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Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance

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Harlem Renaissance

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  1. Harlem Renaissance Featuring Jean Toomer Langston Hughes Nella Larsen Zora Neal Hurston

  2. The Harlem Renaissance • African American cultural movement of the 1920s and early 1930s centered around Harlem • Arts • Literature • Visual Art • Music [Grocery store, Harlem, 1940] Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.; LC-USZC4-4737

  3. Renaissance Firsts • Mainstream publishers and critics took African American literature seriously • African American arts attracted significant attention from the nation at large • African American artists and writers used culture to work for the goals of civil rights and equality • African American writers intended to express themselves freely, no matter what the public thought

  4. Great Migration Hundreds of thousands of African Americans moved from the rural South to the industrial cities of the North.

  5. Push of Great Migration • Poor employment conditions and prospects in the South • Southern racism, e.g. discrimination and fear of racial violence • No opportunities for political representation • Poor education; no future for children

  6. Pull of Great Migration • Better employment prospects and wages in the North • Better education and possibility of using the vote • Better life for future generations • Reunification of family • Freedom and modernity

  7. Groundwork of Movement • Increased education and employment opportunities following World War I led to the development of an African American middle class. • As more and more educated and socially conscious African Americans settled in New York’s neighborhood of Harlem, it developed into the political and cultural center of black America.

  8. Harlem Renaissance • African American literature and arts surged in the early 1900s. • Jazz and blues music moved with the African American populations from the South and Midwest into the bars and cabarets of Harlem. • This generation of African Americans artists, writers, and performers refused to let the reality of racism and discrimination in the United States keep them from pursuing their goals.

  9. Fire! • Autumn, 1926, Fire!, a new African American literary magazine • Opportunity for new group of African American writers

  10. Renaissance Traits • No common literary style or political ideology • Unity in: • Sense of taking part in a common endeavor • Commitment to giving artistic expression to African American experience

  11. Some Additional Features • artistic activity (intellectuals, writers, poets, musicians, dancers, painters and photographers) • supportedby whitephilanthropists, critics, and consumers of black culture • promoted by black papers (Du Bois’ The Crisis and others) through prizes and literary salons

  12. Common Themes • Roots of African American experience in Africa and the American South • Social consciousness • Racial consciousness • Desire for political and social equality • Duality

  13. Characteristics • Most characteristic aspect of the Harlem Renaissance = the diversityof its expression • Breadth and scope tremendous • From mid-1920s to mid-1930s, about 16 African American writers published over 50 volumes of poetry and fiction • Dozens of African American artists made mark in painting, music, and theater

  14. Literary Diversity • Langston Hughes’s weaving of the rhythms of African American music into his poems of ghetto life, as in The Weary Blues (1926) Langston Hughes Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]

  15. More Literary Diversity • Zora Neale Hurston’s novels, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). • Hurston used life of rural South to create a study of race and gender in which a woman finds her true identity. [Portrait of ZoraNealeHurston] Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]

  16. Diversity in Performing Arts • Blues by such people as Bessie Smith • Jazz by such people as Duke Ellington [Portrait of BessieSmith holding feathers] Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]

  17. Jazz Beginnings • Jazz styles ranged from the combination of blues and ragtime by pianist Jelly Role Morton to the instrumentation of bandleader Louis Armstrong and the orchestration of composer Duke Ellington. New York, New York. DukeEllington's trumpet section Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]

  18. Harlem Renaissance • Opened the door for many African American authors to mainstream white periodicals and publishing houses • Harlem’s cabarets attracted both Harlem residents and white New Yorkers seeking out Harlem nightlife • Harlem’s famous Cotton Club an extreme, providing African American entertainment for exclusively white audiences

  19. Eventual Decline Great Depression: a shift from art to economic and social issues

  20. Reasons for Decline • African American writers and literary promoters, including Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and W.E.B. Du Bois, left New York City in the early 1930s. • Final blow when a riot broke out in Harlem in 1935. • Set off, in part, by economic hardship of Depression • Also growing tension between African American community and white shop owners in Harlem

  21. Last Days • Renaissance did not end overnight • Almost one-third of the books published during the Renaissance appeared after 1929. • The Harlem Renaissance permanently altered the dynamics of African American art and literature in the United States.

  22. Post-Renaissance • Large amount of literature from the Renaissance inspired writers such as Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright in the late 1930s and 1940s New York, New York. Portrait of RichardWright, poet Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]

  23. Renaissance Influence • American publishers and the American public more open to African American literature than at the beginning of the twentieth century • Outpouring of African American literature in the 1980s and 1990s by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Spike Lee had roots in the Harlem Renaissance

  24. Jean Toomer: 1894-1967 • Attended college for four years/never earned a degree • Writer/ poet • A seeker • Writer of the most lauded piece of the Renaissance • Spiritualist/Quaker • Refused label

  25. Toomer • Raised in a predominantly black community and attended black high schools. • Passed for white during certain periods of his life • Used Southern roots in Cane

  26. Spiritual Seeker • In the early twenties, Toomer became interested in Unitism, a religion founded by the Armenian George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. • The doctrine taught unity, transcendence and mastery of self through yoga

  27. Charles S. Johnson on Cane • "Here was triumphantly the Negro artist, detached from propaganda, sensitive only to beauty. Where [Paul Laurence] Dunbar gave to the unnamed Negro peasant a reassuring touch of humanity, Toomer gave to the peasant a passionate charm.... More than artist, he was an experimentalist, and this last quality has carried him away from what was, perhaps, the most astonishingly brilliant beginning of any Negro writer of this generation."

  28. Arna Bonetemps on Cane • “Cane, the book that provoked this comment, was published in 1923 after portions of it had appeared earlier in Broom, The Crisis, Double Dealer, Liberator, Little Review, Modern Review, Nomad, Prairie and S 4 N. • But Cane and its author, let it be said at once, presented an enigma from the start-an enigma which has, in many ways, deepened in the years since its publication. Given such a problem, perhaps one may be excused for not wishing to separate completely the man from his work.”

  29. Toomer’s Autobiography I “Racially, I seem to have (who knows for sure) seven blood mixtures: French, Dutch, Welsh, Negro, German, Jewish, and Indian. Because of these, my position in America has been a curious one. I have lived equally amid the two race groups. Now white, now colored. From my own point of view I am naturally and inevitably an American. I have strived for a spiritual fusion analogous to the fact of racial intermingling.”

  30. Toomer’s Biography II “Neither the universities of Wisconsin or New York gave me what I wanted, so I quit them. Just how I finally found my stride in writing, is difficult to lay hold of. It has been pushing through for the past four years. For two years, now, I have been in solitude here in Washington. It may be begging hunger to say that I am staking my living on my work. So be it. The mould is cast, and I cannot turn back even if I would. “

  31. Langston Hughes, 1902-1967 • Novelist • Playwright • Poet • Essayist • Socialist/Communist sympathizer

  32. Hughes’ Focus • Common Black people • Infusion of music (blues, jazz, spirituals) • Shared memory • Racial pride/confusion • Rediscovery of Africa • Two-ness of Du Bois

  33. Influences • Jazz • Poets • Paul Lawrence Dunbar • Carl Sandburg • Walt Whitman

  34. Nella Larsen (1891-1964) • Mother Danish. Father West Indian • Attended Fisk University in Nashville, TN (1909-1910) • Continued education at University of Copenhagen (1910-1912) • Studied nursing at Lincoln Hospital in New York City (1912-1915)

  35. “Suddenly, the orchestra blared into something wild and impressionistic, with a primitive staccato understrain of Jazz. . . The crowd stirred, broke, coalesced into twos, and became a whirling mass.”

  36. Quicksand (1928) • “Home” and “belonging” • Past, present and future • Theme of double consciousness • Free indirect discourse • Helga’s sexuality and power • Performing identity vs. established identity

  37. Zora Neale Hurston • Wrote stories, novels, anthropological folklore and and an autobiography • Died in 1960, a forgotten writer, but her work has since increased in popularity and critical acclaim • The first great African-American woman writer

  38. Beginnings • Born in Notasulga, AL; grew up in Eatonville, FL • Father a Baptist preacher: “not a family man” • Never finished grade school • After attending Howard University, studied anthropology at Barnard (part of Columbia), graduating in 1928 • Lived in NYC during the heyday of the 1920s

  39. Folklore • Returned to the South in late 1920s to study folklore, collecting stories, songs, folktales. • Found patron, Mrs. Osgood Mason, an exacting woman who inspected Hurston’s work prior to submission for publication

  40. Chief Works • Mules and Men (1935) • Tell My Horse (1938) • Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934) • Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) • One of the most important American novels of the first half of the 20th century • Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)

  41. Mules and Men • Classified as folklore • Explores self, voice, and community • Describes search for authentic spells, and her fascination with the voodoo religion in New Orleans • Relation of knowledge of the self and knowledge of the folk

  42. Anthropological Themes • Dialect • A folklorist who accurately reported local dialects • “Common folk” • Wrote of poor and uneducated • Religion • Fascinated by centrality of religion to poor African Americans • Feminism

  43. An Idealist? “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”