December 13, 2010
The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. A major factor leading to the rise of the Harlem Renaissance was the migration of African-Americans to the northern cities. Between 1919 and 1926, large numbers of black Americans left their rural southern states homes to move to urban centers such as New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC. This black urban migration combined with the experimental trends occurring throughout 1920s American society and the rise of a group of radical black intellectuals all contributed to the particular styles and unprecedented success of black artists. What began as a series of literary discussions in lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village) and upper Manhattan (Harlem) was first known as the 'New Negro Movement.' Later termed the Harlem Renaissance, this movement brought unprecedented creative activity in writing, art, and music and redefined expressions of African-Americans and their heritage. Historians disagree as to when the Harlem Renaissance began and ended. The Harlem Renaissance is unofficially recognized to have spanned from about 1919 until the early or mid-1930s. Many of its ideas lived on much longer. The zenith of this "flowering of Negro literature", as James Weldon Johnson preferred to call the Harlem Renaissance, was placed between 1924 (the year that Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance) and 1929 (the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression). Some common themes represented during the Harlem Renaissance were the influence of the experience of slavery and emerging African-American folk traditions on black identity, the effects of institutional racism, the dilemmas inherent in performing and writing for elite white audiences, and the question of how to convey the...