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Harlem Renaissance

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It was a period when, at almost every Harlem uppercrust dance or party, one would be introduced to various distinguished white celebrities there as guests. . . . It was a period when every season there was at least one hit play on Broadway acted by a Negro cast. And when books by Negro authors were being published with much greater frequency and much more publicity than ever before or since in history. It was a period when white writers wrote about Negroes more successfully (commercially speaking) than Negroes did about themselves. . . . It was the period when the Negro was in vogue.

--Langston Hughes

 

The Harlem Renaissance was a time when African Americans dreams started to become a reality. It marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics took African American literature seriously and that African American literature and arts attracted significant attention from the nation as a whole. The Harlem Renaissance was more than a literary movement though, it included race-building and image-building, jazz poetics, progressive or socialist politics, racial integration and the musical and sexual freedom of the Harlem nightlife.

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that took place between the 1920’s and the 1930’s and was first known as the “New Negro Movement.” There were many factors that contributed to this movement. First, after WWI many African Americans moved to the industrial north looking for jobs in factories, this was called the great migration. Most African Americans ended up in the bigger cities such as Harlem, NY; Chicago; and Washington, DC. Second, there were trends toward experimentation throughout the country and then thirdly there was a rise of radical African-American intellectuals. These artists and intellectuals during this movement reflected their racial experiences and celebrate their cultural identity by creating new forms of art, true to themselves and all African Americans. This movement came to an end, shortly after it started, during the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

street in harlem
The Harlem Renaissance transformed African-American identity and history, but it also transformed American culture in general. Never before had so many Americans read the thoughts of African-Americans and embraced the African-American community's productions, expressions, and style. Even though the Harlem Renaissance only lasted about a decade most of it’s writings, art and music is still read, look at and listened to today.
 

Word Search activity with Famous Faces from the Harlem Reniassance

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Interactive map of Harlem during the Renaissance

casino in harlem
picture courtsey of Frank Driggs Collection

 

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Questions? contact Larissa erickslr@uwec.edu
page last updated March 18, 2005