The incredible story of Jim Bell and his Club Harlem in North Omaha

The incredible story of Jim Bell and his Club Harlem in North Omaha

By: Ashley Stenger, A Student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, as part of Heather Nelson’s Service Learning Academy class.

Club Harlem was a popular hangout that was situated at N. 24th and Lake Streets in the center of the Near North Side neighborhood. It was a busy place that received a lot of attention. Jim Bell, a successful and popular business owner, who did amazing in his lifetime with this place. 

Who is Jim Bell 

Jim Bell was born in 1884 and lived until 1959. He served as Omaha’s leading African American businessman and entertainment expert for a century. He was a huge man from the South who frequently staked his financial future by setting up shop in the Near North Side. His endeavors included a saloon, a few clubs, and a number of eateries. Jim was married to a hardworking woman named Carrie. They had one daughter together who was very spoiled by her father. Jim and Carrie were the owners of many businesses in North Omaha, including De Luxe Café, the Midway Cafe, and the OffBeat Cafe (1883-1964). At 42nd and Center, he also owned Murphy’s Chicken Palace.

The Popular Club Harlem 

Club Harlem was a terrific location to party for many years. It was a hot spot for hundreds. There were constant horns getting blared out the doors, groups of jazz enthusiasts of all races waiting eagerly to pack inside. Until the 1930s, Jim Bell’s Club Harlem was one of Omaha’s top spots to hear live jazz on any given Friday or Saturday night. Every night’s show was framed by an enormous chorus of line dancers, a traditional twelve-piece orchestra, and top-notch comedians, singers, and emcees. Semi-famous artists as well as upcoming local talents were brought in by The Bells. The Bells knew how to bring people in and keep them coming back for more each weekend.  Jim Bell’s Harlem was one of the most up and coming places in all of Omaha. He had made himself a legacy that will never be forgotten when opening Harlem night club.


About Freedomtainment:

Freedomtainment is a 501c3 non-profit organization located in Omaha, Nebraska established to educate, empower and entertain the Omaha Nebraska community about North Omaha Culture while bringing awareness to local, social and business resources.  It hosts the Omaha Freedom Festival to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday and the Level Up Career & Housing Fair on Labor Day Weekend.

About Omaha Freedom Festival:

The 2023 Omaha Freedom Festival is taking place on June 17th at the Malcolm X Outside Event Plaza to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday from 12noon – 12midnight to honor the emancipation of those enslaved in the United States.  See website for event schedule and how to obtain tickets.