First lady of the Black stage, Rose McClendon

Rose McClendon

Rose McClendon

No mention of Black actors and actresses or Black theater—especially from a Harlem standpoint, where Frederick O’Neal and Abram Hill founded the American Negro Theater—is complete without some discussion of Rose McClendon.

McClendon—who was born Rosalie Virginia Scott in Greenville, S.C.. or North Carolina, depending on the source, in 1884—arrived in New York City as a child and almost immediately began performing in plays produced in various churches. She was in her 30s when she won a scholarship to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, and thus began her lengthy and productive acting career.

It was during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s that McClendon began to command attention for her prowess on the stage. Finding decent parts for Black actresses was exceedingly difficult, but she managed to secure several in white-produced and -written plays. In 1924, five years after a small role in “Justice,” she co-starred with Charles Gilpin in “Roseanne,” produced at Harlem’s famed Lafayette Theatre, where she would come under the guidance of Anita Bush. Gilpin was the leading African-American actor of his day, but this role was another stereotypical part, with his portrayal of a conniving, lustful preacher, with a plot resembling King Vidor’s “Hallelujah!,” one of the top films at that time. Eventually, Gilpin was replaced by Paul Robeson.

There were few Black operas during the Renaissance period, but McClendon landed a part in “Deep River” (1926), written by Frank Harling with a book by Laurence Stallings, both white. The production takes place in New Orleans in 1835, with singers Charlotte Murray and Jules Bledsoe sharing the stage, but McClendon is alone when she descends the winding staircase during a scene from a quadroon ball, where the participants were one-quarter black.

As the author James Weldon Johnson wrote, “McClendon had to come slowly—ever so slowly—and walk through a patio, then off stage. It was a high test for poise, grace and aristocratic bearing.” She performed with similar sophistication in Paul Green’s “In Abraham’s Bosom,” and, unsurprisingly, the locale is once again in the South, but this time featuring far more dignity and respect for the Black experience. McClendon received the Morning Telegraph Acting Award for her portrayal the following year, along with Ethel Barrymore and Lynn Fontanne. It was a role that gave McClendon an opportunity to display the full expanse of her emotional arsenal.

Along with her occasional roles, McClendon also began to try her hand at directing, mostly with the Harlem Experimental Theatre. But she answered a call to portray Serena in the original production of “Porgy,” which gave her an opportunity to see Europe and parts of the United States during the play’s tour.

In 1931, she was once again featured in a play by Green, “The House of Connelly.” This put her under the direction and tutelage of the renowned Lee Strasberg and his Group Theatre. A year later, she was the recipient of glowing reviews for her role in “Never No More,” with its focus on lynching. The play, after a short run, faced closing, but the poet Sterling Brown wrote so passionately about the play and McClendon’s role as a grieving mother that the play was extended.

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Herb Boyd | 2/6/2015, 10:57 a.m.

The boy Harry from Harlem did good

To most younger people who remember him, Harry Belafonte is mainly known for singing infectious but vaguely annoying 1950s Afro-Caribbean pop songs like Day-O.

Indeed, anyone under 30 may not know who he is at all.

If so, this expansive and entertaining, if sometimes hagiographic, documentary from Susanne Rostock will definitely set them straight.

And if Rostock’s film is a little fawning now and then, it’s hard to blame her, because Belafonte’s has been a truly extraordinary life.

Born in extreme poverty in a Harlem tenement in 1927, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr was the child of a Caribbean housekeeper, and was partly raised in Jamaica by his grandfather.

After finishing high school in Harlem, he served in the US Navy during World War II and returned to New York. He was working as a janitor’s assistant when a tenant gave him tickets to a show at Harlem’s American Negro Theater.

The theatre’s resident company used plays to give a voice to the black American experience, and the young Belafonte was entranced.

He met Sidney Poitier and began acting, but also experimented with singing and developed a keen interest in folk songs, both American and Jamaican. In 1956 Belafonte had a big hit with Caribbean folk song Matilda, and his debut album Calypso became the first LP to sell over a million copies.

He became an overnight sensation, and audiences went wild for his sensual live performances, but Harry was no mere pop star.

