When Sugar Hill Was Sweet: A Centennial Celebration of 409 & 555 Edgecombe Avenue

Multiple speakers

When Sugar Hill Was Sweet

A Centennial Celebration of 409 and 555 Edgecombe Avenue

A Day of Performances and Panel Discussions at Barnard College
10:30 AM – 6:30 PM

PANEL: Of the Cloth: Theologians, Ministers, and Christian Capitalists

Speakers: William Seraile, Ph.D., Reverend LaKeesha Walrond, Ph.D.

Sweet Daddy Grace From Daddy Grace’s enormous property holdings, including ownership of 555 Edgecombe Avenue, to the Reverend James Herman Robinson’s prototype for an international-aid organization that grew into the Peace Corps, the influence of a few of Sugar Hill’s African-American ministers will be revealed. This talk will give an overview of the role religion played in the activism and activities of the men of the cloth, who lived at 409 and 555, or who owned the dwellings.

FILM SCREENING: Saying Something: Voices of 409 and 555 Edgecombe Avenue

Directed by Barbara Montgomerey
With actors from the Harlem community

WEB DuBoisIf one can describe an apartment building as “prolific,” then it is probable that 409 and 555 may well be two of the most prolific residences in the modern world. Dramatic interpretations of excerpted works by or about the intrepid Edgecombe Avenue writers, poets, playwrights, and thinkers.

PANEL & PERFORMANCE: Pride and Harlem History

Panelists, Rich Blint, Ph.D., David Hadju, Gordon Thompson, Ph.D.
With a Performance by Pianist Rudel Drears , “For the Love of Sweet Pea”

Billy StrayhornBilly Strayhorn was one of the brave. He was gay and out, during an era that was far more unforgiving of homosexuality than the current period. This panel will present the gay community’s major influence on the arts and letters of the African Diaspora.

PANEL: The “Talented Tenth” and the “Ninety Percent” On Edgecombe Avenue: The Power of Community, The Realities of Dissension

Panelists, Jelani Cobb, Ph.D., David Levering Lewis, Ph.D., Mark Naison, Ph.D., Moderator, Herb Boyd

Louise Thompson PattersonOffers an expansive discussion of the intellectual and political legacies that the men and women of 409 and 555 Edgecombe Avenue left to the generations. Describes the broad, diverse political tendencies, from stalwart Communists, such as Marvel Cooke, to “integrationists” to nationalists, to anti-Communists. The influence and importance of Du Bois (William Edward Burghardt and Shirley Graham), Patterson (William and Louise Thompson), as well as Robeson (Paul and Eslanda), will be part of a compre-hensive discussion.

CLOSING: For the Love of Sweet Pea: Closing Performance and Reception

Rudel Drears, Piano
A tribute to Billy Strayhorn’s genius.

Rudel Drears


This event is free and open to the public. Registration is preferred but not required.


For more on the Centennial Celebration of 409 and 555 Edgecombe Avenue, visit: http://www.whilewearestillhere.org/sugar-hill-1.html

Image Credit: While We Are Still Here: Preserving Edgecombe’s History