I. Introduction: The Harlem Renaissance
The village of Harlem, New York was originally established by Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant in 1658. It was named after a Dutch city, “Nieuw Harlem. It sits on a 5.5 square mile area of Manhattan north of 96th Street. The 1830s saw the abandonment of Harlem due to the fact that the farmlands failed to produce. The economic recovery in Harlem began in 1837. It boasted prosperous, fashionable neighborhoods that offered a diverse, rich background provided by several institutions and facilities of the day.
The anticipated plan for Harlem was for it to be known as the “place to be”, but due to the real estate market failure in 1904/1905, white-owned properties were rented to African Americans. A migration from the South and West Indies had allowed Harlem to become the cultural center of urban black America. People migrated in record numbers, but just as the cultural aspects of Harlem prospered other walks of life in Harlem suffered dramatically due to the ever increasing population. Having developed a distinctive culture, Harlem was the epicenter for black writers, artists and intellectuals during the 1920s. The Harlem Renaissance was centered on activities influenced by the experimental styles of literature and music that derived from Europe and America. The topic most focused on mainly dealt with being black in an American society and the experiences it entailed. The actual beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance, most scholars, cannot agree upon. However, what is certain is the most significant cause of the demise of the Harlem Renaissance was the Great Depression amongst other factors.
One may ask: Why are the authors of the Harlem Renaissance so special? They are deemed special due to the fact that they were able to capture the essence of being Black in the White culture. Although both the music and the literature of the time expressed the black experience, the nightlife and the Clubs of Harlem represented a different style that “colorized” the otherwise traditional, culture to which many had been accustomed. The oppositions between the Whites and Blacks were apparent in the music and literature of the time. The majority of the pieces emphasized the “two-ness” of each entity which presented a double-consciousness (phrase coined by W.E.B. Dubois). However, the Harlem Renaissance gave birth to the African-American consciousness which paved the way for many African Americans to embrace and declare its values. The Harlem Renaissance is remembered through a plethora of virtual musical treasures and literature collections rather than the artistic movement it was.
II. Langston Hughes
“I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older
Than the flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
“I’ve Known Rivers”-Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes, (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was born in Joplin,...