Inspired by the fearless campaigning of black singer Paul Robeson, Belafonte became increasingly exercised by the fate of black Americans, and would be a key player in the Civil Rights movement.

It’s this period of Belafonte’s life that Rostock’s film spends most time exploring, and understandably so, because the singer’s contribution to that cause cannot be overstated.

He bailed Martin Luther King out of Birmingham City Jail; supported the preacher’s family; financed the Freedom Riders; courted the Kennedys; and helped organise the iconic March on Washington in 1963.

Belafonte also rallied Hollywood chums like Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and Charlton Heston to put their names to the Civil Rights movement, and the singer also put his own career, and even his life, at risk.

His energy and commitment is remarkable, and his engagement against injustice has continued; he’s campaigned against apartheid, famine in Africa, and the American engagement in Iraq.

Admirable stuff, and at 85 he’s still going strong.

But Rostock’s film is too respectful to provide genuine insight; the recollections of Belafonte, Poitier and others about the ’60s are fascinating, but Belafonte’s personal life is only nodded to respectfully, and no hard questions are asked.

Why, for instance, has he been so consistently ambivalent about the presidency of Barack Obama?

– Paul Whitington

Washington Heights – Harlem Travel Guide – iPhone, iPad, iPod

Washington Heights, located in Upper Manhattan, is bound by Harlem to the South along 155th Street, and Inwood to the North along Dyckman Street, the Hudson River to the West and the Harlem River to the East. It is named for Fort Washington, a fortification used by the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War to defend the area from the British forces. With Manhattan‘s highest natural elevation, 265 ft above sea level, located in Bennett Park, it was a very important area for General George Washington to occupy and control. But during the Battle of Fort Washington, in 1776, the area was lost to the British and renamed “Fort Knyphausen” to honor the German general who had led the successful attack, and held it for the remainder of the war.

Many ethnic groups have moved in this area starting with Irish immigrants in the early 1900s, Jews from Frankfurt am Main, Germany giving it the name Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson and Austria that were leaving their homes as the Nazi Party came to power in the late 1940s. Even after World War II Germans continued to move to the area around 160th Street and Broadway and it was referred to as the Fourth Reich. During the 1950s and 1960s, many Greeks moved to Washington Heights and it was referred to as the “Astoria of Manhattan.” By the 1980s, the neighborhood became mostly Dominican and referred to as “Quisqueya Heights“. By the 2000s, the area had rapidly declined and was known for its heavy drug trade and crime. With efforts from various City, State and Federal agencies working together the drug trade and crime rate has dropped dramatically and Washington Heights is on the move to becoming one of the premier neighborhoods to live in Manhattan.

Washington Heights is home to numerous cultural and historical sites, parks, sports teams and educational institutions, like Yeshiva University, a private university founded in 1886. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the US that combines Jewish studies with regular studies. Washington Heights is also home to The Boricua College, founded in 1974 and designated to serve the needs of its predominantly Hispanic students through a bilingual, bicultural approach to learning, and special course offerings in Puerto Rican art and history; and the Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library, which are located in Audubon Terrace; Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), an academic medical center located between 165th and 169th streets on Broadway, that includes Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Dental Medicine, School of Nursing and Mailman School of Public Health.

You will also find The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, which is associated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring medieval art and culture. The Morris-Jumel Mansion – the oldest house in Manhattan – which is located in Jumel Terrace Historic District, along with 555 Edgecombe Avenue, once home to recording artist, actor, athlete, and scholar Paul Robeson, musician Count Basie, and boxer Joe Louis.

The Audubon Ballroom, built by Thomas W. Lamb in 1912, was once a ballroom, vaudeville house, movie theater, synagogue, and meeting hall. This is the site where Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Today, it is home to the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, shops, restaurants and Columbia University‘s Audubon Business and Technology Center. Tucked away in Fort Washington Park is the Little Red Lighthouse, a small lighthouse located at the tip of Jeffrey’s Hook at the base of the George Washington Bridge. It was made famous by a 1942, children’s book named The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward.

