New York, New York. Street scene in Harlem

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New York, New York. Street scene in Harlem


Roger Smith, photographer


June, 1943


This is a photograph of a street scene in Harlem, New York in June of 1943. It is part of The Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection, a gathering of black-and-white negative prints from a variety of sources, which comprise a photographic history of life in America from 1935-1944.

In The Color Purple, Nettie writes to Celie about visiting Harlem, New York prior to leaving for Africa on her missionary trip. This photograph depicts Harlem, New York as Nettie may have observed it during her time there. Nettie is amazed that black people “own a whole section” of the beautiful New York City. She notes the number of churches and that she sees “colored people” in motor cars and fine houses with “indoor toilets” and “gas or electric lights.” The people Nettie meets in Harlem are kind and generous to her and the family’s missionary causes. In this photograph, one can see houses, “motor cars,” storefronts, and the people of Harlem conversing jovially on the street. To Nettie, Harlem, New York evokes a sense of hope for black people in America especially when compared to the environment in which she grows up.


Whitney Olson


Smith, Roger. New York, New York. Street Scene in Harlem. 1943. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.


Original document identified in the originating depository (see “source” field) as free of publication restrictions. For further information, please see the “about” page.




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Roger Smith, photographer, “New York, New York. Street scene in Harlem,” American Women's Bestsellers -- Spring 2015, accessed May 30, 2024,

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