Lenox Avenue, also named Malcolm X Boulevard, is the primary north-south route through Harlem in the upper portion of the New York City borough of Manhattan. This two-way street runs from Farmers' Gate at Central Park North (110th Street) to 147th Street. Its traffic is figuratively described as "Harlem's heartbeat" by Langston Hughes in his poem Juke Box Love Song. The IRT Lenox Avenue Line runs under the entire length of the street.
Originally a part of Sixth Avenue, it was renamed in late 1887 for philanthropist James Lenox. In 1987, it was co-named Malcolm X Boulevard (both names are officially recognized), in honor of the slain civil rights leader.
The avenue was the heart of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s. The street brought together African Americans, Latinos, British West Indians, and Spaniards who developed relationships over common interests such as jazz and food. In 1932, Harlem was so firmly established as the world capital of jazz and African-American culture in general that "black cinema" films like Harlem Is Heaven were playing on the nation's big screens. Jazz flourished and grew like it could have in no other time and place. "You might have had 15 great clubs on one block, all going at once," said the trombonist and bandleader Wycliffe Gordon. "Imagine going into a joint to check out Willie 'The Lion' Smith, and sitting next to you are Duke Ellington and James P. Johnson." Lenox Avenue is thought[by whom?] to be one of the most important streets in the world for African American culture.
The Savoy Ballroom was located between 140th and 141st Streets on Lenox Avenue. Other historical venues of Lenox Avenue are Sylvia's Restaurant, located between 126th and 127th, and the Lenox Lounge, located between 124th and 125th.
In popular culture
- In "The Fire Next Time", two essays written by civil rights leader James Baldwin (previously published in The New Yorker), Lenox Avenue is simply referred to as "The Avenue". It is thus represented as symbol of the darkness of Harlem.
- "Lenox Avenue: Midnight", a well-known poem by Langston Hughes, is set on Lenox Avenue, as is his "The Weary Blues", and it is mentioned in his "Juke Box Love Song".
- The avenue is featured in the first verse of the original Irving Berlin lyrics of "Puttin' on the Ritz". The song refers to the then-popular fad of flashily-dressed but poor black Harlemites parading up and down Lenox Avenue, "Spending ev'ry dime / For a wonderful time".
- In the title track of his debut record Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, Big L raps about 139th Street and Lenox Avenue.
- "Governor Announces $11 Million to Enhance NYC Communities (Bronx, Brooklyn, Kings, New York & Queens Counties)" (Press release). New York State Department of Transportation. April 6, 2000. Retrieved May 25, 2007.
- New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Postal, Matthew A. (ed. and text); Dolkart, Andrew S. (text). (2009) Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.) New York:John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p.205
- "Honoring the Lenox Family", The New York Times, October 5, 1887, page 4
- Gray, Christopher. "Streetscapes/200-218 Malcolm X Boulevard, From 120th to 121st Street; A Once-Noble Row of Houses Hopes for Renewal", The New York Times, June 15, 2003. Accessed May 25, 2007.
- Malcolm X Boulevard, New York City Department of City Planning. Accessed May 25, 2007.
- Friedwald,Will. The Wall Street Journal (New York), 9 May 2011.
- Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (2000). Jazz: A History of America's Music. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 174.
- Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion. (2004) New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12543-7, p.59
- Dunlap, David W. From Abyssinian to Zion. (2004) New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-12543-7, p.64
- Media related to Lenox Avenue (Manhattan) at Wikimedia Commons