Many of the great sports teams have played in Washington Heights – the New York Giants, now the San Francisco Giants played at the Polo Grounds between 155th and 159th Streets until the end of the 1957 season, when they moved to San Francisco. This area known as Hilltop Park located at 168th Street and Broadway was home to the New York Highlanders. Today, they are known as the New York Yankees, who played there between 1903 and 1912, and at the Polo Grounds between 1913 and 1922. The New York Mets played their first two seasons, 1962 and 1963, at the Polo Grounds. The Polo Grounds was also home to the New York Giants, from 1925 to 1955, and the New York Jets in 1960. The Fort Washington Avenue Armory, built in 1911 by Walker & Morris, is home to The New Balance Track and Field Center with an Olympic-caliber track that is one of the fastest in the world.

Many famous people were born, and have lived and worked in Washington Heights, including Academy Award nominated actor Laurence Fishburne, columnist and reporter at The New York Times Jim Dwyer, Creator of Spider-Man, X-Men, The Incredible Hulk Stan Lee, former National Security Advisor and United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, “Dr. Ruth“, sex educator and sex counselor Ruth Westheimer, Dominican baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers Manny Ramírez, and Dominican-American baseball player for the New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez. In addition to those well-known men, Althea Gibson, the first African American Wimbledon Champion, Frankie Lymon of “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” fame, Freddie Prinze, of Puerto Rican and Hungarian descent, stand-up comedian, best known for his 1970s TV series Chico and the Man, David Dinkins, former Mayor of New York City, 1990-1994, and Tiny Tim, real name – Herbert Khaury; singer and ukelele player, a novelty act of the 1960s best known for his rendition of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” lived in Washington Heights.

Transportation: Bus—M2, M3, M4, M5, M100, M101, BX3, BX6, BX7, BX13, BX35, BX36. Subway—A, C, 1


  • More than 360 entries with over 2000 photographs
  • This visually rich app consists of detailed New York City visitor’s information from visitor centers, tourist websites, weather, news, holidays, sales tax, smoking rules, tipping and transportation to and from airports and in the city
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What’s inside

  • Nightlife and entertainment from jazz, Latin salsa, opera to classical music;
  • Theatre, dance, spoken word and more;
  • Restaurants featuring soul food to French cuisine and everything in between;
  • Unique ethnic retail shops;
  • Museums that celebrate various cultures;
  • Fine art galleries;
  • Majestic churches and gospel music;
  • Amazing landmarks;
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  • Free internet access and Wi-fi locations;
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Literally a guide in my pocket   

Posted by Max on 13th Jan 2012

I can only subscribe to what other people already have told about the guide. It’s just great that I can read a place description, actually give a call its manager, find it on a map and even hook up on its Twitter channel to keep my eye on it. Very smart!

Download the free Sutro World @ and purchase the Harlem Travel Guide today for $2.99!

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HBO’s ‘Sing Your Song’ to Debut 10/17 – Harry Belafonte


During the course of an inspiring life that has paralleled the American civil rights movement, artist and crusader Harry Belafonte has tirelessly used his humanitarian influence to advance causes of social justice, while forging a unique career punctuated by prestigious awards and industry firsts.

Filmmaker Susanne Rostock tells the rich life story of this remarkable artist and humanitarian in the intimate feature-length documentary SING YOUR SONG, debuting MONDAY, OCT. 17 (10:00-11:45 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.

Other HBO playdates: Oct. 20 (4:00 p.m., 1:00 a.m.), 23 (3:45 p.m.), 26 (11:30 a.m.) and 29 (8:45 a.m.), and Nov. 1 (12:30 p.m., 12:45 a.m.) and 7 (5:30 p.m.)

HBO2 playdates: Oct. 22 (6:00 a.m.), 26 (8:00 p.m.) and 30 (10:30 p.m.), and Nov. 5 (5:15 p.m.), 9 (11:00 a.m., 2:10 a.m.) and 15 (5:30 p.m.)

Coinciding with the HBO debut of SING YOUR SONG, Belafonte’s memoir, “My Song,” will be published by Knopf Oct. 11 while a companion music album, entitled “Sing Your Song: The Music,” was released by Sony Masterworks Oct. 4.

