U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Town and Gown Black Power

Thought you all might be interested in this review.

Stefan M. Bradley. Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009. Illustrations. ix + 249 pp. $40.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-252-03452-7.

Reviewed by Angela Ryan
Published on H-1960s (November, 2010)
Commissioned by Ian Rocksborough-Smith

Town and Gown Black Power

Harlem, the northern tip of the New York City borough of Manhattan, has been a predominantly black neighborhood since the Harlem Renaissance in the early twentieth century, and the neighborhood has become synonymous with black cultural and political achievements. However, without access to wealth and resources because of racism and discrimination, black residents of Harlem have remained tenants, and not owners, of the land and buildings that characterize the pinnacle of black achievement. One of the largest landlords in the western Harlem neighborhood of Morningside Heights is the elite Ivy League institution Columbia University. The intertwined histories of Harlem and Columbia have been characterized by acrimony and mistrust, and for a week in the spring of 1968, student and community activists brought the university to a standstill as they protested Columbia’s aggressive expansion plans. The student-community alliance was chiefly concerned with thwarting the university’s plan to build a new gymnasium in the adjacent Morningside Park–a swath of precious green space that was primarily used by Columbia’s African American neighbors in Harlem.

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