Vinatge: Harlem Street Life in the late 1930s by Hansel Mieth

Vinatge: Harlem Street Life in the late 1930s by Hansel Mieth


By the late 1930s, Harlem was a bustling cultural center, home to two thirds of New York City’s African-American population. The Harlem Renaissance, a robust period of literary and artistic expression, had helped put the neighborhood on the map, and a walk through its streets revealed stately houses of worship like the Abyssinian Baptist Church, a thriving music scene centered around the newly-minted Apollo Theater and esteemed institutions like the Amsterdam News.

But as much as energy poured from behind those establishments’ doors, life was just as vibrant, if not more so, on the streets directly outside them—and that is exactly where photographer Hansel Mieth took her camera while on assignment for LIFE magazine in 1938.

Children march in a local parade in Harlem, 1938.

Children march in a local parade in Harlem, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A young girl walks down the street in Harlem, 1938.

A young girl walks down the street in Harlem, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Three young boys hold hands, Harlem, 1938.

Three young boys hold hands, Harlem, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Two boys play-fight while other children look on, Harlem, 1938.

Two boys play-fight while other children look on, Harlem, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Young boys talk over the day's news, Harlem, 1938.

Young boys talk over the day’s news, Harlem, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Boys play a makeshift game of pool on a Harlem street, 1938.

Boys play a makeshift game of pool on a Harlem street, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A citrus stand is set up on a Harlem street, 1938.

A citrus stand is set up on a Harlem street, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A musician takes a break between songs, Harlem, 1938.

A musician takes a break between songs, Harlem, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Men face off in stiff competition as boys look on, Harlem, 1938.

Men face off in stiff competition as boys look on, Harlem, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Harlem residents look on at an event taking place just outside the frame, 1938.

Harlem residents look on at an event taking place just outside the frame, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Children on a Harlem street, 1938.

Children on a Harlem street, 1938. Photo: Hansel Mieth—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images


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