The Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age

Join us as Historian, Kevin Draper, takes us on a virtual tour of the rich history of Harlem and the Jazz Age.

The Harlem Renaissance was a period in the 1920’s when African American music, literature, theater and art flourished. Originally occupied by Native Americans and settled by the Dutch in the early 1600’s, Harlem was largely farmland that developed into vast estates for wealthy New Yorkers until the late 19th century.

During the 1700’s, this area played an important role in the American Revolution. Early 20th-century population growth and commercial expansion resulted in real estate and transportation developments that paved the way for an urban setting that would showcase African American culture.

Although African Americans have been present in Harlem since the 1630’s, the early 20th century saw the Great Migration of Blacks from the South and immigration of Blacks from the West Indies seeking economic freedom and prosperity. The convergence of these two populations contributed to the growth of the area and set the stage for an artistic revolution known as the “Harlem Renaissance”.

This “Renaissance” coincided with the Jazz Age that spanned the “roaring” 20’s to the 1940’s. It was a time of social revolution and transformative change during which a new type of improvisational music and style of art was born.

We will visit the stylish social scenes where history happened, and legends were born:

Iconic places: Abyssinian Baptist Church, Apollo Theater, Swing Street, Astor Row, Striver’s Row, Times Square, 42nd St, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, Art Deco masterpieces.

Cabarets & Musicians: The Cotton Club, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Cab Calloway, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, “Jelly Roll” Morton, Charlie Parker and Fats Waller.

Singers: Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Paul Robeson (1923 graduate of Columbia Law School), Ethel Waters, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker.

Ballrooms & Dances: The Savoy Ballroom and new dances inspired by the jazz music – The Charleston, The Turkey Trot, Cake Walk, The Black Bottom, The Shimmy & Lindy Hop.

Writers: Langston Hughes (Columbia University), James Baldwin, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston (1928 graduate of Barnard), James Weldon Johnson (Columbia University).

Art: & Artists: Surrealism, impressionism, & Art Deco that influenced African American artists.

Fashion: Fedoras & cloche hats, suits with suspenders & bow ties, the “Zoot suit”, flapper fashions with rhinestones, feather headband, & boas.

Entrepreneurs, Philanthropists, Social Activists: Madam C J Walker, Philip Anthony Payton.


This event will be on Zoom. You will receive the zoom link upon registration.

Kevin Draper

Kevin Draper is the co-founder of New York Historical Tours. An impassioned New Yorker, Kevin brings to life the stories and history that have made New York the most exciting and dynamic city in the world. This includes looking at New York not just as the w, dynamic city that never sleeps but the diverse and exciting collection of neighborhoods that never sleep. His knowledge, professionalism, and storytelling ability have earned him rave reviews. Kevin has led historical talks and lectures for top universities and Fortune 500 companies and has been a consultant to a variety of publications including CBS, ABC, Bloomberg, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

February 16, 2022 at 6:00pm - 7pm



Alumni Leadership Team


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