Harlem Nights – An annotated map of the hippest, hottest nightspots in uptown jazz-age New York | Intelligent Life magazine

BY Charlie McCann

Harlem club map_web

If New York is the city that never sleeps, then this map shows you where it used to go to stay awake. It was published on January 18th 1933, in the first issue of Manhattan: A Weekly for Wakeful New Yorkers. In those days, Harlem was known by its jive-talking denizens as the “land o’ darkness”. It was a place that came alive at night, when jazz played hot and hepcats talked cool. Harlem “was the place for a Negro to be,” the singer Cab Calloway wrote in his memoir. “And no one knew it better than my friend, E. Simms Campbell” – the man behind this map.

Simms Campbell was the first African-American illustrator to have his work published by mass-market magazines; he drew for Playboy, had a cartoon in every issue of Esquire for almost 40 years and illustrated a young adult novel by Langston Hughes. At his peak, he produced 500 cartoons a year. Once, having compared drawing to ditch-digging, he said, “I do my sweating right over there – often at night, under those intense blue lights.”

This map was drawn in 1932 before Simms Campbell left Harlem for respectable Westchester County. He was still “that kid from hunger”, as a contemporary put it. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t having fun. “Like me”, writes Calloway, “he was a hard worker, a hard drinker and a high liver…When we got to know each other, we would go out at night to the Harlem after-hours joints like the Rhythm Club and just drink and talk and laugh and raise hell until the sun came up.”

This map is a guide to their night, an illustrated itinerary of the Harlem high-life.

Read more: Harlem nights | Intelligent Life magazine

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