Groundbreaking singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte rose to fame in the U.S. in spite of segregation, and crossed over into mainstream America on his way to international stardom. His hit 1956 album “Calypso” made him the first artist in industry history to sell over a million LPs, and spawned the smash single “Banana Boat (Day-O).” Though recognized with Grammy, Tony and Emmy(R) awards, Belafonte was blacklisted, harassed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), spied on by the CIA and FBI, and threatened by the Klan, state troopers and Las Vegas mafia bosses.

Distilled from more than 700 hours of interviews, eyewitness accounts, movie clips, excerpts from FBI files, and news and rare archival film footage and stills, some of which has never been seen before, SING YOUR SONG reveals Belafonte as a tenacious hands-on activist who worked intimately with DR. Martin Luther King, Jr., mobilized celebrities for social justice, participated in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and took action to counter gang violence, prisons and the incarceration of youth.

In addition to Belafonte, those interviewed in SING YOUR SONG include: Tony Bennett, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Whoopi Goldberg, Quincy Jones, Coretta Scott King, Rep. John Lewis, Miriam Makeba, Nelson Mandela, Sidney Poitier, George Schlatter, Tom Smothers, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Andrew Young, as well as his children Adrienne Belafonte Biesemeyer, David Belafonte, Gina Belafonte (one of the film’s producers) and Shari Belafonte, former wife Julie Belafonte and current wife Pamela Belafonte.

Following an early performance by Belafonte at the Village Vanguard in New York City, his mentor, the great singer and actor Paul Robeson, offered this counsel: “Get them to sing your song and they will want to know who you are.”

Born into a rough Harlem neighborhood in 1927, Belafonte’s immigrant mother sent him to be raised in her native Jamaica in an effort to ensure his safety; there he developed a cultural reservoir on which to build future artistic success. Upon the outbreak of World War II, he returned to Harlem, and later enlisted in the United States Navy, serving for almost two years as a munitions loader.

Returning to New York City, Belafonte worked in the garment center and as a janitor’s assistant. As gratuity for one apartment repair job, Belafonte was given a ticket to a production of “Home Is the Hunter” at the American Negro Theatre (ANT) in Harlem, which sparked a desire for a life in the performing arts.

Joining the Dramatic Workshop of the New School of Social Research under the tutelage of renowned German director Erwin Piscator, Belafonte attended class with fellow future stars like Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau, Bea Arthur, Rod Steiger and Tony Curtis. He immersed himself in the world of theatre and found “a place of social truth and profound influence,” compelling him to make a commitment to use art as a source of inspiration to others, as well as an instrument of resistance and rebellion and a counter to racism.

Paralleling his pursuit of acting, an interest in jazz spurred him to develop a relationship with pioneers of the art form. In his first professional appearance, he performed with jazz titans Charlie Parker, Max Roach, Tommy Potter and Al Haig as his “back-up band.”

His first Broadway appearance, in “John Murray Anderson’s Almanac,” earned him a Tony Award. As the first black producer in television, he won an Emmy(R) for his network production of “An Evening with Belafonte,” directed by Norman Jewison. At the dawning of his film career, “Carmen Jones” took top critical honors, garnering two Oscar(R) nominations and winning the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy).

In SING YOUR SONG, Belafonte observes that while building a career, raising a family and enjoying his successes, there were always the larger concerns for freedom, justice, equality and human dignity. Since childhood, his mother impressed upon him that he should never awaken in a day when there wasn’t something on his agenda that would help set the course for the undermining of injustice. That larger concern at the center of his life and work connected him deeply with his mentor Robeson, a renaissance man of immense talents who sacrificed everything in the fight for freedom and justice.

Belafonte’s compassion and ardor also drew him to DR. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said of his friend, “Belafonte’s global popularity and his commitment to our cause is a key ingredient to the global struggle for freedom and a powerful tactical weapon in the civil rights movement here in America. We are blessed by his courage and moral integrity.”

