The Harlem Renaissance. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlPaSgnjuOI&feature=related. What is it?.
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The Harlem Renaissance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlPaSgnjuOI&feature=related
What is it? The Harlem Renaissance is the name given to the period from the end of World War I (1919) to the middle of the 1930s Depression, during which time a group of talented African-American artists, musicians, writers, and thinkers produced a sizable contribution to American culture, expressing themselves through: • Intellectual Dialogue • Literary and Artistic Creation • Blues and Jazz • Dance and Musical Theater
Where is Harlem? The Island of Manhattan Neighborhoods New York City is on Manhattan Island
Where was the HR centered? • Centered in the Harlem district of New York City, the New Negro Movement (as it was called at the time) had a major influence across the Unites States and even the world.
What was the district like? Harlem is vicious Modernism. BangClash. Vicious the way it's made, Can you stand such beauty. So violent and transforming. - Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones)
What did the HR include? Racial Consciousness The “Back to Africa” Movement Racial Integration Music - esp. Jazz, Ragtime, Spirituals, and Blues Painting and Sculpture Dancing Dramatic Revues Novels, Plays, and Poetry
How does the Harlem Renaissance connect to the Great Migration? • The economic opportunities of the era, especially those brought on by World War I, triggered a widespread migration of Black Americans from the rural south to the industrial centers of the north - and especially to New York City. • In New York and other cities, black Americans explored new opportunities for intellectual and social freedom. • Black American artists, writers, and musicians began to use their talents to work for civil rights and obtain equality.
As described by Intellectual Alain Locke: • “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.” • “Here in Manhattan is not merely the largest Negro community in the world, but the first concentration in history of so many diverse elements of Negro life …. In Harlem, life is seizing upon its first chances for group expression and self- determination. It is – or promises to be – a race capital.”
“I had an overwhelming desire to see Harlem. More than Paris, or the Shakespeare country, or Berlin, or the Alps, I wanted to see Harlem, the greatest Negro city in the world.” - Langston Hughes, The Big Sea
How did it impact history? • Helped to redefine how Americans and the world understood African American culture • Encouraged a new appreciation of folk roots and African culture • Integrated black and white cultures • Marked the beginning of a black urban society • Set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s
What were some common themes? • Alienation • Marginality • Use of folk material • Use of the blues tradition • Problems of writing/creating artwork for an elite audience (ie. white patrons)
Who do we associate with the Harlem Renaissance? • Intellectuals such as W.E.B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, and Alain Locke • Artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Palmer Hayden, Hale Woodruff, and Aaron Douglas • Authors such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen • Musicians such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Bessie Smith • Dancers such as Bill “Bojangles” Robinson
The Notion of “Twoness” The notion of "twoness," a divided awareness of one's identity, was introduced by W.E.B. Du Bois, 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 twoness - 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."
Alain Locke in 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.”
The HR gave birth the many important publications, such as The Crisis magazine, edited by W. E. B. DuBois, giving black writers a forum where their voices could be heard.
The Crisis sought to use art and literature to help build a new image for Negroes … “All art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shameless-ness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy.” - W.E.B. Du Bois, from “Criteria of Negro Art”
Langston Hughes Claude McKay James Weldon Johnson Countee Cullen Jean Toomer Zora Neale Hurston James Baldwin Writers of the Harlem Renaissance
Langston Hughes • Hughes is known for his insightful, colorful, realistic portrayals of black life in America. • He wrote poetry, short stories, novels, and plays, and is known for his involvement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing. • He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.
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) • One of Hughes's poetic innovations was to draw on the rhythms of black musical traditions such as jazz and blues, but “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” recalls the heritage of Negro spirituals in the poem's majestic imagery and sonorous repetitions. • Written when Hughes was only twenty as he traveled by train across the Mississippi, the poem 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.” • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V425SdNWIJU
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) “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 powerful in its expression of social injustice. The calm clear statements of the 'I' have an unstoppable force like the progress the poem envisages. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CUKyVrhPgM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuRQDrySOVQ
Crossby Langston Hughes 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?
Harlemby Langston Hughes What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?
Justiceby Langston Hughes That justice is a blind goddess Is a thing to which we black are wise. Her bandages hide festering sores That once perhaps were eyes.
Dreamsby Langston Hughes Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.
The Weary Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdmp5lnj2WQ
James Weldon Johnson • Author • Diplomat & Politician • Journalist & Critic • Poet & Songwriter • Anthologist • Educator • Lawyer & Early Civil Rights Leader
Lift Every Voice and Sing(aka. Negro national anthem, first performed in 1900)by James Weldon Johnson “Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring; Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise High as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us; Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us, Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on till victory is won.”
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.”
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.
The Lynchingby Claude McKay (1890-1948) HIS spirit is smoke ascended to high heaven. His father, by the cruelest way of pain, Had bidden him to his bosom once again; The awful sin remained still unforgiven. All night a bright and solitary star (Perchance the one that ever guided him, Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim) Hugh pitifully o'er the swinging char. Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view The ghastly body swaying in the sun: The women thronged to look, but never a one Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue; And little lads, lynchers that were to be, Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.
Countee Cullen The Incident Once riding in old Baltimore, Heart-filled, head-filled with glee, I saw a Baltimorean Keep looking straight at me. Now I was eight and very small, And he was no whit bigger, And so I smiled, but he poked out His tongue, and called me, 'Nigger.’ I saw the whole of Baltimore From May until December; Of all the things that happened there That's all that I remember.
Yet Do I Marvel I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind And did He stoop to quibble could tell why The little buried mole continues blind, Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die, Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus To struggle up a never-ending stair. Inscrutable His ways are, and immune To catechism by a mind too strewn With petty cares to slightly understand What awful brain compels His awful hand. Yet do I marvel at this curious thing: To make a poet black, and bid him sing!
Simon the Cyrenian Speaks He never spoke a word to me, And yet He called my name; He never gave a sign to me, And yet I knew and came. At first I said, "I will not bear His cross upon my back; He only seeks to place it there Because my skin is black." But He was dying for a dream, And He was very meek, And in His eyes there shone a gleam Men journey far to seek. It was Himself my pity bought; I did for Christ alone What all of Rome could not have wrought With bruise of lash or stone.
James Baldwin • Novelist • Essayist • Playwright • Poet • Social Critic
Artists of the Harlem Renaissance • Jacob Lawrence • Aaron Douglas • Palmer Hayden • Hale Woodruff • Edward Burra • John Henry Adams • Lois Mailou Jones
Jacob Lawrence • Lawrence grew up in a settlement house in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. • His life in Harlem, as well as the struggle of other Black Americans, inspired his earliest work. • Lawrence's parents were among those who migrated between 1916-1919, considered the first wave of the Great Migration.
Lawrence’s Work • Jacob Lawrence painted his Great Migration series during the 1940s to capture the experience of African Americans during the 1920s http://www.columbia.edu/itc/history/odonnell/w1010/edit/migration/migration.html
Palmer Hayden • One of the premiere artists of the African American folk experience, as well as ordinary aspects of twentieth-century black life • Helped pioneer candid representations of everyday existences in American modern art • Incorporated African American folkloric themes and images, which was initially more widely debated than celebrated for its novelty • Characterizing his work as black primitivism, his critics denounced Hayden for his use of minstrel-like forms, which they felt played to racist stereotypes of black people.