Top-Rated Free Essay

Harlem Renaissance

Powerful Essays
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 this change, African American culture changed, becoming a basic for innovation and self-expression for the people. It also brought about the optimism and the enjoyment of African American culture to other people around the country. African Americans largely influenced music. David Levering Lewis discusses that, “The very centrality of music in black life, as well as of black musical stereotypes in white minds, caused popular musical forms to impinge inescapably on Renaissance high culture” (Harlem Renaissance 3). Another altering change of culture during the Harlem Renaissance happened within the subject of visual art. Before, visual art moved based off traditional landscapes and that during the Renaissance with the presence of the KKK. Their presence made it hard for African Americans to change the set ideas of race relations. Aaron Douglas, an African American painter and graphic artist, took visual art to a new level by using cubism and geometric shapes to change those set ideas. In the biography about Aaron Douglas, Amy Helene Kirschke says Douglas thought his art made of, “a matter of depicting beauty but rather of depicting life in a way that spoke to the black masses, and his high-contrast, high-impact images were heavily influenced by African art as well as cubism and modernism” (Aaron Douglas 1). His style used African American subjects to show off racial pride. Another influential artist during the Harlem Renaissance appeared to be Lois Mailou Jones. Jones’ work consisted of a broad spectrum, including works ranging from the traditional landscapes to abstract works. In a biography about her, the biography asserts that by being an African American woman trying to become an artist, “Jones had waged a never-ending battle to gain professional respect for the artistic works of all black American artists” (Lois M. Jones 1). Sonia Benson, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine all describe that artists during that time shaped their art, “in an attempt to correct unflattering or distorted ideas of their race and heritage” (Harlem Renaissance 2). The changes proved to be for the better improvement of art acceptance of African American painters during the Harlem Renaissance.
Rules and old traditions blocked the new ideas of African American authors. Literature changed during the Harlem Renaissance from those old and traditional English literary forms. Poetry largely led the Harlem Renaissance, but not the only form of literature; it helped African Americans believe in their culture and not just accept everyone else’s. Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and Langston Hughes were famous poets during the Harlem Renaissance. In Countee Cullen’s poem “Heritage,” Cullen talks about how race should not determine poetic inheritance, “Night or day, no slight release from the unremittent beat made by cruel padded feet” (Poems of the Harlem Renaissance 2). Alain Locke was also made famous during the Renaissance but he wrote novels, such as, “The New Negro,” that suggested a time where African Americans were culturally aware. In a Claude McKay biography he reveals a poetic catechism he wrote to help bring about African American race appreciation, “Like men we 'll face the murderous, cowardly pack/Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!" (1, Claude McKay) The significance had changed from following other culture’s styles that white novelists had set in place. The Harlem Renaissance, overall, brought much culture appreciation to the African American people all over the country. It was a time where, “respect for the artistic achievements of African Americans grew as their literature, art, and music flourished” (Harlem Renaissance 1), according to an ABC-Clio article. David Levering Lewis described the Harlem Renaissance as a “natural phase in the cultural evolution of another American group” (Harlem Renaissance 2). At the end of the Renaissance, in the year 1934, African Americans came to terms with their culture. Every change that happened during the period of the Harlem Renaissance happened for the greater purpose to change the minds of people, in the United States, about race relations. A better way to change the mindsets of so many people across the country without the help from intellectual individuals during the Harlem Renaissance devised the only workable solution. The significances behind the time period of incredible growth and renewal helped establish a sense of common culture to not just the African Americans but also white Americans, who came to respect the African American ways and culture styles. If the Harlem Renaissance went absent from history, nothing would have changed from past white ancestors who acted by overrunning African Americans and using them as their slaves. Would that be the right world to live in today?

Works Cited
"Countee Cullen." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2012.
Cunningham, George P. "New Negro." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Ed. Colin A. Palmer. 2nd ed. Vol. 4. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 1648-1649. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.
Devoy, Maeve. "The Great Migration: Background." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"Harlem Renaissance." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2012.
"Harlem Renaissance." Civil Rights in the United States. Ed. Waldo E. Martin, Jr. and Patricia Sullivan. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.
"Harlem Renaissance." U*X*L Encyclopedia of U.S. History. Sonia Benson, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine. Ed. Lawrence W. Baker and Sarah Hermsen. Vol. 4. Detroit: UXL, 2009. 673-677. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 14 Oct. 2012.
Kirschke, Amy Helene. Aaron Douglas: Art, Race, and the Harlem Renaissance. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995
Lawson, R. A. "Harlem Renaissance." Dictionary of American History. Ed. Stanley I. Kutler. 3rd ed. Vol. 4. New York: Charles Scribner 's Sons, 2003. 95-97. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.
Lewis, David Levering. "Harlem Renaissance." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Ed. Colin A. Palmer. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 998-1018. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
"Lois M. Jones." Notable Black American Women. Gale, 1992. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 13 Oct. 2012.
"McKay, Claude (1890-1948)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 13 Oct. 2012.
"Poems of the Harlem Renaissance (1919–1931)." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Ed. Colin A. Palmer. 2nd ed. Vol. 6. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 2449-2452. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 25 Sept. 2012.

