9. The Countee Cullen New York Public Library Branch
The Countee Cullen branch of the New York Public Library, located at 104 West 136th Street, boasts a long literary legacy dating back to the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to inspiring generations of Harlem’s readers, the library commemorates famed poet, novelist, and poet Countee Cullen, whose work explored African American culture and identity. Cullen’s most famous poetry collections, written during his involvement in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, include Color, The Black Christ, and Copper Sun. Like many of the movement’s writers, Cullen lived in Harlem for most of his life and was deeply entrenched in the neighborhood’s literary and artistic community.
The site formerly housed the grand home of A’Lelia Walker, the only surviving heir to her mother Madam C. J. Walker’s beauty company. Popularly known as the first African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire, Madam C. J. Walker made a fortune hawking hair and beauty products catered to Black women. In the early 1900s, before and during her time as president of the company, A’Lelia became a fixture in Harlem’s social scene and a patron of the arts. She would host literary salons and dinner parties at her home with notable Harlem Renaissance artists in attendance, including Langston Hughes, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Aaron Douglas. The mansion was torn down in 1941 to make way for the library. As of his publication, the library is currently closed for renovations.