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The Harlem Renaissance. Time: End of WWI to start of the Great Depression. Two-ness: Who you think you are vs what you perceive others to think you are (W.E.B. Du Bois).

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The harlem renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance

  • Time: End of WWI to start of the

  • Great Depression.

  • Two-ness: Who you think you are vs what you perceive others to think you are (W.E.B. Du Bois).

  • Common themes: alienation, marginality, the use of folk material, the use of the blues tradition, the problems of writing for an elite audience.

The great migration
The Great Migration

  • Harlem is the new suburb (1904)

  • Educated African Americans move in

  • “White Flight”

  • WWI causes mass movement of African Americans from the south

    • Find jobs

    • Sick of southern racism

The effects
The Effects

  • Racial consciousness

  • “Back to Africa" (Marcus Garvey)

  • Racial integration

  • Music (jazz, spirituals and blues)

  • Art (painting, sculpture, photography)

  • Dance

  • Writing (poetry, plays, novels, etc)

Notable poets
Notable Poets

  • Claude McKay

  • Countee Cullen

  • Langston Hughes

  • Jean Toomer

  • Jessie Redmon Fauset

  • Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Notable artists
Notable Artists

  • W. H. Johnson

  • Lois Mailou Jones

  • Sargent Johnson

  • Aaron Douglas

  • Palmer Hayden

  • Jacob Lawrence

  • Archibald Motley Jr.

Notable musicians
Notable Musicians

  • Louis Armstrong

  • Josephine Baker

  • Duke Ellington

  • Billie Holiday

  • Jelly Roll Morton

  • Bessie Smith

Example poem claude mckay 1889 1948 america
Example PoemClaude McKay (1889-1948)America

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,

And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,

Stealing my breath of life, I will confess

I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!

Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,

Giving me strength erect against her hate.

Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.

Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,

I stand within her walls with not a shred

Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.

Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,

And see her might and granite wonders there,

Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,

Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

List words that describe this poem.

Example art aaron douglas into bondage 1936
Example ArtAaron DouglasInto Bondage 1936

List words that describe this painting.

Example song
Example Song

  • They Can't Take That Away From Me Billie Holiday, 1937

  • List words that describe this song.

Aaron douglas 1898 1979
Aaron Douglas (1898-1979)

Aaron Douglas was the Harlem Renaissance artist whose work best exemplified the 'New Negro' philosophy. He painted murals for public buildings and produced illustrations and cover designs for many black publications including The Crisis and Opportunity. In 1940 he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he founded the Art Department at Fisk University and taught for twenty nine years.

The creation
“The Creation”

  • 1935

  • Oil on Canvas

  • Aaron Douglas

The crucifixion
“The Crucifixion”

  • 1927

  • Oil on board

  • Aaron Douglas

“Into Bondage”

1936Oil on canvas

Aaron Douglas

The founding of chicago
“The Founding of Chicago”

  • 1930 – 33

  • Aaron Douglas

Building more stately mansions
“Building More Stately Mansions”

  • 1944

  • Oil on canvas

  • Aaron Douglas

From slavery through reconstruction
“From Slavery Through Reconstruction”

  • 1934; Aaron Douglas; oil on canvas

Aspects of Negro Life #62: “Song of the Towers”


Oil on canvas

Aaron Douglas

Archibald motley jr 1891 1980
Archibald Motley Jr. (1891-1980)

Archibald Motley Jr. labored in Chicago while teaching himself the fundamentals of painting and practicing his technique. His first solo exhibit came in 1928 in New York, and displayed his fascination with aspects of African American culture such as music, voodoo, and mysticism. After winning the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1929, he traveled and studied in Paris, where upon his return, he began painting scenes of nightlife and gambling in response to Prohibition. Despite his African American heritage and the rise of the Harlem Renaissance movement, Motley was a member of Ashcan school that did not devote itself to any ethnicity.



Oil on canvas

Archibald J. Motley Jr.

Mending Socks

1924Oil on canvasArchibald J. Motley Jr.



Oil on canvas

Archibald J. Motley Jr.

