"Harlem has long been a paradigm of both the suffering and soaring achievements of New York’s underprivileged communities. Though poverty and oppression have gnarled its streets, it was here the Civil Rights Movement took shape and the Renaissance of African American culture exploded; small stories and big ideas that shook and shaped American identity.
Photographer Bruce Davidson, an Illinois native living in Westchester at the time, first caught a glimpse of that world when riding a commuter train from Hartsdale to New York City in the early 50s. Through his carriage window he saw straight into the rooms of a row of East Harlem dwellings, and caught a glimpse of the lives of their inhabitants. 'Even then I wanted to get behind those walls and to encounter the invisible,' he said. 'More than a decade would pass before I entered those hidden worlds with my camera.' "