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The Harlem Renaissance. The Beginning. During the early 1900s, the African-American middle class started a movement calling for racial equality.-

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The Harlem Renaissance

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The Harlem Renaissance

The Beginning

  • During the early 1900s, the African-American middle class started a movement calling for racial equality.-

  • In 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was created to promote civil rights and fight African-American disenfranchisement.

    • Along with two other groups (Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and National Urban League (NUL))

  • These African-American civil rights activists used artists and writers from their culture to achieve their goals of civil rights and equality.

  • The mainstream culture absorbed jazz music, African-American fine art, and black literature, bringing focus to a segregated part of American culture.

  • “This blossoming of African-American culture in European-American society, particularly in the worlds of art and music, became known as The Harlem Renaissance.”

Authors of The Harlem Renaissance

  • NUL published Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life believing that art and literature could inspire African-Americans

    • Printed promising black writers in each issue

      • Jessie Fauset, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer

      • Aaron Douglas and Charles Ashton illustrated the cover art of the magazine

  • These artists used their fame as a chance to comment on the themes they found problematic to the American culture.

Jazz Age

  • During “The Roaring 20s” Americans experienced an economic boom after WWI

    • The decade was known for its celebration of excess and its rejection of wartime frugality and conservation

    • Americans invested time and money leisure activities and artistic endevours

  • The Prohibition Act made obtaining alcohol difficult and speakeasies (liquor-serving nightclubs) became a place where Americans would socialize, drink alcohol, and rebel against the traditional culture

  • The Cotton Club in Harlem featured only African-American entertainers but only allowed white clientele (with few exceptions)

  • Looked and felt like an extravagant Southern plantation

    • Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway – some of the most famous jazz performers of the time

  • Whites from NY attended club in Harlem to indulge in two taboos: drinking and mingling with blacks

  • As jazz hit the mainstream, the older generations associated the behavior of young people with the music.

The End of the Renaissance

  • As the 20s came to a close so did the whites’ infatuation with Harlem

  • The Great Depression also crushed “The Roaring 20s” ending the indulgence and decedance that fueled the upkeep of Harlem artists and their establishments

  • The depression cut off many blacks from the American dream that had seemed so close at hand.

  • White shop-owners and the black community had a strained relationship in Harlem and finally fell apart during the Harlem Riot of 1935, the nation’s first modern race riot.

    • Broke the truce between white and black America

    • Shattered the idea of Harlem as a “Mecca”

  • Changed the cultural landscape of America forever


  • "Harlem Renaissance - Black History Milestones on" Web. 30 Jan. 2011. <>.

Harlem by Langston Hughes

  • 1. Select words or phrases from each stanza that suggest the speaker’s attitude. How is the attitude conveyed through your selection?

  • 2. What is the tone of these lines? Cite evidence from the text to support your claims.

  • 3. In one sentence, describe the message of the poem.

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