The Significance of the Harlem Renaissance
Starting around the year 1917, Harlem, New York was bustling with life. Harlem was a diverse area where there little authority on cultural aspects for any one race, but in particular the African Americans. The African American people migrated to Harlem, and to other major cities in the North, in search of better opportunities than those found in the South. African Americans, though, were still cut down in society and the effects of the segregation in their lives convinced them that unappreciation and being at the bottom of society was a normal thing. Maeve Devoy discusses in her article about the Great Migration that, “African Americans often found the urban North to be as inhospitable and hostile as the South had been” (The Great Migration 1). The forming of the Harlem Renaissance turned that idea around for people. The significance of jazz music, graphic visual art, and poetry from the Harlem Renaissance changed the way African Americans and the whites thought about “Negro” culture and the people themselves in the 1920’s.
The rise in literacy rates and the number of African Americans who moved to the North from the Great Migration established the beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance. Two reasons essential behind the Harlem renaissance are written about in an article where, R.A. Lawson states, “black authors tried to point out the injustices of racism in American life. Second, newspaper editors, activists, authors, and other artists began to promote a more unified and positive culture among African Americans” (Harlem Renaissance 1). The Harlem Renaissance seemed to centralize around Harlem, New York for numerous reasons. Harlem, like many other major cities, was large in its African American population especially after the Great Migration. Once they arrived and settled, the African Americans were kept out of society like before when they lived in the South. David Levering Lewis discusses in his article Harlem Renaissance, “The "race problem" definitively became an American dilemma and no longer a remote complexity in the exotic south” (Harlem Renaissance 1), affirming the problems that African Americans faced. They had to deal with the effects of segregation in society, neighborhoods, and schools for their youth. Also according to Langston Hughes poem, “I, Too, Sing America,” he helps perceive the fact that African American people were kept in the dark of society. Hughes expresses in his poem, “I am the darker brother” (Poems of the Harlem Renaissance 2), that the belief of considering African Americans to be a part of the society around them was a taboo for the time period. Things became worse for African Americans, according to Maeve Devoy, “in 1919 when American soldiers returned from the war only to find a social and cultural landscape vastly changed by the Great Migration. A series of race riots erupted in several cities, igniting racial hatred” (The Great Migration 2). During the course of the Harlem Renaissance, older European and white American traditions and styles were built upon by the African Americans to create their own side of the culture.
A few major aspects became popular during the Harlem Renaissance, one of which is jazz music. The blues influenced jazz music and became its own form of genre with the help of Billie Holiday and Jelly Roll Morton, both of whom changed the way African Americans viewed their culture. Together they transformed the deep, melodic blues to a more syncopated and upbeat style that is jazz. In an article about the Harlem Renaissance, the author express that jazz music is, “The source of musical authenticity and the reservoir of musical abundance lay in those recently urbanized and economically beleaguered men and women whose chosen recreational environments were raucous, boozy, and lubricious” (R. A. Lawson 2). Many productions on Broadway used jazz music to elevate the sense of optimism and African American pride. Influenced by...
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