Harlem Renaissance

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Where Music Truly Began

The Renaissance Fair is in town this week. It's a large fun carnival type event where every person can go and play games while they learn about the European Renaissance that happened several 100's of years ago. But what ever happened with the other Renaissances? Most of them were used to lay down several basic foundations for our society and then drifted off out of our memory. One such Renaissance was the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance created and influenced some of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Zora Neale Hurston was one of these great minds. She wrote several outstanding plays and novels and helped share the unspoken point of view of several thousands of people. Her works helped to remind us of how great an effect the Harlem Renaissance had on our history. The Harlem Renaissance incorporated new ideas and arts from the African American culture into the broader spectrum of American culture. Of these arts and artists were the distinguished Zora Neale Hurston, her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and one of the greatest musicians to ever have lived, Mr. Louis Armstrong.

As a child, Hurston was born on 1891 in Notalsuga, Alabama but quickly moved and spent the remainder of her childhood in Eatonville, Florida. When Hurston turned of the age 13, her mother passed away leaving her father with two options, raise her himself or send her off to private school. After a brief study at Howard University, Hurston spent the remainder of her college life at Barnard College where she earned her Bachelors of Arts degree in anthropology. Hurston's writing style was focused largely on her studies of anthropology where she focused upon the ethnography of the African American people. Ethnography is defined such as, "The ethnographer, in [James] Clifford's sense, rather than describing and attempting to explain ‘the unfamiliar,' reexamines assumptions about ‘the familiar' (Hill 36). Hurston understood this concept and decided to become familiar with "the familiar" and "the unfamiliar." To complete this task, Hurston set out to southern black areas and studied social subjects such as Hoodoo in New Orleans. By understanding the entire African American race instead of just those in Harlem, Hurston could grasp an entire race's voice into literature. After finishing her studies, Hurston created her own theories about the stereotypes of the African American. These theories were considered that, "Hurston attempts to debunk the stereotype that African-Americans adapt to social circumstances by mimicking white-American ‘norms' of behavior. Her theory of imitation mocks social scientific explanations of cultural diffusion and assimilation" (37). Hurston was simply surprised at her findings. The African American race had not diffused from and learned everything they knew from the white race. No. The African American race had created its own American culture whose beginnings came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. Hurston found that her work most definitely affected the African American race. Her work was seen as that, "Hurston offers clear evidence, for she had a very complex and conflictual picture of her race. Hurston sees ‘Negroness' first as a material fact of course involving marked social prejudice which it was in her interest and in her capacity to transcend" (Awkward 99). The molding of the African American culture came from something much higher than just the racism that the African American community was subject to. It came from the being of a coarse beginning all the way into the Harlem Renaissance which Hurston saw fit to show the public. Hurston's writing has been described as, "Although she [Hurston] does not use collage or concentrate on grotesque imager, she employs shock techniques, an approach that Clifford argues is the ethnographer's provenance in efforts to make ‘primitive' culture not merely comprehensible but recognizable to the...
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