HARLEM, 1937 (Ish)

The YouTube artist known as NASS has done it again, giving us another of his superlative restorations of urban footage from the past. His colorization and added sound effects (plus intricate frame rate adjustment) serve to recast documentary footage of the past into the present tense, allowing us to not feel the distance that scratchy black-and-white footage creates and instead absorb the past as if it’s happening in front of us. This new reel is of street life in Harlem circa 1937. No need for me to describe it–it’s a thrilling journey to a place where the pride taken in the neighborhood by the residents–black lower to middle-class denizens of a mostly segregated city–is happily on display. I love the female ice cream vendor who slowly and meticulously prepares an ice-cream concoction of some sort for a young customer. The white policemen wielding billy clubs are less lovable–why billy clubs for Goddsakes? Clothes are immaculate, streets are clean, and a proud and optimistic sense of life pervades a neighborhood soon to be blighted by drugs, crime and violence. This restored footage, though, bears witness to that  long-gone Harlem–it’s alive for us to study, savor and appreciate.


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