A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 20, 2013
“I was in love with Harlem long before I got there”

American poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was born in Missouri, but arrived in New York City in the 1920s to attend Columbia College. In his autobiography, The Big Sea (1940), Hughes wrote:

“I had come to New York to enter Columbia College as a freshman, but really why I had come to New York was to see Harlem. I found it hard a week or so later to tear myself away from Harlem when it came time to move up the hill to the dormitory at Columbia. That winter I spent as little time as possible on campus. Instead, I spent as much time as I could in Harlem, and this I have done ever since. I was in love with Harlem long before I got there, and I am still in love with it.”

“I was in love with Harlem long before I got there” has become a famous Hughes (and Harlem) quotation.


Wikipedia: Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the period that “the negro was in vogue” which was later paraphrased as “when Harlem was in vogue”.

The Harlem Project—Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes was not born in Harlem.  He is not even a native New Yorker.  He was born in Joplin, Missouri, and spent most of his childhood in Lawrence, Kansas.  He became drawn to New York and Harlem in the early 1920’s because of the cultural movement blossoming there.  The movement would become known as the Harlem Renaissance.
(...)
He wrote in The Big Sea: “I was in love with Harlem long before I got there.” If only in symbolic terms, Harlem was Hughes’s first home.

OCLC WorldCat record
The big sea : an autobiography
Author: Langston Hughes
Publisher: New York ;London : Alfred A. Knopf, 1940.
Edition/Format: Book : English

Google Books
The Collected Works of Langston Hughes:
Essays on Art, Race, Politics, and World Affairs (Volume 9)

Edited by Christopher C. De Santis
Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press
2002
Pg. 395:
I had come to New York to enter Columbia College as a freshman, but really why I had come to New York was to see Harlem. I found it hard a week or so later to tear myself away from Harlem when it came time to move up the hill to the dormitory at Columbia. That winter I spent as little time as possible on campus. Instead, I spent as much time as I could in Harlem, and this I have done ever since. I was in (Pg. 396—ed.) love with Harlem long before I got there, and I am still in love with it. Everybody seemed to make me welcome. The sheer dark size of Harlem intrigued me. And the fact that at that time poets and writers like James Weldon Johnson and Jessie Fauser lived there, and ert Williams, Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, and Walter White, too, fascinated me. Had I been a rich young man, I would have bought a house in Harlem and built musical steps up to the front door, and installed chimes that at the press of a button played Ellington tunes.

New York (NY) Post
Harlem globe trotter
January 23, 2011 | 5:00am
Harlem is Nowhere
A Journey to the Mecca of Black America
by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Little, Brown & Company
(...)
In fairness to her enterprise, which is to reconcile the renowned, metaphorical Harlem (the “Mecca of Black America,” as her subtitle notes) with the reality of today, she gives a marvelous tour through decades of iconic writings on Harlem. She is one with Hughes, who wrote, “I was in love with Harlem long before I ever got there.”

New York Quotes
Friday, May 13, 2011
In Love with Harlem
“I was in love with Harlem long before I got there.”
Langston Hughes, Essays on Art, Race, Politics, and World Affairs (Collected Works of Langston Hughes, Vol 9)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • Wednesday, November 20, 2013 • Permalink