The Harlem Renaissance 1917

Harlem Renaissance Overview
The Movement
 “A literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that
kindled a new black cultural identity”
 Critic and teacher Alan Locke declared that through
art, “Negro life is seizing its first chances for group
expression and self determination”
 Locke’s “New Negro” transformed “social
disillusionment to race pride”
 As the American Civil War came to an end, African-Americans
experienced a growth in educational and employment opportunities
 Black middle class was created
 1896 – Plessy v. Ferguson (court case that deemed segregation
 Boll weevils ruin cotton crops in the South, causing economic
depression (less labor opportunities)
 African-Americans began to move North by the millions to find work
and to escape racial prejudice
 Known as “The Great Migration”
Why Harlem?
 Neighborhoods in Harlem were first built to house white workers
commuting to the city
 Housing developments grew faster than the transportation that
would bring residents
 White-middle class abandons Harlem; gentrification of Mid-town
forced many blacks to leave the area
 As a result, between 1900-1920, the population of AfricanAmericans in NYC doubled
 Many of the country’s best black artists, entrepreneurs and
intellectuals settled in Harlem
 Became known as “The Black Mecca”
landmarks of
Apollo Theatre
The Cotton Club
Striver’s Row
Notable Landmarks
Striver’s Row
The Cotton Club
Art of the
Jacob Lawrence –
“Street Life”
Archibald Motley
Archibald Motley
“The Jazz Singers”
Literature of the Movement
 Whites fascinated by the world of Harlem
 Publishing industry sought out black writers
 Much of the literature focused on realistic portrayal of
black life
 Movement’s intent was not political, but aesthetic
 Any attempt to defy racial prejudice through writing
was “secondary to the expression of our dark-skinned
selves” – Langston Hughes
A New Perspective Emerges
Through Art
The Old Negro
 Characterized by “implied
 Black artists/writers did not
control means of
 Did not control editorial
changes, etc.
The “New Negro”
 Racially conscious
 Self-assertive
 Articulate/Intellectual
 In charge of what they
Writers of the Period
 Black urban migration, combined with the willingness
of Americans to experiment during the 1920s and the
rise of black intellectuals like Alan Locke and W.E.B.
DuBois contributed to the writing styles of this era
 Notable writers and poets of the period:
Langston Hughes
Countee Cullen
Zora Neal Hurston
Nella Larson
Jean Toomer
Literary Characteristics
 Creation of art and literature should serve to “uplift” the race
 Some writers explored themes such as alienation and marginality
 Some writers relied on the rich African-American tradition of
folklore, black dialect, oral culture, jazz and blues music to create
different forms of writing
 Some writers wrote about the growth of the African-American
into a more urban and sophisticated person
 “Reflects the multiple ways the black experience was perceived
and expressed”
Focus Poet –
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
 Some of Hughes’ most
famous poems:
 Harlem (A Dream
 I, Too
 Negro Speaks of Rivers
 Theme for English B
Cultural and Political Impact
NAACP founded in 1909 – (National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People) paved way for other political groups
of the same nature
Negro Improvement Association founded by Marcus Garvey
The introduction and transformation of the world of Jazz
Musicians such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holliday
Duke Ellington statue
End of the Renaissance
End of the 1920s brought the end of white infatuation with Harlem
The Great Depression hit black Americans especially hard
Leaders who came to rise in Harlem shifted focus from art and intellect to
financial and social issues
Tensions mounted between blacks community and white shop-owners in
Harlem and culminated in the Harlem Riots of 1935 – first modern race riot –
Violence shattered image of Harlem as a “mecca”
Paved the way for future African-American writers like Gwendolyn Brooks

similar documents