I don’t know how many rent parties Minnie threw. I do know that her younger son, Cleveland Gilmore, never liked to talk to his son about his childhood and the poverty he experienced as a boy. I know this because nearly 100 years after she and her sister passed out invitations and opened their home, I called her grandson, Amir Gilmore, and asked him about his family’s past.

I had come prepared with questions. But what I actually gave Amir was answers.

Dr. Gilmore, 33, never knew his grandmother’s name. He grew up with a father who wouldn’t answer questions about his past. Today he is an assistant professor and associate dean at Washington State University. He has spent his academic career focused on dissecting the meaning of Black joy and perseverance, always digging, he said, toward some unknown corner of Black history. Turns out it was his own.

Ms. Pindar could probably never have dreamed of such a future for her grandchild. The present was enough to navigate.

In 1929, a quart of milk cost 16 cents; a dozen eggs, 47 cents.

That Saturday, the mercury kept climbing, all the way to an unseasonable high of 72 degrees. Thousands of New Yorkers sought respite at Coney Island where some in bathing suits ventured into the water.

But for Ms. Pindar, that day was all about the rent.

Rent parties were playing out behind thousands of other closed doors in run-down Harlem buildings. Tenants would use the proceeds to pay their landlord on the first of the month, and then hopefully make it another 30 days before scrimping again.

Rent parties like Ms. Pindar’s were bawdy, booze-soaked and offered an escape from the white gaze. Outside, there was prohibition and gawkers from Lower Manhattan. Inside, there was beer and bathtub gin. There was live music, including appearances by Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

At rent parties, Hughes wrote, he met truckers, seamstresses and shoeshine boys.

It is unclear when Minnie, Lucille and their mother, Sylvia Walker, moved to the West 117th Street tenement. A 1930 census record shows Minnie Pindar was born “about 1907,” was Negro, single, and had not attended school but was able to read and write. The census also lists her occupation as a servant for a private family and details her mother’s birthplace as Georgia; her father’s was Florida. In that same census, Sylvia Walker, Minnie’s mother, is listed as the head of household for their rented apartment; the value is listed as $55 per month.

Rent parties reached their peak during the years of the Great Depression, but some were still being thrown after World War II. Billie Holiday continued to perform “Strange Fruit,” a meditation on lynchings. For hundreds of thousands of Black people, rent parties were much more than an exuberant pastime well into the 1950s. They were a gasp of freedom in a country that doubled as a chokehold.

The neighborhood evolved. An elevated train that ran along Second Avenue, likely a train Ms. Pindar took, and the tenement that she tried to hold onto in 1929, are long gone.

He is a lawyer and Ms. Fine, also 34, is a nurse who works in medical device sales. The couple, who married last May, are expecting their first child and don’t plan to stay long — they’re looking to move to Washington, D.C., closer to Mr. Fine’s family, this summer after their baby is born.

“We’re sort of passive observers in this place of living history,” Mr. Fine said.

But some 95 years later, a landlord-tenant relationship remains fraught: The Fines are currently in a dispute over maintenance issues with Mr. Turetzky, and have withheld their rent for the last five months.

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