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Harlem Renaissance

By mskiki7 Mar 06, 2005 1613 Words
The Harlem Renaissance

Junior English

June 10, 2004
Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction…………………………………………………..……pg. 1 Chapter 2:
How did the Harlem Renaissance begin?…………………………….pg. 1-2 Chapter 3:
What works or events had a great impact on the movement? 2-3 Chapter 4:
What were some themes of the Harlem Renaissance? 3-5
Did the Harlem Renaissance only appeal to African -Americans…..…pg. 5 Chapter 5: Conclusion………………………………………..…………………………pg. 5 Cited Works……………………………………...……………….…………..…pg. 6

Chapter 1

Harlem Renaissance, an African American cultural movement of the 1920s and early 1930s that was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. According to Wintz: The Harlem Renaissance was "variously known as the New Negro movement, the New Negro Renaissance, and the Negro Renaissance, the movement emerged toward the end of World War I in 1918, blossomed in the mid- to late 1920s, and then withered in the mid-1930s. The Harlem Renaissance marked the first time mainstream publishers, critics took African American literature seriously, and that African American literature and arts attracted significant attention from the nation as a whole (1)."

Although it was primarily a literary movement, it was closely related to

advancement in African American music, theater, art, and politics.

Chapter 2

How did the Harlem Renaissance begin?
The Harlem Renaissance emerged in the midst of social and intellectual turmoil in the African American community in the early 20th century. Several factors laid the foundation for the movement. A black middle class had developed by the turn of the century due to increased education and employment opportunities following the American Civil War(1861-1865) (Ruben 9). During an event known as the Great Migration where hundreds of thousands of African Americans moved from an economically depressed rural South to industrial cities of the North to take advantage of the employment opportunities created by World War I (Reuben 9). As more and more educated and socially conscious blacks settled in New York's neighborhood of Harlem, it developed into the political and cultural center of black America. Equally important, during the 1910s a new political agenda advocating racial equality arose in the African American community, particularly in its growing middle class (Reuben 9). Championing the agenda were black historian and sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was founded in 1909 to advance the rights of blacks. This agenda was also reflected in the efforts of Jamaican-born Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey, whose "Back to Africa" movement inspired racial pride among blacks in the United States (11)." In this article, Porter makes it clear that blacks were determined to press forward as a people. Chapter 3

What works or events had a great impact on the Harlem Renaissance?
In the early 1920s, three works signaled the new creative energy in African American literature. McKay's volume of poetry, Harlem Shadows (1922), became one of the first works by a black writer to be published by a mainstream, national publisher (Harcourt, Brace and Company). Cane (1923), by Jean Toomer, was an experimental novel that combined poetry and prose in documenting the life of American blacks in the rural South and urban North (Andrews 4). Finally, There Is Confusion (1924), the first novel by writer and Editor Jessie Fauset, depicted middle-class life among black Americans from a woman's perspective (Andrews 4).

According to Bassett, these early works as the foundation and three events between 1924 and 1926 launched the Harlem Renaissance. First, on March 21, 1924, Charles S. Johnson of the National Urban League hosted a dinner to recognize the new literary talent in the black community and to introduce the young writers to New York's white literary establishment. The National Urban League was founded in 1910 to help black Americans address the economic and social problems they encountered as they resettled in the urban North . Because of this dinner, The Survey Graphic, a magazine of social analysis and criticism that was interested in cultural pluralism, produced a Harlem issue in March 1925. Devoted to defining the artistic ness of black literature and art, the Harlem issue featured work by black writers and was edited by black philosopher and literary scholar Alain Leroy Locke. The second event was the publication of Nigger Heaven (1926) by white novelist Carl Van Vechten. The book was a spectacularly popular exposé of Harlem life. Although the book offended some members of the black community, its coverage of both the elite and the baser side of Harlem helped create a "Negro vogue" that drew thousands of sophisticated New Yorkers, black and white, to Harlem's exotic and exciting nightlife and stimulated a national market for African American literature and music. Finally, in the autumn of 1926 a group of young black writers produced Fire!!, their own literary magazine. With Fire!! A new generation of young writers and artists, including Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman, and Zora Neale Hurston, took ownership of the literary Renaissance (7).

