Will Gentrification Take Langston Hughes’ Harlem Home?

Photo by Fred Stein Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images
A collective of artists and writers want to see the house become a cultural center and museum.

The owner, who has remained anonymous, listed the house years ago at $1 million, but didn't sell. Now the the building is worth $3 million and a collective of artists and writers are fighting to save it.

Writer Renee Watson and the I, Too, Arts Collective hope to preserve the house as a cultural center and museum. The collective has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $150,000 to rent the space. Watson writes, "Change is happening in Harlem and I believe it is important that in a place like Harlem, the historical and cultural spaces where African American pioneers lived and created be preserved."

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In a rapidly gentrifying Harlem, buildings are being bought and sold to make way for new condos and coffees shops. Watson doesn't want to see that happen and neither does the building's owner, who says they'd definitely sell it, but hopes to see Watson raise the funds in time.

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The collective wants to turn Hughes' home into a space for artists and activists to thrive, "I see a need for young people to know about and understand the legacy they are a part of; the artists and activists who paved the way for them. I also believe artists need affordable spaces to create and share their work."

So far, the collective has raised a third of its goal with 27 days remaining. "Our goal is to lease and renovate the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived in Harlem as a way to not only preserve his legacy but to build on it and impact young poets and artists," writes Watson. The I, Too, Arts Collective isn't just fighting for a building, they're fighting to protect Harlem's cultural history and for the next generation of black creatives.

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