Monday, November 22, 2010

East Harlem, New York: Microcosm of the Melting Pot (2)

By Miriam B. Medina

Industrialization and the establishment of the factory system throughout America offered promise of employment to the destitute masses in Europe. Most industrialists in America depended on cheap labor coming from Europe to man the factories, without caring one bit about what would happen to the immigrant laborers after their arrival. The masses flooded the market. With industrialization, vast changes in the United States began taking place. This would eventually lead to both positive and grave negative consequences.

The effort of those who worked together, regardless of culture, as in Harlem, to endure and make better lives for themselves and their families have made America what it is today, the financial epicenter of the World. Whether they worked on farms, in factories, built railroads, bridges, towns or cities, their rewards were greater than any nation could ever offer, they were given freedom and all the responsibilities that come with it. Those responsibilities include learning to accept and understand, and experience with different cultures and ethnic groups.

During the 1800's, Harlem was developing all sorts of transportation projects in an effort to promote northward expansion. By 1831, the New York and Harlem Railroad Company was incorporated for the purpose of constructing a railroad from the central part of the city going into Harlem. This encouraged the residents of lower Manhattan to move northward to Harlem. With the erection of the "els," metropolitanized development occurred extremely rapidly, precipitating the construction of apartment buildings and brownstones. Across America, at the same time, famous railroads were built. Canals were formed. Just like Harlem, America was expanding, growing, and integrating itself from one community to the other. This availability of reasonably priced housing and faster transportation allowed the working group to be able to live in East Harlem, and travel to their places of employment downtown.

In the West, railroad construction projects at this time drew many laborers from Asia. In Harlem, these construction projects attracted many immigrant wage laborers as well, from many different ethnic cultures, mostly during the 1880's and 1890's. The steady flow of cheap labor coming from abroad fueled America's and Harlem's industrial drive, and also gave the ruthless entrepreneurs a superb opportunity to reap profits from the sweat off of the backs of the various minorities that came seeking a fair chance. However in Harlem, as in America, they endured and overcame, and that is what the American Spirit is all about. Enduring, toiling, earning, and moving forward instead of backward.

In San Francisco, the Chinese worked on the Pacific railroads, living in shanty towns and working for a pittance. In Harlem, the first group to go to work building America's pathway to an industrious future was the German and Irish workers who laid down the trolley tracks and dug the subway tunnels. Because of East Harlem's cheap tenement rent and its convenient public transportation system, many central and eastern European factory workers were able to commute from lower Manhattan's sweatshops. As a result of this construction, East Harlem became highly populated with a hard working Irish and Italian community.

To be continued: East Harlem New York: Microcosm (3)

Miriam B. Medina Expert Author Platinum Level

To contact: or

No comments: