The Invisible Man

My favorite Communist, Harold Cruse, writing in The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, said this about Harlem, New York, “The true of the matter is that Harlem has, in this century, become the most strategically important community of black America. Harlem is still the pivot of the black world’s quest for identity and salvation . . . Harlem is the black world’s key community for historical, economic, cultural and/or ethnic reasons.”

Cruse wrote that in 1967 just as the last ripples of the Harlem Renaissance moved through black creative culture. That Renaissance produced many of the giants of black American genius in literature, music, painting, sculpture, and dance. Concentrated in roughly 2 square miles for about four decades Harlem was the black Silicon Valley — exporting creative innovation to the world and demonstrating conclusively that American blacks had the brains and drive many in America suspected were lacking. 

Harlem is not a struggle story of poor, uprooted, sharecroppers from the South being packed into segregated sub-standard lives in the North. No, Mr. Cruse was correct. Harlem was strategic. At the turn of the 20th century Harlem was an overbuilt white enclave in Manhattan. No subways had been built to service it so landlords were having a difficult time finding tenants. Blacks – against the efforts of whites not as a result of racial segregation –  began moving into this prime real estate. The organization behind this move was the Afro-American Realty Company. It began buying up houses and apartments and leasing them out to blacks. The Afro-American Realty Company was made up of black businessmen and politicians. Behind them was T. Thomas Fortune, editor of the New York Age, New York’s oldest and most influential black newspaper standing in as the hype man for the move (termed an “invasion” by fleeing and sometimes evicted whites). 

All of the men involved – particularly the men in the Afro-American Realty Company – were proteges of  Booker T Washington and members of his National Negro Business League. Yes, the mastermind behind the black move into Harlem was none other than Booker Washington. Harlem was the product of the Tuskeegee Institute. Washington was quoted in the New York Age as saying, “When race gets the bank book, its troubles cease,” and advising blacks to “Get some property . . . Get a home of your own.”

Black ownership of property in uptown Manhattan became one the main launching pads for the drive to civil equality for black Americans as the creative success gave life to black political movements.  

Washington’s role in creating black Harlem came to mind last night as I watched the sad and repetitive Netflix series, Self Made, about Madame C. J. Walker — America’s first black, female millionaire. Washington is portrayed as a short sighted misogynist opposed to Walker building a business solely because she was a woman ( a lie – Washington and Walker were friends). There are many, many problems with this show but the smear of Booker T Washington was especially pungent. The mediocre program was produced by Lebron James and directed by a black director, Kasie Lemons — two people working in a field opened to James and Lemons almost directly due to the  creative prowess demonstrated by blacks in the Harlem Renaissance. 

No Harlem. No Renaissance. No Renaissance – no room for historical arsonists like Lemons or naive ballers like James. The black elite continues its 80 year war on Mr. Washington’s life and legacy but they do so from the lofty perch he created. 

It’s not a ghetto if you own all the property – physical, intellectual, and creative. That’s the kind of place immune to the vicious stupidity of corrupt and degenerate men. Sadly, it is the kind of place today’s effete and mimetic black elite can never create. 

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