The Harlem Renaissance

Topics: African American, Harlem Renaissance, W. E. B. Du Bois Pages: 5 (1630 words) Published: August 7, 2013
In the decades immediately following World War I, huge numbers of African Americans migrated to the industrial North from the economically depressed and agrarian South. This was known as the Great Migration which occurred between 1910 and 1920. The timing of this coming-of-age was spot on. The years between World War I and the Great Depression were boom times for the United States, and jobs were plentiful in cities, especially in the North. Between 1920 and 1930, almost 750,000 African Americans left the South, and many of them migrated to urban areas in the North to take advantage of the prosperity and the more racially tolerant environment (Harlem Renaissance - Biography.com - Biography.com). The Harlem section of Manhattan, known as the capital of black America, drew nearly 175,000 African Americans, turning the neighborhood into the largest urban community of black people in the world with residents from the South, the West Indies, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Haiti (The Roaring Life of the 1920s 454). Liberated African-Americans founded a place to explore their new identities as free men and women. During the early 1900s, the burgeoning African-American middle class began pushing a new political agenda that advocated racial equality. The epicenter of this movement was in New York, where three of the largest civil rights groups established their headquarters (Harlem Renaissance - Biography.com - Biography.com). Black historian, sociologist, and Harvard scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois was at the forefront of the civil rights movement at this time. In 1905 Du Bois, in collaboration with a group of prominent African-American political activists and white civil rights workers, met in New York to discuss the challenges facing the black community (Harlem Renaissance - Biography.com - Biography.com).In 1909, the group founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), to protest racial violence. W. E. B. Du Bois, the founding member of NAACP, led a parade of 10,000 African-American in New York to protest such violence. Du Bois also used the NAACP’s magazine, The Crisis, as a platform for leading a struggle for civil rights. (The Roaring Life of the 1920s 453) Concurrently, a Jamaican-born immigrant, named Marcus Garvey began his promotion of the “Back to Africa movement.” Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), which advocated the reuniting of all people of African ancestry into one community with one absolute government. The movement not only encouraged African-Americans to come together, but to also feel pride in their heritage and race (Harlem Renaissance - Biography.com - Biography.com). The National Urban League (NUL) also came into being in the early 20th century. Founded by Ruth Standish Baldwin and Dr. George Edmund Haynes, the fledgling organization counseled black migrants from the South, trained black social workers, and worked to give educational and employment opportunities to blacks (Harlem Renaissance - Biography.com - Biography.com). Instead of using more direct political means to achieve their goals, African-American civil rights activists employed the artists and writers of their culture to work for the goals of civil rights and equality. Jazz music, African-American fine art, and black literature were all absorbed into mainstream culture, bringing attention to a previously disenfranchised segment of the American population. This blossoming of African-American culture in European-American society, particularly in the worlds of art and music, became known as The Harlem Renaissance (Harlem Renaissance - Biography.com - Biography.com). One of the first notable events of the Renaissance came shortly after the NUL began publishing Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life. Believing that art and literature could lift African-Americans out of their situation, the magazine’s editor, Charles S. Johnson, began printing promising black writers...
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