Harlem YMCAPhoto: Fern L. Nesson, © All Rights Reserved 2019
A 2016 article celebrating Black History Month highlighted this unique and little known WPA mural by artist Aaron Douglas:
“The Harlem Branch of the Y.M.C.A., which is located at at 180 West 135th Street, contains an exquisite example (though in need of a thorough restoration) of a rare African-American contribution to the Works Progress Administration (WPA)…
While much of the building has been renovated over the years, some of the Y.M.C.A.’s original artwork by Alfred Floegel and noted African-American artists William E. Scott and Aaron Douglas remain. One of the murals was designed by Aaron Douglas, an African-American painter and illustrator whose works appear in the collections of the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Douglas’ mural is entitled Evolution of Negro Dance and was painted in 1935. The mural depicts silhouetted figures representing the different periods in African-American history from slavery through the Harlem Renaissance through dance.
The Harlem Branch of the Y.M.C.A. was constructed between 1931 and 1932 and was designed for African Americans, since the Y.M.C.A. maintained racially segregated branches until 1946. The building served as a focal point for members of the community. Langston Hughes began as a feature editor on the staff of the Harlem Y’s newsletter and everyone from Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. to George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Paul Robeson, and Earth Kitt either stayed or performed at the Harlem YMCA.”
Douglas painted four powerful WPA murals for the nearby Schomburg Center as well.
Project originally submitted by The Living New Deal on June 9, 2016.
Additional contributions by Fern L. Nesson - Photographs.
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