The History Of Harlem Cultural Epicenter Of America’s Black Community

2252 words - 9 pages

Over a significant time frame, African Americans have been forced to endure numerous hardships – one of which being the negatives stigmas that unfairly generalize their people, culture and way of life. Therese stereotypes of a whole nationality label Blacks as, “superstitious, lazy, ignorant, dirty, unreliable, (and even) criminal,” (“Stereotypes”). Such generalizations are products of the public’s perception, which has been diluted by rooted historic and current prejudice as well as the media’s conveyance of a well-known African American cultural center: Harlem. Despite negative connotations associated with it, Harlem stands as a community that strives to flourish and maintain its strong cultural status. George Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, states, “People think kids are all violent, and they’re all out fighting and shooting. Most of our children want to grow up in a peaceful community where they can live their lives and become successful adults” (“Your City”). Because this area has been subject to consistent historic change, its past is rocky, which accurately mirrors the struggle of the African American people. In order to achieve a better understanding of both the African American community and its cultural hub, it is essential to know the area’s unique cultural history. From Renaissance to riots; drugs wars, violence and poverty, Harlem’s history as the cultural epicenter of America’s Black community may shed some light on the evolution of its current culture, people and stereotypes.
In the 1920s, Harlem, New York had reached a cultural peak; “it became the most famous and influential black American ghetto” (Weisbrot). With the migration of African Americans to the north, Harlem became heavily concentrated and various aspects of the arts and community were able to flourish. “Musicians pioneered in jazz, blues, and ragtime, while writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Alan Lock and poets such as Langston Hughes promoted black life and identity,” (Weisbrot). These words, despite them coming straight out of an encyclopedia, hold a sense of pride. Weisbrot informs the reader the 20s were an obvious time for change, and states that Harlem was recognized as having great influence in African community and culture. In earlier American history, African Americans were unfairly excluded from the opportunity to be individuals or express themselves culturally. In the 20s, Harlem created an area where they are free to do so. According to Reuben’s account, which also carries it with a sense of pride, the Harlem Renaissance was a profound period in African American culture. This was more than a literary movement - it was a period of racial consciousness, as Marcus Garvey, a dynamic African leader, boldly dubbed “the back to Africa” movement. Being a prolific leader of the time, Garvey uses his influence to encourage cultural change. By looking back on the accomplishments of the time there is proof that this occurred, “the Harlem...

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