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West Harlem in Manhattan in New York County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Langston Hughes Playground

 
 
Langston Hughes Playground Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), November 5, 2022
1. Langston Hughes Playground Marker
Inscription.  
What was here before?
Originally settled by Dutch farmers in the late 1600s, the area was first named Nieuw Haarlem. After the American Revolution (1775-1781), the neighborhood's agrarian yield began to wane, resulting in the relocation of many residents to southern Manhattan's more industrial-oriented areas. In the 1880s, with the addition of elevated trains and tenement houses, the neighborhood began to thrive once more.

How did this site become a playground?
In an attempt to combat housing insecurity in Harlem, the New York City Housing Authority in 1933 built the St. Nicholas Houses, a multi-tenement complex between West 127th and 131st Streets. To address the needs of local children, in 1953 the Housing Authority leased two plots of land along Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard to NYC Parks for playground construction. The first playground, St. Nicholas Houses Playground South, opened in April 1953. The second site, St. Nicholas Playground North, opened shortly thereafter, and together the two sites contained a wading pool, comfort station, sand pit, and courts for basketball, paddleball, handball,
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and shuffleboard.

In 2018, the playground was recognized as part of NYC Parks' Community Parks Initiative, a multi-faceted program to invest in under-resourced public parks and increase the accessibility and quality of parks throughout the five boroughs. The renovation added new multi-generational play equipment, spray showers and a new entrance.

Who is this playground named for?
In 2020, the park was renamed as part of an NYC Parks initiative to expand the representation of African Americans honored in parks, honoring distinguished poet, novelist, and playwright Langston Hughes (1901-1967). Hughes grew up in the Midwest and moved to New York City to attend Columbia University. He left after one year due to racial prejudice from staff and peers and later graduated in 1929 from Lincoln University, a Historically Black University in Pennsylvania, before returning to New York City.

Hughes is known as a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural mecca for Black intellectuals and artists in the early 20th century. He wrote about African American life between the 1920s and 1960s, including The Negro Speaks of Rivers, Montage of A Dream Deferred, and Not Without Laughter, which won the Harmon Gold Medal for Literature.

Hughes lived in Harlem longer than any other place in his life and resided at nearby 20
Langston Hughes Playground image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Devry Becker Jones (CC0), November 5, 2022
2. Langston Hughes Playground
E. 127th St. for twenty years. The site was landmarked in 1989. He died in 1967 and leaves a literary legacy largely inspired by Harlem. His ashes are interred under the lobby floor of the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, beneath a mosaic cosmogram that includes lines from his classic poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers."
 
Erected by NYC Parks.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansArts, Letters, MusicColonial EraImmigrationParks & Recreational AreasSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities series list. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1953.
 
Location. 40° 48.735′ N, 73° 56.774′ W. Marker is in Manhattan, New York, in New York County. It is in West Harlem. Marker is at the intersection of Adam Clayton Powell Junior Boulevard and West 130th Street, on the right when traveling south on Adam Clayton Powell Junior Boulevard. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2200 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, New York NY 10027, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Romare H. Bearden (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Scott Joplin (about 400 feet away); Zora Neale Hurston
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(about 800 feet away); Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (approx. ¼ mile away); Harlem YMCA (approx. ¼ mile away); The First Vest-Pocket Park (approx. ¼ mile away); James Baldwin Lawn (approx. 0.4 miles away); Howard Bennett Playground (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Manhattan.
 
Additional commentary.
1. About the Harlem Renaissance
While the era is generally called the Harlem Renaissance, it is also sometimes referred to as the "New Negro" Renaissance. The latter term is more often used in DC, where literary figures emerged at the same time near and around Howard University. These DC figures were not specifically associated with Harlem but were definitely part of the era.

However overall, Harlem Renaissance is in wider use throughout the country, as the language for the latter term has not aged well.
    — Submitted November 10, 2022, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on January 31, 2023. It was originally submitted on November 10, 2022, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 99 times since then and 7 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 10, 2022, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.

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Feb. 23, 2024