Jacob lawrence 1917 2000
Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000)

  • Lawrence's work recounts the African-American experience in this country. Although he has been labeled a protest artist and social realist, in truth he considered himself first and foremost an artist. His images convey the hopes, dreams, and courage of the black community. He often captured life observed on the streets of post-Depression Harlem. He also recorded another history of America, one that was told to him by his family, neighbors, and friends. Lawrence's art is human and accessible, with a quiet dignity and understatement that makes it all the more powerful. He is the first African-American artist to have his work included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Dust to Dust

(The Funeral)

1938Gouache on paper

Jacob Lawrence

Crippled Child on Crutches


Pastels on paper

Jacob Lawrence

Lois mailou jones 1905 1998
Lois Mailou Jones (1905-1998)

Lois Mailou Jones was a pioneering artist of the Harlem Renaissance. Born in New England, her life was still clouded by the prejudices of an everyday African American life. She began her career after attending the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Afterwards, she went through the racial barriers to exhibit her works to the world. She perservered through many roadblocks and prejudices, without ever losing her passion to express herself through art.

Les Fetiches

1938Oil on linen

Loïs Mailou Jones

Textile Design for Cretonne


Loïs Mailou Jones

Ascent of Ethiopia



Lois Mailou Jones

William h johnson
William H. Johnson

William H. Johnson entered the Harlem Renaissance during its making. He came to New York in 1918 from Florence, South Carolina, to embark on his career. He became a student at the National Academy of Design. He was educated there for five years, during which he learned from greats such as George Luks and Charles Hawthorne. He then traveled to places in North Africa and Europe to paint and find residence. It was by the suggestion of Hawthorne that he traveled to Paris in 1826, where he settled, painted, and studied the works of modern European masters.

Swing Low Sweet Chariot


Oil on board

William H. Johnson



Oil on Board

William H. Johnson

A View Down Akersgate, Oslo


Oil on burlap

William H. Johnson

Street Musicians


Oil on canvas

William H. Johnson

Sargent johnson
Sargent Johnson

Johnson lived and worked in the Bay Area during a time of great diversity in intellectual, cultural, and artistic production. Influenced by what was known as the Negro Renaissance of the 1920s, he focused his early work on the issue of racial identity, seeking to show the natural beauty and dignity of African Americans. Bay Area art communities were flourishing when Johnson arrived in 1915, and he later became influential in an artistic environment that would develop its own variety of Modernism.


ca. 1930-1935

copper on wood base Sargent Johnson

Forever Free



Sargent Johnson




Sargent Johnson

Palmer hayden 1890 1973
Palmer Hayden (1890-1973)

Born Peyton Hedgeman, he was given the name Palmer Hayden by his white commanding sergeant during World War I. In his town of brith, Wide Water, Virginia, he was often referred to as a self trained artist. He was a student at Cooper Union in New York and pursued independent studies at Boothbay Art Colony in Maine. He studied and painted in France, where he lived for some years.Hayden's reputation emanates from his realistic depictions of folklore and Black historical events. He, like Douglas, was also among the first Black American artists to use African subjects and designs in his painting.

The Janitor Who Paints

ca. 1930

oil on canvas Palmer Hayden

Beale Steet Blues



Palmer Hayden

James vanderzee 1886 1983
James VanDerZee (1886-1983)

  • Many of VanDerZee's photographs celebrate the life of the emergent black middle class. Using the conventions of studio portrait photography, he composed images that reflected his clients' dignity, independence, and material comfort, characterizing the time as one of achievement, idealism, and success. VanDerZee's photographs portray the Harlem of the 1920s and 1930s as a community that managed to be simultaneously talented, spiritual, and prosperous.

Evening Attire

1922Gelatin silver print

James VanDerZee

His Lady’s Corsage

1931Vintage gelatin silver print

James VanDerZee

Alpha Phi Alpha Basketball Team



James Van Der Zee

Augusta savage 1892 1962
Augusta Savage (1892-1962)

  • Augusta Savage was a world-famous African-American sculptor. Born in Florida, she had her first formal art training in New York City at Cooper Union, the school recommended to her by Solon Gorglum. While she studied, she supported herself by doing odd jobs, including clerking and working in laundries. In 1926 she exhibited her work at the Sesquicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia. That same year she was awarded a scholarship to study in Rome. However, she was unable to accept the award because she could not raise the money she would have needed to live there. Later, she did study in Europe.

