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The Harlem Renaissance Essay

1078 words - 4 pages

HARLEM RENAISSANCE

Throughout the history of African Americans, there have been important historical figures as well as times. Revered and inspirational leaders and eras like, Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, Nat Turner and the slave revolt, or Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party. One such period that will always remain a significant part of black art and culture is the Harlem Renaissance. It changed the meaning of art and poetry, as it was known then. Furthermore, the Harlem Renaissance forever left a mark on the evolution of the black culture.

The Harlem Renaissance found its birth in the early 1920’s, in Harlem, New York. The period has been thought of as one of African Americans greatest times in writing. After War World I in 1918, African Americans were faced with one of the lowest points in history since the end of slavery. Poverty increased greatly in the South, as did the number of lynchings. The fear of race riots in the South caused large number of African Americans to move North between 1919 and 1926, to cities such as Chicago and Washington D.C.

The idea that an educated black person should lead blacks to liberation was first founded from the works of W.E.B. DuBois. He also believed that blacks could not gain social equality by imitating the ideas of white people. Equality would have to be achieved by teaching black racial pride with an emphasis on black cultural heritage. The Cultural Revolution began as a series of literacy discussions in bars and coffee shops of lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village) and (Upper Manhattan) Harlem.

Jean Toomer did one of the first and highly praised works. This would be Toomer’s only contribution to a time that he would later reject. Toomer is also known for his exquisite poetry like; Cotton Song, Evening Song, Georgia Dusk and Reapers. Jane Weldon Johnson had written the controversial “Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man” in 1924 and he had also edited “ The Book of American Negro Poetry.” This collection included many of the Renaissance’s most talented poets. Included was Claude McKay, a Jamaican born writer. Weldon’s collection also included a young talented poet named Langston Hughes. Hughes had a love for music, mainly the blues, which became a bridge between African American Literature and Folk music.

Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist originally born in Florida, wrote the literary magazine “Fire!” Although it lasted only one issue because of financial difficulties, Hughes, publisher Wallace Thurman, and a number of other influential black artists had shared in making one of most recognized Harlem Renaissance materials. Hurston later went on to publish “Their Eyes were Watching God,” in 1937, still keeping with the themes of strong black characters.

Music was another art form found in the Harlem Renaissance. It became the background, inspiration, and the structure for the Harlem Renaissance literature. A style of music known...

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