The Harlem Renaissance 1919-1929
Alain Locke from “Harlem” published in Survey Graphic: • “If we were to offer a symbol of what Harlem has come to mean in the short span of twenty years it would be another statue of liberty on the landward side of New York. It stands for a folk-movement which in human significance can be compared only with the pushing back of the western frontier in the first half of the last century, or the waves of immigration which have swept in from overseas in the last half. Numerically far smaller than either of these movements, the volume of migration is such none the less that Harlem has become the greatest Negro community the world has known--without counterpart in the South or in Africa. But beyond this, Harlem represents the Negro's latest thrust towards Democracy”
The Harlem Renaissance was a flowering of African American social thought which was expressed through • Paintings • Music • Dance • Theater • Literature
Some Background: THEMES • Significant Themes: • Twoness • Urban Pluralism • Race Capital • Race Consciousness • Black Nationalism
Harlem Renaissance and the Great Migration • Starting in the early 20th century, African Americans left the South in large numbers and tried to find work and freedom in the North. WWI provided tons of industrial work, and over 400,000 African Americans migrated from the South to Northern cities between 1916-1918 alone. • The first Great Migration lasted until 1930, and resulted in a major shift in where African Americans lived in the United States. (The 2nd great migration happened during WWII…)
Jacob Lawrence’s Work • Jacob Lawrence painted his Great Migration series during the 1940s to capture the experience of African Americans during the 1920s
The Making of Harlem by James Weldon Johnson • To my mind, Harlem is more than a Negro community; it is a large scale laboratory experiment in the race problem. The statement has often been made that if Negroes were transported to the North in large numbers the race problem with all of its acuteness and with New aspects would be transferred with them. Well, 175,000 Negroes live closely together in Harlem, in the heart of New York, 75,000 more than live in any Southern city, and do so without any race friction. Nor is there any unusual record of crime.
Chicago Race Riots of 1919 • Watch the clip from “Up South” • Questions: • Why did many African Americans leave the South and move North? • What was it like in the North for African Americans? • Why did racial tensions rise right after WWI?
Documents A & B • Read aloud…and fill out the graphic organizer in pairs. • Discussion: • On what points do the accounts agree? Disagree? Which account do you find more reliable? Why? • Do students believe that one boy’s death could start a massive riot? Why or why not? • What other conditions were probably in place that created a climate for a riot?
Documents C, D & E • Read in a group of three…and fill out page 2 of the graphic organizer • Discussion: • According to the documents, what caused the Chicago Race Riots of 1919? • Do you think one of these causes (i.e., housing, jobs, or the “New Negro”) led to the violence more than the other causes? Why? • Why do you think there were 20 riots across the nation that summer?
Claude McKay 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.
Langston Hughes Cross My old man’s a white old man And my old mother’s black. If ever I cursed my white old man I take my curses back. If ever I cursed my black old mother And wished she were in hell, I’m sorry for that evil wish And now I wish her well My old man died in a fine big house. My ma died in a shack. I wonder where I’m going to die, Being neither white nor black?
The Negro Speaks of Rivers • I've known rivers: • I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the • flow of human blood in human veins. • My soul has grown deep like the rivers. • I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young. • I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep. • I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. • I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln • went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy • bosom turn all golden in the sunset. • I've known rivers: • Ancient, dusky rivers. • My soul has grown deep like the rivers. (1919) Listen to Langston Hughes read his poem One of Hughes's poetic innovations was to draw on the rhythms of black musical traditions such as jazz and blues, but in 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers' it's the heritage of Negro spirituals which is recalled by the poem's majestic imagery and sonorous repetitions. Written when Hughes was only seventeen as he traveled by train across the Mississippi, 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers' is a beautiful statement of strength in the history of black people, which Hughes imagines stretching as far back as ancient Egypt and further into Africa and the cradle of civilization. The poem returns at the end to America in a moment of optimistic alchemy when he sees the "muddy bosom" of the Mississippi "turn all golden in the sunset". From PoetryArchive.org • What is the tone or mood of this poem? • Why do you think the poem was written and for what audience? • List two things in this poem that tell you about life in the United States at the time.
