A 1932 Illustrated Map of Harlem’s Night Clubs: From the Cotton Club to the Savoy Ballroom

32 Harlem Map

Harlem’s under­go­ing anoth­er Renais­sance of late. Crime’s down, real estate prices are up, and throngs of pale-faced hip­sters are descend­ing to check the area out.

Sure, something’s gained, but some­thing’s lost, too.

For today’s hol­i­day in Harlem, we’re going to climb in the Way­back Machine. Set the dial for 1932. Don’t for­get your map. (Click the image above to view a larg­er ver­sion.)

This deliri­ous arti­fact comes cour­tesy of Elmer Simms Camp­bell (1906–1971), an artist whose race proved an imped­i­ment to career advance­ment in his native Mid­west. Not long after relo­cat­ing to New York City, he had the good for­tune to be befriend­ed by the great Cab Cal­loway, star of the Cot­ton Club. Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho! Check the low­er left cor­ner of your map.

You may notice that the com­pass rose devi­ates rather dras­ti­cal­ly from estab­lished norms. As you’ve no doubt heard, the Bronx is up, and the Battery’s down, but not in this case. Were you to choose those trees in the upper left cor­ner as your start­ing point, you’d be at the top of Cen­tral Park, basi­cal­ly equidis­tant from the east and west sides. (Take the 2 or the 3 to 110th St…)

But keep in mind that this map is not drawn to scale. I know it looks like the joints are jump­ing from the sec­ond you step off the curb, but in real­i­ty, you’ll need to hoof it 21 blocks from the top of Cen­tral Park to 131st street for things to start cookin’. Hope­ful­ly, this geo­graph­i­cal lib­er­ty won’t get you too hot under the col­lar. And if it does, well, it may be Pro­hi­bi­tion, but stress-reliev­ing bev­er­ages await you in every loca­tion list­ed, as well as in some 500 speakeasies Camp­bell allowed to remain on the down low.

If that does­n’t do it for you, there’s a guy sell­ing reefer across the street from Earl “Snake­hips” Tuck­er.

As you stag­ger back and forth between Sev­enth Avenue to Lenox (now referred to as Adam Clay­ton Pow­ell Jr. Boule­vard and Mal­colm X), bear in mind that Camp­bell was the first African-Amer­i­can car­toon­ist to be nation­al­ly pub­lished in the New York­er, Play­boy, and Esquire, whose bug-eyed, now retired mas­cot, Esky, was a Camp­bell cre­ation.

In the end, he was an extreme­ly suc­cess­ful illus­tra­tor, though few of his cre­ations are reflec­tive of his race.

The map above, which did dou­ble duty as end­pa­pers for Calloway’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Of Min­nie the Moocher and Me, is far clos­er to home.

Right above, see Cab Cal­loway per­form “Hotcha Razz Ma Tazz” at the famous Cot­ton Club, in Harlem, 1935.

via Big Think

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Langston Hugh­es Read Poet­ry from His First Col­lec­tion, The Weary Blues (1958)

Duke Ellington’s Sym­pho­ny in Black, Star­ring a 19-Year-old Bil­lie Hol­i­day

Rare Record­ing of Con­tro­ver­sial­ist, Jour­nal­ist and Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary & Social Crit­ic, H.L. Menck­en

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, Hoos-York­er, home­school­er, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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