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For more than a century, Columbia University has been located near the cultural and political heart of black America, the community of Harlem. At the end of the 19th Century, blacks living in densely populated urban neighborhoods such as San Juan Hill and the Tenderloin began to relocate to Harlem.

Black ownership of residential housing was greatly accelerated with the establishment of the Afro-American Realty Company by Philip
A. Payton, Jr. in 1904. By World War I, tens of thousands of African Americans from the South had begun to arrive in the city, as Harlem quickly became known as the urban black Mecca.

In the golden age of the twenties, Harlem became the center of black literary and cultural life, home to outstanding artists, poets, and novelists. Harlem was a central site for the rise of black nationalism beginning with the popular emergence of Marcus Garvey and his Universal Negro Improvement Association; and a generation later with the charismatic leadership of Malcolm X.

Harlem has continued to serve as the location for the development of a series of influential African-American political figures, including Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., Percy Sutton, Congressman Charles Rangel, and David Dinkins, New York City's first African-American mayor.

The Institute for Research in African-American Studies of Columbia University, founded in July 1993 by Dr. Manning Marable, is an academic resource center that is building a new intellectual tradition upon the rich legacy of Harlem's history. The purposes and activities of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies are grounded within the best scholarship of the black intellectual tradition. The strategic research mission of the Institute is the critical examination of contemporary black politics, social relations, culture and history. Towards that end, the Institute administers the Undergraduate and Master's degree programs in African-American Studies at Columbia University; regularly sponsors academic conferences, lectures and forums on a wide variety of topics; produces the scholarly publication SOULS: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, which is distributed throughout the U.S. and internationally.

From the outset, the Institute's motto has been "academic excellence and social responsibility."


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