Chapter 4
What were some themes or ideas of the Harlem Renaissance?
No common literary style or political ideology defined the Harlem Renaissance (Porter 6). What united participants was their sense of taking part in a common effort and their commitment to giving artistic expression to the African American experience. Some common themes existed, such as an interest in the roots of the 20th-century African American experience in Africa and the American South, and a strong sense of racial pride and desire for social and political equality. However, the most characteristic aspect of the Harlem Renaissance was the diversity of its expression. From the mid-1920s through the mid-1930s, some 16 black writers published more than 50 volumes of poetry and fiction, while dozens of other African American artists made their mark in painting, music, and theater (Wintz 4). The diverse literary expression of the Harlem Renaissance ranged from Langston Hughes's weaving of the rhythms of African American music into his poems of ghetto life to Claude McKay's use of the sonnet form as the vehicle for his impassioned poems attacking racial violence (Wintz 5).

Did the Harlem Renaissance only appeal to African Americans?
The Harlem Renaissance appealed to a mixed audience. According to Rueben: "The literature appealed to the African American middle class and to the white book-buying public. Such magazines as The Crisis, a monthly journal of the NAACP, and Opportunity, an official publication of the Urban League, employed Harlem Renaissance writers on their editorial staff; published poetry and short stories by black writers; and promoted African American literature through articles, reviews, and annual literary prizes. As important, as these literary outlets were, however, the Renaissance relied heavily on white publishing houses and white-owned magazines. In fact, a major accomplishment of the Renaissance was to push open the door to mainstream white periodicals and publishing houses, although the relationship between the Renaissance writers and white publishers and audiences created some controversy. African American musicians and other performers also played to mixed audiences. Harlem's cabarets attracted both Harlem residents and white New Yorkers seeking out Harlem nightlife. Harlem's famous Cotton Club carried this to an extreme, by providing black entertainment for exclusively white audiences (9)." Ultimately, the more successful black musicians and entertainers, who appealed to a mainstream audience, moved their performances downtown. Chapter 5

The Harlem Renaissance changed forever the dynamics of African American arts and literature in the United States. The writers that followed in the 1930s and 1940s found that publishers and the public were more open to African American literature than they had been at the beginning of the century. Furthermore, the existence of the body of African American literature from the Renaissance inspired writers such as Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright to pursue literary careers in the late 1930s and the 1940s (Reuben 9). The outpouring of African American literature of the 1980s and 1990s by such writers as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison also had its roots in the writing of the Harlem Renaissance (Reuben 9). The influence of the Harlem Renaissance was not confined to the United States. Many writers, actors, musicians and dancers traveled to Europe and attained a popularity abroad that rivaled or surpassed what they achieved in the United States. For thousands of blacks around the world, the Harlem Renaissance was proof that the white race did not hold a monopoly on literature and culture (Reuben 9). Cited Works

Andrews, William. Classic Fiction of the Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford UP, 1994. In this book, I attained a lot of helpful information. I learned many things about essential books and there input in the Harlem Renaissance. Basset, John E. Harlem in Review: Critical Reactions to Black American Writers. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna UP, 1992. In this article, I acquired useful information about the feelings and emotions of the African-Americans during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Porter, James A. Modern Negro Art. New York: Arno Press, 1969. In this book, I got a lot of valuable information regarding the different paintings, pieces of art, books, and the essential movements by different activists. Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 9: Harlem Renaissance – An Introduction." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. . In this excerpt, I found a lot of facts on the dealings of African-Americans after WW1 and the vital contributions to the Harlem Renaissance. Wintz, Cary D. "Harlem Renaissance". Microsoft ® Online Encyclopedia 2004: 8 Mar. 2004 <> In this article, I obtained a lot of useful information. I learned different things about the foundation of the Harlem Renaissance and the founding mothers and fathers.

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