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Harlem Renaissance

This version was saved 10 years, 3 months ago View current version     Page history
Saved by kevin heard
on July 13, 2011 at 1:48:40 am
 

 

 

 

 

 Harlem Renaissance

 

 

    

 

  • Overview

Langston Hughes was a prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance -- a movement during the 1920s of black writers and intellectuals who engaged in intense debate regarding the place of the African American in American life, and on the role and identity of the African-American artist. Pictured here are Langston Hughes [far left] with [left to right:] Charles S. Johnson, E. Franklin Frazier, Rudolph Fisher and Hubert T. Delaney, on a Harlem rooftop on the occasion of a party in Hughes' honor, 1924.

 

One characteristic of the Harlem Renaissance was a move toward so-called "high art" in black writing, rather than the use of folk idioms, comic writing, and vernacular that had often been considered the special realm of African-American writing up to that time. In some respects this shift mirrors the change from rural to urban life for many blacks in this period. However, several of the Harlem writers made powerful use of folk idioms such as the blues, particularly Langston Hughes (1902-67). The Harlem writers also engaged in an intense debate regarding the place of the African American in American life, and on the role and identity of the African-American artist. In this sense the Harlem Renaissance is by no means a monolithic movement with a single purpose. For example, the artistic differences between Hughes and the poet Countee Cullen (1903-46) are instructive. Cullen believed that an African-American poet should be free to write in mainstream established traditions, and need not racialize poetry. "I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet," he said, and wrote in forms such as the sonnet and became a translator of Euripides. Hughes, on the other hand, saw this attitude as a betrayal of racial identity, an aping of white European-ness, and sought in his work to accept and explore his blackness using forms and idioms that he associated with it. Both are major poets but their differences point to the relative breadth of the movement and to the development of quite different kinds of African-American writing in the Harlem Renaissance.

 

Prominent Harlem Renaissance writers include James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961), the Jamaican-born Claude McKay (1889-1948), Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen (1893-1964), Jean Toomer (1894-1967), Arna Bontemps (1902-73), Gwendolyn Bennett (1902-81), and Helene Johnson (1907-95). In addition to the NEW NEGRO anthology, key works produced during the period of the renaissance or during its influence include Toomer's multigeneric CANE (1923), Hughes' WEARY'S BLUES (1926), Larsen's QUICKSAND (1928) and PASSING (1929), and Hurston's THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (1937).

 

  • Brief Summary of Movement

 

When African-Americans settled in Harlem, they brought their hopes and dreams. They also brought their history, their culture, and their talents. Soon, the neighborhood was bursting with creative energy. African-Americans were creating a new identity. Their new home gave them a chance to express themselves and to show their talents. This time period became known as the Harlem Renaissance. Renaissance means "new birth." And that's exactly what was happening in Harlem. Music and writing was the took over Harlem.  The world took notice of what was happening in Harlem. The Harlem Renaissance allowed many African Americans to experience these new works. White society first became aware of African-American writers and artists during this period and began to show appreciation for their work. Many people were introduced to African-American culture for the first time. People all over the country were enjoying African- American literature, were moved by their art, and listened to their music. The Harlem Renaissance gave a powerful voice to African-American people everywhere.

 

  • Main Characters

Langston Hughes was the most famous poet of the time. His poems focused on the lives of working class African Americans. Other prominent Harlem Renaissance writers include James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961), the Jamaican-born Claude McKay (1889-1948), Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen (1893-1964), Jean Toomer (1894-1967), Arna Bontemps (1902-73), Gwendolyn Bennett (1902-81), and Helene Johnson (1907-95). In addition to the NEW NEGRO anthology, key works produced during the period of the renaissance or during its influence include Toomer's multigeneric CANE (1923), Hughes' WEARY'S BLUES (1926), Larsen's QUICKSAND (1928) and PASSING (1929), and Hurston's THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD (1937).

 

Harlem was reborn in many ways. Jazz and blues composers like Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington created lyrics and beats that reflected the excitement of the time. Actresses like Josephine Baker performed at the famous Apollo Theatre. Dancers like Billy "Bojangles" Robinson tapped down Broadway. Singers like Billie Holiday sang the blues. Musicians like Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie played their trumpets. The Harlem Renaissance was also a literary movement. Several famous writers told stories in the voices of ordinary African-Americans. Zora Neal Hurston, one of the most famous writers, wrote about black culture and the attitudes of her people. And W.E.B. DuBois
wrote about the tense relationship between blacks and whites. All of them spoke out against racism. They wrote about their dreams for racial equality.

 

                                                                                

Duke Ellington & Louis Armstrong                             Billie Holiday                                                  Dizzy Gillespie                                             W.E.B. Dubois

 

 

  • Style

Writers during the Harlem Renaissance developed a single consistent style of writing, focused on African-American experiences, wrote about white society and how it needed to change, and used a style most popular in the,early 1800s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Works Cited

Ryan, Maureen. "THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE." Scholastic Action 28.9 (2005): 14. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 12 July 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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