The Harlem Renaissance
World War I changed the American culture. The “Lost Generation,” as the youth of the roaring twenties was called, no longer had the blind respect for tradition held by previous generations. Instead the youth that witnessed the ‘Great War’ sought substitutes by indulging in the new, trendy, young, and vibrant. This atmosphere set the scene for the New Negro Movement, also known as the Harlem Renaissance. For the first time, America was willing to pay attention to black culture and its new style and ideas.
A search for jobs in the wake of World War I prompted a mass migration by African-Americans away from the rural south to the northern cities, and allowed for a greater African-American self-awareness. The result was an explosion of literature, music, art, and politics from New York City, concentrated in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Harlem. (Northern Kentucky University) Gains in education and standards of living during the Post-Civil War era provided the intellectual base needed for the emergence of African-American literature. (Britannica Concise)
Poets and writers, most notably Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, and Jessie Fauset, drove the new literary movement. (Britannica Concise) Zora Neale Hurston was an author known best for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. She focused her work primarily on describing the reality of being an African American in the south, and used folklore to accomplish this. (Voices from the Gaps) The literature of the Harlem Renaissance was successful in raising the hopes and expectations of the black community. Langston Hughes brought African American politics to the foreground of the New Negro Movement. “He provided the movement with a manifesto when he skillfully argued the need for both race pride and artistic independence in his most memorable essay, ‘The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain’” (Modern American Poetry). Hughes was inspired by earlier poets in the movement such as Claude McKay. McKay directed his poetry to the lower-class, urban, African-Americans. His most famous work is his sonnet that was quoted by Winston Churchill, “If We Must Die.” (Modern American Poetry) This work was used to speak out against racial violence. Lynchings and race riots were not uncommon and presented a major obstacle in the...