I’ve been collecting comic books for a long time, and it’s not too often that I run across something that I haven’t seen before, but while perusing the offerings for tonight’s auction session at Comic Connect, I ran across a comic book that is both obscure and amazing. Harlem Youth Report #5 was published in 1964 and distributed only in Harlem. It’s a comic for and about the Black community which is part of an effort to seriously study and examine the issues facing the residents of Harlem in the 1960s, and to suggest a path forward.
The comic book was published by an organization called Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU). This organization was founded by Kenneth Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark, psychologists, educators and Civil Rights activists who testified as expert witnesses in a case which evolved into Brown v Board of Education. The organization’s director was Cyril deGrasse Tyson, a Civil Rights activist and educator in NYC and Newark, and father of famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Harlem Youth Report #5 has long been considered a mystery by collectors who have managed to catch a glimpse of it, it seems. The Comics With Problems blog managed to obtain a copy and research it a bit last year, and have posted scans of the interior pages.
There is no Harlem Youth Report #1-4, so the #5 numbering is a bit of a puzzle. Some have speculated that because HARYOU distributed the comic along with other items as part of an educational plan, it could simply mean that the comic was the fifth version or part of it. The organization issued a 644 page report called Youth in the Ghetto: A Study of the Consequences of Powerlessness, and a Blueprint for Change at this time as well, along with a brochure that summarizes that report which notes that “A brief pictorial summary (comic magazine)” was also available for the younger reader. A quick perusal of newspapers of the era indicates that Cyril deGrasse Tyson was a frequent speaker in NYC this year as well, so it appears they were making every effort to reach a broad spectrum of people with this infomation. HARYOU even issued an album a few years later.
The report was remarkably effective. In the year that Harlem Youth Report #5 was issued, HARYOU’s study and its blueprint for change convinced the Lyndon B. Johnson administration to earmark $100 million to back the changes it recommended over the subsequent three years.
I love it when I learn stuff while researching old paper. It’s pretty much my favorite thing.
The auction for a copy of Harlem Youth Report #5 closes tonight at Comic Connect. Very rare, pretty cheap, and an extremely cool piece of history.