DIY walking tour: 6 Harlem monuments that will leave you inspired

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

Here's an idea for the weekend: hit the pavement and go on The Curious Uptowner's DIY walking tour of Harlem's best black monuments. From point A to F it should take you about an hour and a half on foot. Not only is it an amazing opportunity to explore the neighborhood, but it's also a chance to learn more about these impressive historical figures–and see some pretty uplifting art while you're at it.

A. Duke Ellington Memorial, 110th Street and Fifth Avenue

Located in a semicircular island on the northeast corner of Central Park, this bronze sculpture of Duke Ellington by Robert Graham rises 25 feet above the ground. Look closer and you'll see nine tall muses supporting the legendary jazz composer and performer standing next to his grand piano.

B. Frederick Douglass Memorial, 110th Street and Central Park West

In the middle of a traffic circle on the northwest corner of Central Park–which also happens to be the start of Frederick Douglass Boulevard–stands this eight-foot statue of the great abolitionist. Sculpted in bronze by Gabriel Koren, the memorial also includes a fountain and other features designed by Algernon Miller.

C. Harriet Tubman Memorial, W 122nd Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard

The Underground Railroad's most famous conductor has been memorialized by artist Alison Saar in a bronze sculpture titled "Swing Low." Tree roots in her skirt show the indefatigable Tubman pulling up slavery by its deeply entrenched foundations.

D. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Memorial, 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard

Named "Higher Ground," this dynamic bronze sculpture by Branly Cadet honors New York's first black member of Congress. Unsurprisingly, it lies in the heart of Harlem: right where the stretch of Seventh Avenue named after the politician crosses legendary 125th Street.

E. Martin Luther King, Jr. sculpture, 147th Street between Seventh Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard

Erected two years after Martin Luther King's assassination, this bronze bust by Stan Sawyer is off the beaten path but still worth a visit. Stop by and contemplate the meaning of King's "I have a dream" speech, which is excerpted here.

F. Ralph Ellison Memorial, Riverside Drive and 150th Street

Created by African-American sculptor Elizabeth Catlett, this 15-foot bronze cutout honors "Invisible Man" author Ralph Ellison, who just so happened to live in an apartment nearby.

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