overview

From roughly 1919 to 1935, the literary and artistic movement now known as the Harlem Renaissance produced an outpouring of celebrated works by African-American artists and writers.

Relatively recent scholarship has emphasized not only the influence gay social networks had on the Harlem Renaissance’s development, but also the importance of sexual identity in more fully understanding a person’s work and creative process. Key LGBT figures of this period include, among others, poets Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay; performers Ethel Waters and Florence Mills; intellectual Alain Locke; literary salon owner Alexander Gumby; and sculptor Richmond Barthé.

This curated theme features a selection of literary salons, neighborhood institutions, public art, and residences that reflect the impact of the black LGBT community on one of the 20th century’s most significant cultural movements. More sites will be added in the future.

Header Photo caption

Portrait of poet Countee Cullen, one of the preeminent figures of the Harlem Renaissance, 1941. Photo by Carl Van Vechten. © Van Vechten Trust. Source: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

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Featured Historic Sites (8)

A
180 West 135th Street
The 135th Street Branch of the YMCA (now the Harlem YMCA) and the original West 135th Street Branch across the street were among Harlem’s most important recreational and cultural centers... Learn More
B
580 St. Nicholas Avenue
Legendary black performer Ethel Waters lived in this apartment building from at least 1925 to 1927, when she was well known in Harlem's lesbian circles. During this time, an important... Learn More
C
253 West 125th Street
During the Apollo Theater’s heyday as a showcase for black performers from the 1930s into the 1970s, nearly every important African-American entertainer played here, including many LGBT stars. In the 1960s,... Learn More
D
103-105 West 135th Street
During the Harlem Renaissance, the New York Public Library's 135th Street Branch served as an intellectual and artistic center for African Americans, including the likes of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen,... Learn More
E
2144 Fifth Avenue
Between 1926 and 1931, openly gay Alexander Gumby operated the Gumby Book Studio, one of the preeminent literary and artistic salons of the Harlem Renaissance, on the second floor of... Learn More
F
Kingsborough Houses
Richmond Barthé, an African-American sculptor who gained prominence during the Harlem Renaissance, created this 8-foot by 80-foot frieze Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho (1938), which has been located at the Kingsborough Houses... Learn More
G
20 East 127th Street
Langston Hughes, celebrated poet and leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance, lived on the top floor of this Harlem rowhouse from 1947 to 1967. While here, Hughes wrote many notable... Learn More
H
104 West 136th Street
Renamed for the noted gay poet Countee Cullen in 1951, this library was the first in the New York Public Library system to be named in honor of an African... Learn More
Cultural & Educational Institutions