The Harlem Renaissance. 1919-1929. Map of Harlem – 1920 ’ s. In the early 1920s, African American artists, writers, musicians, and performers were part of a great cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.
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The Harlem Renaissance 1919-1929
In the early 1920s, African American artists, writers, musicians, and performers were part of a great cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. • The huge migration to the North after World War I brought African Americans of all ages and walks of life to the thriving New York City neighborhood called Harlem. • Doctors, singers, students, musicians, shopkeepers, painters, and writers, congregated, forming a vibrant mecca of cultural affirmation and inspiration.
W.E.B. DuBois • The notion of "twoness" , a divided awareness of one's identity, was introduced by W.E.B. DuBois, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the author of the influential book The Souls of Black Folks (1903): "One ever feels his two-ness - an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled stirrings: two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."
Common themes: • alienation, • marginality, • the use of folk material, • the use of the blues tradition, • the problems of writing for an elite audience. • HR was more than just a literary movement: it included racial consciousness, "the back to Africa" movement led by Marcus Garvey, racial integration, the explosion of music particularly jazz, spirituals and blues, painting, dramatic revues, and others.
Harlem Renaissance brought the Black experience clearly within the general American cultural history. • Remarkable coincidences and luck, provided a sizable chunk of real estate in the heart of Manhattan. • The Black migration, from south to north, changed their image from rural to urban, from peasant to sophisticate. • Harlem became a crossroads where Blacks interacted with and expanded their contacts internationally. • Harlem Renaissance profited from a spirit of self-determination which was widespread after W.W.I.
2. The Harlem Renaissance had a huge significance in American culture at the time and in the future. a. It became a symbol and a point of reference for everyone to recall. b. The name, more than the place, became synonymous with new vitality, Black urbanity, and Black militancy. c. It became a racial focal point for Blacks the world over; it remained for a time a race capital. d. It stood for urban pluralism; Alain Locke wrote: "The peasant, the student, the businessman, the professional man, artist, poet, musician, adventurer and worker, preacher and criminal, exploiter and social outcast, each group has come with its own special motives ... but their greatest experience has been the finding of one another." e. The complexity of the urban setting was important for Blacks to truly appreciate the variety of Black life. The race consciousness required that shared experience.
Harlem Renaissance's legacy is limited by the character of the Renaissance. a. It encouraged the new appreciation of folk roots and culture. b. Peasant folk materials and spirituals provided a rich source for racial imagination and it freed the Blacks from the establishment of past condition. c. Harlem Renaissance was imprisoned by its innocence. The Harlem intellectuals, while proclaiming a new race consciousness, became mimics of Whites, wearing clothes and using manners of sophisticated Whites, earning a variety of epithets from the very people they were supposed to be championing. d. Harlem Renaissance could not overcome the overwhelming White presence in commerce which defined art and culture. What was needed was a rejection of White values; they had to see Whites, without awe of love or awe of hate, and themselves truly, without myth or fantasy, in order that they could be themselves in life and art.
Art from the Harlem Renaissance Street Life, Harlem, by William H. Johnson Jeunesse by Palmer Hayden
Langston Hughes wrote, “Harlem was in vogue.” Black painters and sculptors joined their fellow poets, novelists, actors, and musicians in a creative outpouring that established Harlem as the international capital of Black culture. Langston Hughes 1902-1967
Zora Neale Hurstonwas remarkable in that she was the most widely published black woman of her day. She authored more than fifty articles and short stories as well as four novels, two books on folklore, an autobiography, and some plays. At the height of her success she was known as the“Queen of the Harlem Renaissance.” Zora Neale Hurston 1891-1960 American writer
In 1925, at the height of the jazz era in Paris, the sensational cast of musicians and dancers from Harlem, assembled as La Revue Negre, exploded on the stage of the Theatre des Champs Elysees. Its talented young star, Josephine Baker (1906-1975), captivated audiences with a wild new dance called the Charleston.
“Louis Armstrong’s station in the history of jazz is unimpeachable. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be any of us.” Dizzy Gillespie, 1971
Duke Ellington 1899-1974 Duke Ellington brought a level of style and sophistication to Jazz that it hadn't seen before. By the time of his passing, he was considered amongst the world’s greatest composers and musicians.
James Van Der Zee 1886-1983 Couple, Harlem 1933 silver print photograph
The visual art of the Harlem Renaissance was an attempt at developing a new African-American aesthetic in the fine arts. Believing that their life experiences were valuable sources of material for their art, these artists created an iconography of the Harlem Renaissance era. Thematic content included Africa as a source of inspiration, African-American history, folk idioms, (music and religion of the South), and social injustice.
Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller Sculptor 1877-1968 Meta Warrick Fullerwas a sculptor who looked to the songs of black Americans and to African folk tales for inspirational themes that focused on pathos and joy in the human condition. She introduced these subjects to America long before the Harlem Renaissance.
This sculpture by Meta Warrick Fuller, anticipated the spirit and style of the Harlem Renaissance by symbolizing the emergence of the New Negro. Fuller said she was thinking about the average African-American, whom she envisioned “awakening, gradually unwinding the bondage of his past and looking out on life again, expectant and unafraid.” The Awakening of Ethiopia 1914
Tannerwanted to show a positive image of the African-American by highlighting the sense of dignity and in the touching moment of the elder teaching the boy how to play the banjo. Tanner also chose the banjo because of its African origin and its being the most popular musical instrument used by the slaves in early America Henry Ossawa Tanner The Banjo Lesson, 1893
Aaron Douglas 1898-1979 “I refuse to compromise and see blacks as anything less than a proud and majestic people.” Window Cleaning, 1935
William H. Johnson 1901-1970 Chain Gang. 1939 Johnson arrived in Harlem when the Renaissance was in the making. While there he created several paintings that dealt with political and social Harlem.Chain Gang is one example.
William H. Johnson Swing Low, Sweet Chariot 1939 Johnson always showed great devotion to painting themes that celebrated Black Christianity. This painting is an example of one based on a literal interpretation of a spiritual occasion.
In this symbolic self-portrait,Haydenis at work in his basement studio, surrounded by the tools of his dual professions, a palette, brushes and easel, and a garbage can, broom, and feather duster. The painter’s studio is also his bedroom, and his bed, night table, alarm clock, and a framed picture of a cat are seen in thebackground. Palmer Hayden, The Janitor Who Paints, 1937
Jacob Lawrence was a painter who was inspired to focus his work on the historical development and struggle of people from African descent. He used his canvas as a vehicle for making statements on Freedom, Dignity, Struggle, and Daily Life among the African-American peoples. Jacob Lawrence 1917-2000
Lawrence commented, “What did I see when I arrived in Harlem in 1930? I was thirteen years of age. I remember seeing the movement, the life, the people, the excitement. We were going through a great, great depression at that time, but despite that, I think, there was always hope.” Jacob Lawrence Aspiration 1988
“I’ve always been interested in history, but they never taught Negro history in the public schools…I don’t see how a history of the United States can be written honestly without including the Negro. I didn’t paint just as a historical thing, but because I believe these things tie up with the Negro today. I am not a politician. I’m an artist, just trying to do my part to bring this thing about…” Legend of John Brown, 1977