During the 20th century a unique awakening of mind and spirit, of race consciousness, and
artistic advancement emerged within the African American community in New York
City. This emergence has brought about the greatest artistic movement
in African American history.
After the failure of the Reconstruction period the Negro was not considered either a
person or an America. The idea that a Negro was an American was totally unacceptable to
the white ruling class. The acceptance of lynching and denied voting rights and equal
protection under the law, and equal education and housing in Southern states affirmed
their non- personhood in America. During the 20th century a new generation of Blacks,
looking back on the enslavement of their parents and grandparents, wanted more. They
wanted racial equality , they wanted equal justice, they wanted to change the bad
perception of Black people and their culture in America. How could this be done, what
could they do to change things.?
World War I , the immigration law of 1921, the Mississippi River flooding of
1927 and other factors led to the Great Migration northward. This allowed thousands of
Negroes to finally leave the backward Southern states and move to the progressive .
North. Many migrated to New York City and ended up in Harlem. Harlem was
essentially a Jewish neighborhood , until the Black community settled in. Harlem, where
Blacks eventually became the majority. In Harlem a new black cultural identity began to
emerged. It came forth through social, religious, civic and cultural organizations,also
through newspapers and journals devoted to black interest. Hearing the words of black
leaders such as Marcus Garvey, head of the UNIA, and W.E.B. Du Bois, member of the
Civil Right organizations emerged at this time, but were not the organizations to
spring forth cultural awearness and pride, it also came from the music, the literature, and
the arts. African Americans throughout the United States and abroad became part of the movement in Harlem.
New forms of blues, jazz, and ragtime flourished during this time. The
development of the phonograph, radio, and works by Scott Joplin, and Eubie
Blake became the most popular music in Harlem and in America. This new sound
influenced the more conservative sounds of European and folk music. It also brought
forth black Broadway musicals beginning with Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle’s musical
“Shuffle Along” in 1921.By 1930, this music brought forth such musical legends as
Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong, from New Orleans, and the voice of Billie
Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald made the music more well known.
Poets, playwrights, novelists and artists came from all over the United States
to Harlem , to share their thoughts, their stories of the past, and art...