a Harriet Rosebud creation,” Morgan-Thomas said.

For her son’s recent wedding, Morgan-Thomas hadn’t planned to wear a hat because she didn’t want to draw any attention away from the bride. But when her now daughter-in-law requested that Morgan-Thomas wear one of her trademark hats to the wedding, she turned to Rosebud, who created one with pearls around the brim.

“It was me: soft, feminine and yet outstanding,” joked Morgan-Thomas. “Her hats are always very chic, even the ones that are ostentatious.”

Rosebud credits her degree in political science for her interest in the sociology behind hats.

Hat designs often change with the country’s social and economic situation. In the 1920s the hat styles were more grand to reflect the booming economic times. But during the Great Depression and World War II, hats were plain based on the inaccessibility of supplies.

“A hat could denote your wealth,” Rosebud said.

She should know. Rosebud is putting the finishing touches on an $800 hat that is loaded with rhinestones and crystal. The “car payment,” as she facetiously calls it, will be stunning and worth every penny because hats are also a symbol of a feeling that the wearer is trying to display, she said.

The giant brim of the massive triple crown hat denotes a grandness associated with going to events like the Kentucky Derby. The black fascinator hat is playful but also a serious evening hat. For the black church women in Harlem, it’s all about large brims, tall crowns and bling.

“The more rhinestones the better. They look like Christmas trees,” Rosebud said.

Rosebud is working on purchasing her own small factory to produce her designs and can’t wait to unveil her new creations at The Great American Hat Show.

“America is a leader in fashion and I want to return the art form to greatness,” said Rosebud. “It’s very important to me that the art form doesn’t die.

The Great American Hat Show will be held Feb. 8, starting at 2 p.m. at the Dorothy Manor Theater at St. James Presbyterian, 409 W. 141st St. at St. Nicholas Avenue. Call (212) 690-1361, visit Harriet Rosebud Hats or email for more information.

By Jeff Mays on January 15, 2014 10:10am @JeffCMays