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The 1901 establishment of the Harlem Branch of the YMCA is celebrated on this date.
The Harlem YMCA was a successor to the "Colored Men's Branch" of the YMCA which was located on West 53rd Street between 1901 and 1919, and the West 135th Street Branch YMCA, built in 1919 at No. 181, across the street from the later building. The Harlem Branch (officially named in 1936) of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was constructed on 135th Street in 1932. Black YMCA's were the result of the YMCA's official policy of racial segregation, from the organization's beginnings in the United States in 1851 until 1946.
Though excluded from the white YMCAs, Blacks were encouraged to form separate branches, which became autonomous community centers. The Harlem "Y" came to be one of Harlem's most important recreational and cultural centers. Its importance actually posed one of the problems with the Y. "Harlem looks to the 'Y' as one of its most prominent cultural centers. The Harlem YMCA has historically acted as an educational, cultural, and religious center; it has provided a meeting place for numerous groups, including several with literary and political importance over the years. Even after official desegregation of the American YMCA after 1946, the Harlem Branch YMCA continued to serve the largest African American membership in the United States. Programs were opened to girls and women in 1955.
The YMCA was noted for its "Salute to the Stars" fund raisers, its educational counseling, veterans', and job programs, and "Black Achievers in the Industry" awards dinners. Currently The Harlem YMCA offers great opportunities for individuals who wish to volunteer their time to give back to the community.
Some of the programs and departments seeking volunteers are Universal Pre-K Program, After School Program, Aquatics Department, Teen Programs, Mentoring Programs, and Adult Membership Programs (Exercise instructors/trainers).
The Biographical Dictionary of Black Americans
by Rachel Krantz and Elizabeth A.Ryan
Copyright 1992, Facts on File, New York, NY