Before the arrival of European settlers, the flatland area that would become Harlem (originally: Nieuw Haarlem after the Dutch city of that name) was inhabited by the indigenous Munsee speakers, the Lenape. The first settlers from the Low Countries arrived in the late 1630s.
Harlem was an agricultural center under British rule (attempts to change the name of the community to “Lancaster” failed and the authorities reluctantly adopted the Anglicised name of Harlem). During the American Revolutionary War in September 1776 it was the site of the Battle of Harlem Heights. Later, rich elites built country houses there in order to escape from the city’s dirt and epidemics (Alexander Hamilton built his Harlem estate in 1802). [Read more…] about Harlem on Fire: Langston Hughes & Wallace Henry Thurman