Like Robeson before him, Belafonte has paid a price for his activism. Rather than compromise with bigotry and prejudice, he walked away from the money and exposure that compromise would have afforded him, for example, when sponsors of the groundbreaking and hugely popular television specials “Tonight with Belafonte” (1959) and “Belafonte, New York 19” (1960) balked at his racially integrated casts. Similar battles with Hollywood film producers over content and race led him to turn down other lucrative offers.

SING YOUR SONG was presented at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and the 2011 Berlin Film Festival, as well as the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

HBO Documentary Films and Michael Cohl present a Belafonte Enterprises and S2BN Entertainment Production in association with Julius R. Nasso Productions; a film by Susanne Rostock; produced by Michael Cohl, Gina Belafonte, Jim Brown, William Eigen and Julius R. Nasso; co-produced by Sage Scully; edited by Susanne Rostock and Jason L. Pollard; consultant, Karol Martesko-Fenster; music composed by Hahn Rowe.

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Harlem Landmark In Foreclosure Auction

One of New York’s most famous apartment complexes will be the subject of a foreclosure auction on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Lehman Brothers Holdings is foreclosing on the Dunbar Apartments in Harlem. The auction is being held because Pinnacle Group, which purchased the property in 2005 for $94 million, did not repay Lehman for approximately $51 million in junior debt that came due in September.

Built in 1926, the Dunbar Apartments consists of six buildings with 511 apartments. The complex, which spans an entire city block, has been home to many prominent residents, including civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois and entertainment icons Paul Robeson and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

‘O Write My Name: American Portraits – Harlem Heroes’

Photos of acclaimed African American artists, from Lena Horne and Zora Neale Hurston to Horace Pippin and Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, will be on view at the Morris Museum exhibition, O Write My Name: American Portraits – Harlem Heroes, from Jan. 14 through Feb. 27.

Lena Horne (Photo from Newark Museum Collection)

This exhibition features 50 portrait photos of African-American artists, writers and musicians taken by photographer Carl Van Vechten between the years 1930 and 1960. ‘O Write My Name’ was organized by the Newark Museum in Newark.

The collection consists of photogravures made by Richard M.A. Benson and Thomas Palmer for the Eakins Press Foundation from Van Vechten’s original 35mm negatives.

In the 1920’s, Carl Van Vechten, drama and music critic, novelist, and photographic chronicler of the Harlem Renaissance, became one of the leading popularizers of the African-American culture to white America. His attraction to African-American culture brought him into contact with many of the black writers, musicians, and artists who were the foundation of the Harlem Renaissance, like James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston and Claude McKay among others. Van Vechten not only provided a visual biography of Harlem from the 1920s through the 1960s, he was involved in the dynamics of the Harlem Renaissance itself, having developed friendships with many Harlem writers, musicians and artists who he introduced to white artists, patrons and publishers.

O Write My Name includes portraits of Lottie Allen, Marian Anderson, James Baldwin, Romare Bearden, Mary McLeod Bethune, Arna Bontemps, John W. Bubbles, Ralph Bunche, Countee Cullen, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, W.E.B. DuBois, Katherine Dunham, Ruby Elzy, Ella Fitzgerald, Althea Gibson, Dizzy Gillespie, W.C. Handy, Roland Hayes, Altonell Hines, Nora Holt, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Mahalia Jackson, Charles S. Johnson, J. Rosamond Johnson, James Weldon Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Alain Locke, Joe Louis, Rose McClendon, Claude McKay, Mildred Perkins, Vera Peterson, Horace Pippin, Dorothy Porter, Leontyne Price, Paul Robeson, Bill Robinson, Edith Sampson, Bessie Smith, Maxine Sullivan, Howard Swanson, Sarah Victor, Margaret Walker, Fredi Washington, Ethel Waters, Josh White and Richard Wright.

Senior Friday, Friday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m., will feature an early afternoon of art and conversation with museum staff. The program includes a highlights tour of the O Write My Name exhibition, engaging discussion in the galleries, and light refreshments. Registration is not required. This event is free with museum admission.

The Morris Museum is at 6 Normandy Heights Road in Morristown. It is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is $10 for adults and $7 for children, students and senior citizens. Admission is free to the public every Thursday between 5 and 8 p.m. Call 973-971-3700, or visit