Artists of Harlem Past
Posted on December 29th,2014

By Bohemia Agent Jenny Taher

Walking around Harlem with its wide boulevards, pre-war buildings a mixture of ornate beauty that recalls Paris inspires romantic nostalgia of eras gone by.  Thinking of all the artists that sought refuge above 110th to find space and inspiration as they embarked on their great works.  

Did you know?

Langston Hughes lived at 180 West 135th Street

Was it here he wrote one of his many freewheeling poems?

Hold fast to dreamsimages

For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 


While it might not comes as a surprise that Langston Hughes took residence in Harlem at the height of its renaissance more surprising might be that the now allusive J.D. Salinger spent his childhood uptown at 153rd and Broadway?  Was it here that he began missing everyone and everything a la Holden Caufield?  There is a nostalgic quality to life above 110th after all. 

So many masterpieces of American Literature were hatched under the roofs of Upper Manhattan’s buidlings.  Zora Neale Hurston wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God and Maya Angelou penned a poem of resistance and endurance with Still I Rise. 

Is it any wonder with this legacy the dreamers, the poets, the artists, still seek refuge in its wide boulevards and its romantic buildings hoping for the ultimate muse of inspiration to find them as it did Langston and J.D. and Zora and Maya? 

Here’s hoping the next generation of scribes pens their masterpieces drawing from the passion and tide of life on Broadway, Amsterdam, Lenox.


Click here for a list of every notable person who has called Harlem home.

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