Cited: "Countee Cullen." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. Cunningham, George P Devoy, Maeve. "The Great Migration: Background." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. "Harlem Renaissance." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. "Harlem Renaissance." Civil Rights in the United States "Harlem Renaissance." U*X*L Encyclopedia of U.S. History. Sonia Benson, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine. Ed. Lawrence W. Baker and Sarah Hermsen. Vol. 4. Detroit: UXL, 2009. 673-677. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. Kirschke, Amy Helene. Aaron Douglas: Art, Race, and the Harlem Renaissance. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995 Lawson, R Lewis, David Levering. "Harlem Renaissance." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Ed. Colin A. Palmer. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 998-1018. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 27 Sept. 2012. "Lois M. Jones." Notable Black American Women. Gale, 1992. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. "McKay, Claude (1890-1948)." Encyclopedia of World Biography "Poems of the Harlem Renaissance (1919–1931)." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Ed. Colin A. Palmer. 2nd ed. Vol. 6. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 2449-2452. Gale U.S. History In Context. Web. 25 Sept. 2012.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    The Harlem Renaissance was a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that kindled a new black cultural identity, spanning the 1920s and to the mid-1930s. While reading the article “Black Renaissance: A Brief History of the Concept” I learned that the Harlem Renaissance was once a debatable topic. Ernest J. Mitchell wrote the article, explaining how the term “Harlem Renaissance” did not originate in the era that it claims to describe. The movement “Harlem Renaissance” did not appear in print before 1940 and it only gained widespread appeal in the 1960s. During the four preceding decades, writers had mostly referred to it as “Negro Renaissance.”…

    • 105 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Racial Mountain

    • 882 Words
    • 4 Pages

    What is the Harlem Renaissance? The Harlem Renaissance was a movement that was prompted by the advocacy of racial equality that began in the early 1920s and lasted into the 1930s. Also known as the “New Negro Movement”, the Renaissance was the development of African American culture, and was the most influential movement in African American literary history, cultural literature, and music, theatrical and visual arts. Participants such as Zora Neal Hurston, W.E.B. DuBoise, and Langston Hughes, among others sought to reconceptualize “the Negro” apart from the white stereotypes that had influenced African-American’s relationship to their heritage and to each other. In this paper we will discuss the contributions Langston Hughes made to the movement and his thought process and reasoning for doing so.…

    • 882 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    I believe it is first important to have an understanding of the period of time known as the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a time period that begin in the 1920s [when] black intellectuals of Harlem had a ‘reawakening’ of culture that had been dormant for generations (Huggins 3). It was a time where men and women of African descent aimed to form a high culture of their own in order to bridge the gap between differing races and create a world of literature free of prejudice (Huggins 5). This was also a time for African Americans to form an identity for their race that would yield power and put rest to the beliefs that African…

    • 2849 Words
    • 12 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    The Harlem Renaissance was a time in which African Americans had an intellectual and inventive movement that thrived with the twentieth century. The Harlem renaissance contribution was based on the influential events of the “New Negro Movement” extended throughout the world. After the Civil War, a great number of people migrated to urban areas. Areas like these were such as Chicago or in New York City. This is where a different way of life developed for African Americans. (Fiero, pages 100-101).…

    • 330 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    The Harlem Renaissance

    • 1586 Words
    • 7 Pages

    The Harlem Renaissance is one of the most influential movements in a minority group's history in the United States of America. The renaissance sparked an awareness of self for Black Americans in the early part of the twentieth century. It was the bringing together of black artists, politicians, musicians, writers, poets, dancers and blacks from all over the country concentrated in Harlem, New York. Harlem became the home of anybody who had dreams of being heard or expressing great talents. It also became the center for radical as well as rational thoughts on the improvement of the condition of Black Americans in society during the late 1900's on up to the 1920's.…

    • 1586 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Harlem Renaissance was African-American’s cultural movement that began in 1920, it was blossoming of African American culture in terms of literature and art starting in the 1920 to 1930 reflecting the growth of Black Nationalism and racial identity. Some universal themes symbolized throughout the Harlem Renaissance were the unique experience of thralldom slavery and egressing African-American folk customs on black individuality. African American population of United States highly contributed in this movement; they played a great role to support it. In fact, major contribution was made by black-owned businesses and publication of their literary works. Nevertheless, it relied on the patronization of whites.…