I, too, sing America I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen When company comes, But I laugh, And eat well, And grow strong. Tomorrow, I'll be at the table When company comes. Nobody'll dare Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen,“ Then. Besides, They'll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed-- I, too, am America. (1920s) Lister to Langston Hughes read his poem 'I, Too' written just before Hughes’ return to the States from Europe and after he'd been denied passage on a ship because of his color, has a contemporary feel in contrast to the mythical dimension of 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers'. It is no less powerful however, in its expression of social injustice. The calm clear statements of the 'I' have an unstoppable force like the progress the poem envisages. Hughes's dignified introductions to these poems and his beautiful speaking voice render them all the more moving. From PoetryArchive.org • What is the tone or mood of this poem? • Why do you think the poem was written and for what audience? • List two things in this poem that tell you about life in the United States at the time.
Music of the HR Bessie Smith Duke Ellington Louis Armstrong Cab Calloway
The Jazz Age “Jazz music is idiosyncratic by nature where the performer creates the rhythm. There is truly no incorrect way to play Jazz. J.A. Roger wrote, " Jazz isn't just music, but also a spirit that can express itself in almost everything," It was in many ways a revolt against constraints because it was so joyous. Typically instrumented by piano, string bass, and drums, jazz began to take charge of the new era of music. “ -- Kwa King, “The Jazz Age”
1927 musical film. 1st full length feature motion picture, using synchronized dialogue. “Talkies” film. “The Jazz Singer”
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.
“Take The A Train” Billy Strayhorn for the Duke Ellington Orchestra You must take the A trainTo go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem If you miss the A trainYou'll find you missed the quickest way to Harlem Hurry, get on, now it's comingListen to those rails a-humming All aboard, get on the A trainSoon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s
“Take The A Train” Billy Strayhorn for the Duke Ellington Orchestra You must take the A trainTo go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem If you miss the A trainYou'll find you missed the quickest way to Harlem Hurry, get on, now it's comingListen to those rails a-humming All aboard, get on the A trainSoon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem • What is the tone or mood of this recording? • Why do you think the original recording was made and for what audience? • List two things in this sound recording that tell you about life in the United States at the time. • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ_4cRG8B1g (Ella version)
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.
This sculpture byMeta 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
Tanner wanted to show a positive image of the African-American by highlighting the sense of dignity as 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
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
Gwathmeywas raised in Virginia, but it was not until his return to the South after years of art schooling in New York that he began to empathize with the African-American experience. He commented,“If I had never gone back home, perhaps I would never have painted the Negro.” Robert Gwathmey 1903-1988 Custodian, 1963
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
Edward Burra, 1934 Hale Woodruff
Study the painting by Lois Jones. Form an overall impression of the painting, then start to focus on individual details. Questions to think about: • What images do you see? • What colors do you see? • What actions/activities do you see? • Consider the scale of the images. What can you tell about the intended narrative of the piece? • What questions does this painting raise in your mind? • What story does this painting tell about the Harlem Renaissance? “Ascent from Ethiopia”, Lois Mailou Jones. 1932
The HR. gave birth the many important publications, such as Crisis magazine, edited by W. E. B. DuBois, giving black writers a forum where their voices could be heard.
W.E.B. DuBois • First African American to receive a Ph.D. (1895 in History) • First great scholar of black life in America • Published papers on black farmers, businessmen, black communities • Hoped social science could help eliminate segregation • Concluded only effective strategy against racism was agitation • Challenged dominant ideology of black accommodation (Booker T. Washington urged blacks to accept discrimination and elevate themselves through hard work and economic gain to win the respect of whites) • 1903 – The Souls of Black Folk – says Washington’s strategy kept blacks down rather than freed them. • “Education must not simply teach work – it must teach life” • 1905 – founded Niagara Movement – advocating civil rights for blacks – forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 – Served as editor of it’s magazine “The Crisis” • Emphasized the necessity for higher education in order to develop the leadership capacity among the most able 10 percent of black Americans, whom he dubbed "The Talented Tenth.”
Alain Locke from “The New Negro”: “So for generations in the mind of America, the Negro has been more of a formula than a human being --a something to be argued about, condemned or defended, to be "kept down," or "in his place," or "helped up," to be worried with or worried over, harassed or patronized, a social bogey or a social burden. The thinking Negro even has been induced to share this same general attitude, to focus his attention on controversial issues, to see himself in the distorted perspective of a social problem. His shadow, so to speak, has been more real to him than his personality “
Leader of African Americans in 1920s. “Struggle for Black Identity” United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) Back to Africa movement: hoped to take blacks back to Africa & return with imports/products to trade with in the US markets. His leadership resulted in a growing spirit of race consciousness and race pride Marcus Garvey: Culture in Conflict
Historical Impact • The Harlem Renaissance helped to redefine how Americans and the world understood African American culture. • It integrated black and white cultures, and marked the beginning of a black urban society. • The Harlem Renaissance set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.