Constrained but Not Contained
Patterns of everyday life and the limits of segregation in 1920s Harlem
ByStephen Robertson
Pages 16

In 1966, in the first major historical study of twentieth-century Harlem, Gilbert Osofsky told the story of the neighborhood in the 1920s as the making of a ghetto. As a New York Times journalist noted in 1935, "Harlem, in a manner of speaking, is a residential rather than a commercial or industrial city, self-maintained in its social aspects but reaching out into every section of New York in its economic life. 95 percent of Harlem's working population travels to its job. When men and women returned to Harlem from work in the evenings, a variety of different tasks and activities sent them through the neighborhood. Saturday evenings offered distinctive forms of leisure that drew racially mixed crowds, with many of Harlem's sporting contests taking place on that night. On Sundays, churches became a central hub of activity. As a Pittsburgh Courier reporter observed, "avenues and cross streets are filled with throngs of worshippers wending their way to their respective churches.".