One Har­lem fam­ily as a mir­ror for black Amer­ica.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK - RE­VIEW BY KRISSAH THOMP­SON

The news­pa­pers at the time largely over­looked the mas­sive move­ment of African Amer­i­cans from the ru­ral South to ur­ban cen­ters in the North. The Great Mi­gra­tion, as it would come to be known, be­gan in the early 1900s and lasted decades as more than 6 mil­lion blacks left their homes for the seem­ing promised land of big cities.

Among them were the an­ces­tors of Bruce D. Haynes, who ex­plores the so­cial and cul­tural im­pli­ca­tions of the ex­o­dus in “Down the Up Stair­case,” a fam­ily mem­oir and so­cial his­tory writ­ten with his wife and co-au­thor, Syma Solovitch.

Haynes traces his roots from the farm­ing South to bustling Har­lem, where his pa­ter­nal grand­par­ents set­tled and played im­por­tant roles in the civil rights move­ment and broader ef­forts to up­lift their race.

Haynes takes great pride in his fam­ily’s story, ri­fling through old pa­pers to fill in the bi­og­ra­phy of his grand­fa­ther, Ge­orge Ed­mund Haynes, a man of sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment whom his­tory has nearly for­got­ten.

Ge­orge Haynes was men- tored and be­friended by famed scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, helped found the Na­tional Ur­ban League and was an ad­viser on race to Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son. “If W.E.B. DuBois was the great ag­i­ta­tor and vi­sion­ary of the New Ne­gro move­ment, Ge­orge Haynes — his pro­tege — was its ar­chi­tect, forg­ing crit­i­cal part­ner­ships and build­ing the in­fras­truc­ture to sup­port these new artists,” the au­thors write.

Ge­orge died in 1960, 10 months be­fore Bruce Haynes was born, but he re­mains the pride of the fam­ily. More than once, the au­thors note that Ge­orge was one of the African Amer­i­cans in­cluded in a se­ries painted by Laura Wheeler War­ing called “Por­traits of Out­stand­ing Amer­i­cans of Ne­gro Ori­gin,” which high­lighted im­por­tant fig­ures in the Har­lem Re­nais­sance and was later ex­hib­ited at the Smith­so­nian.

As Is­abel Wilk­er­son did ex­pertly in “The Warmth of Other Suns” — the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning epic tale of the Great Mi­gra­tion — Haynes and Solovitch fol­low their rel­a­tives through decades, re­veal­ing the im­pact of pub­lic pol­icy and so­cial change on the fam­ily from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.

The fam­ily mem­oir serves to un­der­score the still-ten­u­ous po­si­tion of black fam­i­lies in the mid­dle class. As a whole, the wealth of African Amer­i­cans is less solidly es­tab­lished than that of white fam­i­lies and can be swiftly washed away, as seen through the fam­ily’s story.

Ge­orge Haynes — who mi­grated to New York from Pine Bluff, Ark., and bought a stately home in Har­lem — rep­re­sents an up­ward leap in class and ed­u­ca­tion, but the fam­ily strug­gles to keep climb­ing. Bruce Haynes’s fa­ther, Ge­orge Ed­mund Jr. (known as Ed­mund), lived in the shadow of his prom­i­nent fa­ther. Ed­mund was also col­legee­d­u­cated and trained as a so­cial worker. He and Bruce’s mother, Daisy, raised three sons in Har­lem in the large fam­ily home pur­chased by Ge­orge Haynes.

The home is a po­tent sym­bol of the Haynes fam­ily’s so­cial sta­tus. While liv­ing there, Ed­mund and Daisy sent their sons to the best schools the city had to of­fer, in­clud­ing Ho­race Mann, the Ivy League prepara­tory school. But while the fam­ily’s pub­lic face seemed to con­tinue to re­flect mid­dle-class re­spectabil­ity, life in­side be­gan to fray. Ed­mund and Daisy’s mar­riage hit a rocky patch and never quite re­cov­ered. She took out her un­hap­pi­ness with an ex­ces­sive use of her hus­band’s credit cards.

Grief and emo­tional chal­lenges took their toll. De­spite ex­celling at elite pri­vate schools, Bruce’s el­dest brother, Ge­orge Haynes, be­came a drug ad­dict and con­fronted men­tal health chal­lenges. The se­cond Haynes son, Alan, was a promis­ing artist be­fore he was shot on the street the out­side a bike shop in the Bronx. The mur­der went un­solved.

The fam­ily’s grand home slowly de­te­ri­o­rated. The roof needed patch­ing, old ap­pli­ances stacked up, the plumb­ing stopped work­ing and was left un­re­paired. Like the house, the neigh­bor­hood de­clined and be­came rife with crime.

The au­thor and youngest son, Bruce, was caught be­tween his com­pli­cated home life and his priv­i­leged school­ing. The dis­so­nance be­tween the two left him feel­ing like a man with­out a com­mu­nity. He grad­u­ated from Man­hat­tanville Col­lege, then earned a doc­tor­ate from the City Univer­sity of New York and be­came an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy and African Amer­i­can stud­ies at Yale Univer­sity. The Haynes fam­ily mi­gra­tion then took another turn when Bruce moved to what he had al­ways con­sid­ered the promised land: Cal­i­for­nia, where he is now a so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Davis. Through his stud­ies, Bruce has un­cov­ered more of his fam­ily’s story and dis­cov­ered his own link to his grand­fa­ther: His pi­o­neer­ing an­ces­tor Ge­orge Haynes, like Bruce him­self, was trained as a so­ci­ol­o­gist. Krissah Thomp­son is a fea­tures writer for The Wash­ing­ton Post.

By Bruce D. Haynes and Syma Solovitch Columbia. 200 pp. $30

DOWN THE UP STAIR­CASE Three Gen­er­a­tions of a Har­lem Fam­ily

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