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The Harlem Renaissance and the Beat Generation
Transcript of The Harlem Renaissance and the Beat Generation
The Beat Generation
The Great Migration (1919-1926)
After WWI, African-Americans in the South migrated to cities in the North; New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C., they were looking for work and a better way of life.
“I’d rather be a lamppost in Harlem than Governor of Georgia,” went a popular folk saying.
“Harlem… isn’t typical- but it is significant, it is prophetic” -Alain Locke (one of the movements godfathers)
“I was in love with Harlem
long before I got there.”
Wallace Thurman (1902-1934)
-Editor of "The Messenger" a socialist journal targeting the black community
-He published Hughes
“Being a Negro writer these days is a racket and I'm going to make the most of it while it lasts. About twice a year I sell a story. It is acclaimed. I am a genius in the making. Thank God for this Negro literary renaissance. Long may it flourish!”
- Wallace Thurman
"black Mecca" was a two-mile section of northern Manhattan in 1928 the neighborhood claimed 200,000 black residents
-Originally referred to as the
“New Negro Movement”
- A fine arts movement that deliberately and self-consciously celebrated and embraced African-American identity
-Harlem was the heart of the movement, but it affected artists all over the country
Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)
- wrote 4
as well as
-When Hurston arrived in New York City in 1925, the Harlem Renaissance was at its peak, and she soon became one of the writers at its center
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, which we will read this year
- Mostly posthumous recognition
-The Harlem Renaissance was not limited to literature, in encompassed the worlds of music, dance, and visual art
-Composer, pianist, and band leader of jazz orchestras in the mid 1900s.
-Famous in his own time
-He was featured in film, on the radio, and toured Europe multiple times
-His sense of "musical drama" set him apart
- Most popular songs included "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing," "Sophisticated Lady," "Prelude to a Kiss," "Solitude," and "Satin Doll."
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Named for their "beaten down" outlook
Channeled adverse and polarized political atmosphere through art
Centered in New York and San Francisco
Influenced by Eastern philosophy and Buddhism
Emphasized radical individuality and experimentation
Believed they had an objective, untainted view of politics and culture
Rejected conformity and materialism
Saw capitalism as "destructive of the human spirit"
Defied literary norms
the worlds of
and visual art
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)
"Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now—
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
Primary figure of the Beat Generation
Considered the intellectual face of the movement
Operated in New York City
Opposed militarism, economic materialism, and discrimination
Participated in nonviolent protests (Vietnam War, War on Drugs, etc)
Definitive work was "Howl and Other Poems" (1956)
Ginsberg's "Howl" (1956)
Style and Outlook
“The most popular and versatile
of the many writers of the
Harlem Renaissance. He tried to
capture the oral traditions of
black culture in written form.”
Considered exemplary work of the Beat Movement
Draws from experiences with New York's community of artists, poets, musicians, political radicals , drug users, and psychiatric patients
Conveyed gloomy yet beautiful atmosphere
Openly discussed taboo subjects like drug use and homosexuality
Criticizes state of industrial civilization
Addressed in part to a friend whom he'd met at a mental institution
-“Father of Black Art”
-Had a more traditional style of painting, including portraits and landscapes but he also had more abstract work
-Most famous works have geometric shapes and abstract lines
-Combined ancient African images with black and white contemporary designs
-Inspired other black artists
William Burroughs (1914-1997)
Primary figure in the Beat Generation
Addicted to hard drugs for most of his life
Befriended Allen Ginsberg
Had an adventurous demeanor, constantly traveling
Accidentally killed his wife while drunk
Famous works included "Junkie: Confessions of an Unredeemed Drug Addict," (1953) and "Naked Lunch," (1959)
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)
Gathered at bars in college neighborhoods
Primary figure in the Beat Generation
Primarily wrote autobiographical novels, his experiences, and those whom he reacted with
“On the Road” (1951)
Many of his works were not published until after his death
The Beat Generation and Music
Music had a taken a commercial turn, with digestible pop songs
Influenced rock and roll and popular music, including the Beatles (especially John Lennon), Bob Dylan, and The Doors (especially Jim Morrison)
Paul McCartney played guitar on Ginsberg's album "Ballad of the Skeletons"
Ginsberg toured with Bob Dylan
"I suppose if Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, The Doors would never have existed." -Ray Manzarek
Reemerged among artists in 1980s
“A Brief Guide to the Beat Poets” www.poets.org. Academy of American Poets. Web. 1 October 2013. <http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5646>
Baym, Nina. “Since 1945.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2012. Web. 1 October 2013. <http://wwnorton.com/college/english/naal8/section/volE/overview.aspx>
“Howl” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Web. 7 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howl>
“William S. Burroughs” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Web. 7 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_S._Burroughs>
“Allen Ginsberg” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Web 7 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allen_Ginsberg>
“Jack Kerouac” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., Web 7 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac>
Tom Palumbo,”Kerouac.” Photograph. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., Web. 7 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kerouac_by_Palumbo.jpg>
Larry Sloman, “Allen Ginsberg.” Photograph. Allen Ginsberg. Allan Ginsberg Project., Web. 7 Oct 2013. <http://www.allenginsberg.org/index.php?page=politics-of-heroin >
“William Burroughs” Photograph. Flavorwire. Flavorpill Productions, LLC., Web 7 Oct 2013. <http://flavorwire.com/148558/97-things-you-didnt-know-about-william-s-burroughs/>
“1950s in Music” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., Web 7 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1950s_in_music#The_U.S.>
The Bigger Picture
Response to tension after WWII and through the Cold War
Influenced outlook of counterculture movements (hippie, punk, grunge)
Influenced music in the 1960s and 1980s
"Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion"
"Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private"
"Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered."