Forever a Great Day in Harlem

When I set out to plan the book selections for this month’s boxes, I knew I wanted to showcase African American authors and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to music. I grew up with late 80s and 90s hip-hop – hip-hop has my heart! As such, showcasing books that featured hip-hop culture was a no brainer. But I didn’t want to focus on just hip-hop, I wanted to highlight other genres such as jazz and blues, particularly the music of the Harlem Renaissance era. 

Art Kane’s famous photo of jazz greats, titled “Harlem 1958”; approved for one-time use only. MUST CREDIT: Photograph by Art Kane – courtesy Art Kane Archive NOTE: this is a downsized low-res photo for web use
SPOTTED: Captain Tern visits the site of the iconic photo.

Enter the photo known as A Great Day in Harlem. On a summer day in 1958, Art Kane, a young freelance photographer took this iconic photo, his first assignment, at 17 East 126th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenue in Harlem. You almost cannot talk about the history of jazz without referencing this photograph. Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams and the list goes on and on! Every time I look at this photograph, I marvel at the talent and the era it represents. Oh the stories those faces could tell, so much history in one frame. I also marvel at the ability to get 57 iconic jazz musicians into one photo! Have you ever tried to coordinate 4 of your friends for a lunch or dinner date? It’s a herculean task!

I am so humbled and so proud to be kicking off our special showcase for Black History month with this photo. You can learn more about this very special photo here, here and here

Strong Black Lead: Black Artists featured on Netflix recreate the Art Kane’s photograph.

Netflix recently recreated this photograph with 47 black creatives to celebrate diversity in television and the result was amazing. Which black authors would you include in a recreation of this iconic photo? Drop your suggestion on our social channels!