Lift Every Voice and Sing



Augusta Savage



Painted Plaster

Augusta Savage

Billy holiday 1915 1959
Billy Holiday (1915-1959)

The first popular jazz singer to move audiences with the intense, personal feeling of classic blues, Billie Holiday changed the art of American pop vocals forever. Almost fifty years after her death, it's difficult to believe that prior to her emergence, jazz and pop singers were tied to the Tin Pan Alley tradition and rarely personalized their songs; only blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey actually gave the impression they had lived through what they were singing.

  • They Can't Take That Away From Me

  • Summertime

  • Getting Some Fun Out Of Life

Duke ellington 1899 1974
Duke Ellington (1899-1974)

Born 29 April 1899 in Washington DC, composer, bandleader, and pianist Edward Kennedy ("Duke") Ellington was recognized in his lifetime as one of the greatest jazz composers and performers. Nicknamed "Duke" by a boyhood friend who admired his regal air, the name stuck and became indelibly associated with the finest creations in big band and vocal jazz. A genius for instrumental combinations, improvisation, and jazz arranging brought the world the unique "Ellington" sound that found consummate expression in many of his works

  • East St. Louis Toodle-Oo

  • The Mooche

  • It Don't Mean A Thing

Ethel waters 1900 1977
Ethel Waters (1900-1977)

  • Ethel Waters was a popular black American singer and actress. She gained recognition as a singer of both blues and popular songs. Waters starred in several Broadway musicals, and introduced a number of well-known songs during her stage career. She also appeared in dramatic roles.

  • Waters was born in Chester, Pennsylvania. She began singing in nightclubs and in vaudeville when she was 17 years old.

  • Smile!

  • Am I Blue?

  • Guess Who's In Town

Louis armstrong 1901 1971
Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)

Louis Daniel Armstrong was an American jazz musician. Armstrong was a charismatic, innovative performer whose musical skills and bright personality transformed jazz from a rough regional dance music into a popular art form. Probably the most famous jazz musician of the 20th century, he first achieved fame as a trumpeter, but towards the end of his career he was best known as a vocalist and was one of the most influential jazz singers.

  • Skid-Dat-De-Dat

  • Potato Head Blues

  • Gut Bucket Blues

Fletcher henderson 1898 1952
Fletcher Henderson (1898-1952)

  • Fletcher Henderson was very important to early jazz as leader of the first great jazz big band, as an arranger and composer in the 1930s, and as a masterful talent scout. Yet, at the height of the swing era, Henderson's band was little-known.

  • Ain't She Sweet?

  • Alabamy Bound

  • One Of These Days

Josephine baker 1906 1975
Josephine Baker (1906-1975)

  • Josephine Baker grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, but left home at an early age and began performing on stage. She appeared in the chorus lines of all-black revues on vaudeville, and travelled to Paris in 1925 as part of La Revue Negre. Her lithe body and clowning around on stage caused a sensation, and by the 1930s she was so successful she had her own nightclub. Baker was famous for her exotic outfits and uninhibited sexuality, her trademarks being a leopard on a leash, a skirt made of feathers and a dance in which she wore bananas on her head and not much else.

  • Blue Skies

  • Bye Bye Blackbird

  • Sleepy Time Gal

Jelly role morton 1890 1941
Jelly Role Morton (1890-1941)

Piano player Jelly Roll Morton was a pioneer of modern American jazz. He grew up in New Orleans and began playing in saloons and brothels when he was still a boy. In later years he performed solo and with his band, the Red Hot Peppers, and he is particularly remembered for a series of recordings he made in Chicago for RCA Victor in the 1920s. Morton is often credited with mixing individual improvisation within rehearsed group arrangements, a format which became a staple of jazz.

  • Honeysuckle Rose

  • Wolverine Blues

  • Jelly Roll Blues

Bessie smith 1894 1937
Bessie Smith (1894-1937)

  • Bessie Smith is largely regarded as the most popular and successful blues singer of 1920s and 1930s, and she has had an enormous influence on singers throughout the history of American popular music, including Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin, and Norah Jones.

  • See If I Care

  • Down Hearted Blues

  • Gulf Coast Blues