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MCCC Students Tour Harlem, Meet Al Sharpton


West Windsor, N.J. – The Harlem of yesterday and today was etched into the consciousness of 12 Mercer County Community College students as they visited historic sites and met with civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton during a May 7 excursion. MCCC faculty member,

Dr. Eric Watson, accompanied the students on a full-day tour to experience some of the political, cultural and literary history that shaped the Harlem Renaissance.  

Attending a rally at Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters, students were welcomed by Sharpton, who urged them to rediscover the rich history of African American life during the 1920s and beyond.  Sharpton’s essence will be captured in a forthcoming biography written by Dr. Watson and set for 2012 publication.


During a historical tour of Harlem with MCCC faculty member Dr. Eric Watson, third from left, students met Rev. Al Sharpton, fourth from left.
The students visited the historic Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to gain insight on the extensive archive collection and visit such exhibits as “Harlem Views/Diasporan Visions:  The New Harlem Renaissance Photographers” which also included images of the recent West African immigrant community and the vast spectrum of the African Diaspora.

Other highlights of the day included a two-hour walking tour of Harlem conducted by local historian, 83-year old Andy Owens.  He took the group to such historic places as Strivers Row, the upscale Harlem neighborhood where writers Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Huston once lived; Abyssinian Baptist Church, where Congressman Adam Clayton Powell served as pastor; the legendary Cotton Club; the Apollo Theater and the Savoy Ballroom, all important entertainment hot spots of the early 1900s. 

The group dined on home-cooked soul food at the famed Sylvia’s restaurant before venturing along the busy 125th corridor for more sightseeing.  

“The trip was amazing,” said student Farah Bellande of Ewing, a biology major who visited Harlem for the first time. “I always knew it was an historic place but the trip really broadened my view of Harlem’s overall contribution to society.  I also had an opportunity to meet people from Sierra Leone, England, Chicago and Pennsylvania, who rode on the tour bus with us.  The entire day was truly an enlightening experience.”


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