The home occupied by one of the great leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, still stands on 127th Street in Harlem today.
Hughes used the top floor of the home as his workroom from 1947 to his death in 1967; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The current owner, who remains anonymous, listed the unoccupied dwelling for $1 million (which still has his typewriter on a shelf) a few years ago, but it did not sell.
CNN Money reports that in a rapidly gentrifying New York, the home is now worth over $3 million.
Now that it’s on the market, writer Renee Watson has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $150,000 to rent the home and turn it into a cultural center.
On the fundraiser’s home page, Watson writes:
For the past ten years, I've walked past the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and wondered why it was empty. How could it be that his home wasn't preserved as a space for poets, a space to honor his legacy? I'd pass the brownstone, shake my head, and say, "Someone should do something." I have stopped saying, "Someone should do something" and decided that someone is me.
Change is happening in Harlem and I believe it is important that in a place like Harlem, the historical and cultural spaces where African American pioneers lived and created be preserved. This is not just for nostalgic reasons. I see a need for young people to know about and understand the legacy they are a part of; the artists and activists who paved the way for them. I also believe artists need affordable spaces to create and share their work.
Because of this belief, I am launching I, Too, Arts Collective [and] our goal is to lease and renovate the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived in Harlem as a way to not only preserve his legacy but to build on it and impact young poets and artists. We welcome you to join us in our endeavor.
Over 250 people, many of them black writers, have given money in support, and so far the initiative to save Hughes’ house has raised almost $34,000.
“Hughes is deeply influential and important not only to me but many writers of color,” says author Jacqueline Woodson, winner of the National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming, which opens with a Hughes poem.
The great fear is that the funds to rent and restore the home won't be raised in time.
Watson says that she has spoken to the owner, who says she would definitely sell it, but “like me, she doesn't want it to become condos or a coffee shop.”
One can only hope that the legacy of one of our greatest poets, authors and cultural critics will be preserved before it’s too late.
To donate to the fund, go to the I, Too, Arts Collective Indigogo page.
Read more at CNN Money.