    • 630 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    The Harlem Renaissance was a time of art and entertainment. It was a lively time were many artists, writers, musicians, and poets got the opportunity to share their work with a willing audience. It was a time period that gave African Americans a voice, and many talented writers emerged that might have remained silent if it hadn’t been for the Harlem Renaissance. Zora Neal Hurston and James Weldon Johnson were among these writers, publishing powerful novels that allowed African Americans to receive more respect and acknowledgement. The Harlem Renaissance allowed African American writers to share their work with the world in a great artistic movement where they could freely express themselves, as well as bring pride and inspiration to African…

    • 127 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Harlem Renaissance Dbq

    • 807 Words
    • 4 Pages

    In the early 1900s there was a huge movement of over 6 million African American people from the South to the Northern states, this movement was known as the Great Migration. The Great Migration was huge in African American history because it was the setup for key changes in the lives of African American people. Black people had been so use to slavery and were not really finding jobs in the South so they figured that in the North they would have a better chance. Little did they know, life in the North was no happily ever after ; there was a struggle for jobs, shelter, making a living, and they still didn’t escape racism, but these trails and tribulation shaped the idea of the Harlem Renaissance.…

    • 807 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    African Americans in the South during the early 1900's had to face segregation from whites. As a result, more than six million African-Americans migrated from southern farms to northern and western cities between 1915 and 1970. This historical event was known as the Great Migration. Consequently, the Harlem Renaissance took place. Due to the large amount of people moving to the North, black communities became common in big cities. Harlem was the black cultural center of New York City. The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement of the 1920's in Harlem, New York. During this time period, African Americans exercised a newfound freedom of expression, which led to extensive achievements in art, music, and literature.…

    • 115 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    Josephine Baker Biography

    • 516 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Cited: Rowen, Beth. “The Great Days in Harlem”. Infoplease. Pearson Education. N.D. Web, 19 Dec. 2011.…

    • 516 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    The Harlem Renaissance began around 1918 to 1920 and was an era of African American art. The period was sparked by literary discussions in lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village) and Upper Manhattan (Harlem and New York City). The movement was known as the “New Negro Movement” coined by Alain Leroy Locke in 1925. The “New Negro” was a term related to African Americans during the Great Migration who had moved from the south to northern cities in the United States in search of better education, employment, and suffrage. “The New Negro” was utilized to describe African Americans as artistic, conscious and sophisticated, as opposed to the stereotypes of African Americans being innately servile. The Harlem Renaissance was known as having a militant edge. The era acted as a celebration and development of the intellectual achievements of African Americans. This period was utilized to recreate the Black identity through varied mediums: music, literature, visual art, and entertainment.…

    • 1253 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Harlem Renaissance

    • 1061 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Throughout the history of African Americans, there have been important historical figures as well as times. Revered and inspirational leaders and eras like, Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, Nat Turner and the slave revolt, or Huey Newton and the Black Panther Party. One such period that will always remain a significant part of black art and culture is the Harlem Renaissance. It changed the meaning of art and poetry, as it was known then. Furthermore, the Harlem Renaissance forever left a mark on the evolution of the black culture.…

    • 1061 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    The Harlem Renaissance exploded in a New York community during 1918 and 1937; some refer to as The New Negro Movement. It was the time when Black Americans were passionate about shedding their Jim Crowe past. Black Americans wanted a new society for themselves that were viewed as talented and intelligent. The Harlem Renaissance enhanced the appreciation of Negro society showing that the black man was more than just an asset to be claimed, rather a talent to be admired.…

    • 1453 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    A Renaissance is a cultural movement, rebirth, and reinvention. The Black Chicago Renaissance began in the 1930’s where Chicago experienced a cultural renaissance that lasted into the 1950’s and was in comparison of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. I don’t believe that the Harlem and Chicago Renaissance should be compared due to the fact that these were two places that were of importance for black people that made a difference. I think it’s irrational to compare the two due to blacks worked so hard for everything they had and I think Harlem and Chicago were two different places that did similar changes for where they lived to make a difference. In the book Hines touched on creativity of music, performing arts, visual, social science scholarship, and literary artistic expressions. These were gifts that blacks were blessed with to share with Chicago. Chicago became a place where numerous of African Americans became involved with the performing arts. Blacks were really talented and they let it show through their music, art, and singing. Chicago was also a popular industrial center that gave an uncommon working class to the cultural work that took place in Chicago. This book analyzes the Black Chicago Renaissance in comparison to the Harlem Renaissance which took place in New York.…

    • 1062 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Better Essays

    Worth, Richard. The Harlem Renaissance: An Explosion of African-American Culture. Berkeley Heights: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2009. Print.…

    • 1111 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays