Osofsky, HARLEM, THE MAKING OF A GHETTO, NEGRO NEW YORK, 1890-1930 (New York: Harper & Row, 1963) on Racial Restrictive Covenants

On Reasons for Failure of Covenant and other Anti-African-American Campaigns in Harlem in 1900-1910

"The basic cause of the collapse of all organized efforts to exclude Negroes from Harlem was the inability of any group to gain total and unified support of all white property owners in the neighborhood. Without such support it was impossible to organize a successful neighborhood-wide restrictive movement. Landlords forming associations by blocks had a difficult time keeping people on individual streets united. There also continued to be speculators, Negro and white, who, as in 1904 and 1905, sought to exploit the situation for their own profit. They bought tenements and opened them to Negroes to try to force neighbors to repurchase them at higher prices." (109)

Osofsky also described the chaotic real estate environment which organized covenant attempts faced:

"Nor was it possible, and this is the major point, to create a well-organized and well-financed movement of Negro restriction (the HPOIC plan called for the contribution of one-half of one per cent of the assessed valuation of all property to a community fund) in the disrupted and emotional atmosphere that pervaded Harlem in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The very setting in which whites were confronted with Negro neighbors for the first time led to less than level-headed reasoning." (109)

From "Bibliographical Essay," 197-198.

"Organized opposition to Negro settlement may be traced through articles which appear in Harlem Magazine, The Crisis and The New York Age, and the Harlem Home News. Some of the restrictive housing covenants were filed at the New York City Hall of Records. I knew of the existence of one covenant through press reports and located it and others by systematically checking the real estate records for each Harlem block. The city classifies each street by a specific number. With this number it is possible to locate separate 'Libers' which record property transactions in New York City from colonial times to the present. The following 'Libers,' each in Section 7 at the Hall of Records, contained restrictive agreements: 127, pp. 365-368; 128, pp. 145-150; 151, pp. 134-146; 152, pp. 297-301; 159, pp. 7-15. Harlem Survey (New York, 1917?), published by the Harlem Board of Commerce, is a valuable document that depicts the radical ethnic changes that had taken place in Harlem by the First World War." (198)

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