Harlem Times

Smooth Jazz and Gangster Mischief

The Jazz Playing Gangster

If you were told to take some boxes that you didn't know the content of and put them in the back of a car, would you do it? Harlem Summer written by Walter Dean Myers takes place in Harlem, New York, near the time of the Great Depression when everyone was listening to swing music to keep their spirits up. Mark Purvis, a seventeen year old kid who has solid skills with a saxophone in his hand, has gotten in deep with a Gangster by the name of Dutch Schultz. He didn't know of the trouble while he was doing the crime .He was just helping out a family friend. But it would turn out that he was stealing from a gangster.

Sometimes in life you have many conflicts going on at the same time. That is what Mark was dealing with through this story. Mark’s mom doesn't approve of him playing Jazz at clubs and coming home late night. Also there is a man who actually lived and was a famous musician in Jazz in this book by the name of Fats Waller. Fats was one of the men who knew that they were stealing the liquor from Dutch Schultz. Mark has a job a magazine company called The Crisis which is a magazine for black people talking about “new negroes”. The type of conflict in this story is a man versus man and man versus society conflict. Mark is having problems with gangs and the world is a tough place with many bad people in it.

In the climax of the story, the action that Mark had been dreading finally occurred. Mark got arrested by the police and had to walk out in front of his co-workers in the Crisis staring at him as he was handcuffed by the officer. The resolution came shortly after when Mark was at the police station, Fats got Mark out of trouble by telling one of the officers that he would play at a party of his. The day after Mark stepped outside and looked around and said that he loved everything in his life in Harlem and that it was his kind of life. That showed me that he had really changed from beginning to end in the story.

The Heart and Soul of Harlem

A club called the “Cotton Club” was a real Jazz club in the early 1900’s in Harlem. in 1923 became a very popular club and was very well attended. “Later Daddy had to go to work. Since the Cotton Club was closed down for a few weeks, he had got a job cleaning off tables at Small’s.” p.79

The Harlem Rens were an early New York Basketball team and played in Harlem. In the book Mark and his Father went to a Harlem Rens game. “Me and Daddy went to a basketball game at the 135th Street YMCA. The Harlem Rens were going to play two games, the first against the Morning side Comanches and the second against the Jersey City Whirlwinds.”

Fats Waller was a very talented Jazz musician in the 20’s. 30’s, and early 40’s before he passed in 1943. He was famous for his swing music and his great playing on the piano. He got the nickname “Fats” because he was a little bit on the chubby side. “ “You don’t know him,” I said. “Guy plays piano over at Lafayette Theater.” “Fats? Big Fats with the roll-y eyes?” “Yeah.” “He owes everybody money,” Matt said. “I heard he owes Bumpy Johnson a few hundred. Bumpy don’t care because he likes the way Fats plays.”

The time on the line

1930’s:People of America struggle financially because of the depression II

1940’s:America’s troops fight in the pacific and Europe in World War

1950’s:Baby boom started

1960’s:The cold war occurred and space race was going on between U.S.S.R. and U.S., President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, and Woodstock concert occurred which was key part in the process Hippy going public.

1970’s:The U.S. got their troops out of Vietnam,Women, minorities, and gays demand rights and equality.

1980’s:Singer Madonna broke out and was very popular, Computers became popular in households.
1990’s:World wide web exploded in 92’, Ethnic wars in Serbia, Croatia, and Africa, Tiger woods won first major and his legend was born.

2000’s:9/11 terrorists attacks occurred and roughly 3000 people died and America invaded Iraq.
2010 & 2011: Republicans take back Congress with Tea party movement.

2012: President Obama is elected for 2nd term

Fat and Relaxed

Fats Waller was a flat but fat character with his huge belly and his never changing lay back personality that always somewhat made Mark be cool when times were tough. He was an actual famous Jazz musician in the 40’s. One of Fats many traits is relaxed. He was part of the crime when they stole the liquor from Dutch Schultz, but he wasn't worried. He just kept playing the piano and making people dance. For example in the middle of the story when Mark was really freaked out by Dutch Schultz shooting the watermelon, Fats on the other hand was playing at a club and having the time of his life instead of worrying about some gangster. Hear is a quote from the end of the book when Mark was in custody and Fats gets him out with his cool relaxed personality by offering to play at one of the officer’s party.”‘Could be a fun thing. A few guys, a few young ladies. We could sure use a little music.. You think you can drop by with a couple of boys and play for us?.” “Sure can.” Fats said.