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Harlem Renaissance (1900-1930)

Flowering of A-A arts and culture

Fernando Arroyos

on 18 July 2011

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Transcript of Harlem Renaissance (1900-1930)

Harlem Renaissance At the end of the Civil War African Americans wanted a higher living standard equal to the whites. During the 1920's and 1930's there was a rise in African American identity through the arts. Artists, writers, poets, actors, musicians, and scholars came together and helped create the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance centered on the idea that black artists should not have to follow the canon of western art, literature, and music, but could establish thier own aesthetic, interpreting the world around them in a uniquley African American way. aesthetic: pertaining to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality. During the time artists and scholars, among them W.E.B. DuBois, Alaine Locke, and Carter G. Woodson, wanted a more visible voice in the African American community. How did The Harlem Renaissance Begin? The Great Migration Harlem orginally was designed for white workers who wanted to commute into the city. However, housing grew more rapidly than the transportation necessary to bring residents into the downtown area. The once exclusive district was abandoned by the white middle-class. White Harlem landlords started selling their properties to black real estate agents such as Philip A. Payton, John E. Nail, and Henry C. Parker. They also began renting directly to black tenants. The Black Mecca Between 1900 and 1920 the number of blacks in Harlem doubled. By the time the planned subway system and roadways reached Harlem, many of the country's best and brightest black advocates, artists, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals had situated themselves in Harlem. They brought with them businesses necessary to support themselves, and a vast array of talents and ambitions. The area soon became known as “the Black Mecca” and “the capital of black America.” Politics and Activisim At the forefront of the civil rights movement at this time was W. E. B. Du Bois. In January 1906, Dubois and 29 other men from fourteen states met across the Canadian border from Buffalo, New York . There, they formed a society whose objectives were to bring about civil justice, abolish discrimination, and win universal suffrage for all American males, regardless of race or class. They called their organization the Niagra Movement. In 1909, all of the members of the Niagra Movement joined with white activist who were also outraged by America's treatement of it's black citizens and formed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). DuBois brought out the first issue of the NAACP's monthly magazine, the Crisis, on November 1, 1910 The Crisis's first editorial spelled this out:
[The NAACP] stand[s] for rights of men, irrespective of color or race, for the reasonable but earnest and persistent attempts to gain these rights and relaize their ideals . The mission of the NAACP was to work together with people from both sides of the race line to ensure that every citizen claimed equal rights. 1865-1950 With the Crisis, Dubois showed not only the injustice of America but also the beauty and achievements of African-Americans. DuBois believed that education could end discrimination. He felt that the educated black elite, the "talented tenth" as he called them, could lead America to equality for all people. The talented tenth implied that within society, 10 percent of the population is gifted with above-average intelligence, creativity, and the means for obtaining success. According to Du Bois, the responsibiltiy of this 10 percent involves educating and encouraging the other 90 percent to rise up to higher level . "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." Unfortunatley, the Niagra Movement failed to attract mass support. The Niagra Movement also paved the way for the founding of another major civil rights group, the National Urban League (NUL), in 1910. Artisitc Outlets At this same time, the Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey began the “Back to Africa movement.” Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL) which advocated for people of African descent to live in Africa under one ruling government. The UNIA wanted black people to be proud and be economically stable. Garvey embraced the idea of racial separism. He told the thousands of blacks who crowded into Harlem's Liberty Hall for his weekly speeches that he intended to build a new nation-state in Africa populated with black American immigrants. By 1920 Garvey owned a weekly newspaper, The Negro World, and had launched the black star line, a steamship venture in which only black investor were permitted to own stock. The literature and art created during the Harlem Renaissance reflected Garvey's beliefs in ethnic pride and the common brothehood of black people. Garvey started a "Back to Africa" movement. The UNIA planned to raise money to buy a ship and take Afircan Americans to Africa to live. The UNIA wore uniforms and staged parades to help popularize their ideas . Garvey supported self-rule for all of Africa; he promised Africans that he woudl help them overthrow the colonial goverments that ruled their lands. Garvey established a total of thirty UNIA branches across the United States, and within nine years after his arrival in Harlem had built the largest black mass movement in the nation's history. 1900-1930 Du Bois fought many political battles; Du Bois took the problems of African Americans to an international level. He organized the Pan-African Congresses of 1900, 1919, 1921, and 1923. These conferences brought together leaders from Africa, America, and the Carribean and adressed common issues facing people of African descent. Du Bois wanted whites and blacks all over the world to understand the full scope of racism so people would stand up and fight against it. The Urban League, an interracial organization, was formed to to help the recent arrivals in northern cities Only 1,000 copies of the first issue of the crisis were printed. By 1918, the Crisis would be publishing more than 100,000 copies of each issue and woud become one of the most influential black publications in the nation. The official magazine of the NAACP, the Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races began publication in 1910 and became, under the editiorship of Du Bois, one of the premier journals of the Harlem Renaissance. The mission of the Crisis was to generate among its readers intellectual discussions on race and to serve as a defintie voice for the black community. The Crisis reported on the lynchings that went on during the time, praised black achievment, and encourged creativity. In the Crisis you would find social essays, conference reports, visual art, photographs, news on black colleges, books, theater reviews, poetry and fiction. In 1923, the first issue of Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life was published by the Urban League Edited by Charles S. Johnson, Opportunity included fiction and poetry as well the political aims of the Urban League. The Opportunity sponsored literary contests though which many African Americans started their literary careers. The dinner was held to celebrate the publication of a novel called There is Confusion by Jessie Fauset. Many influential white editors, writers, and plublishers were invited to attend and meet some of the best new artists from Harlem. One of those invited was Paul Kellogg, a white editor of the prestigous magazine Survey. In 1925, Kellogg invited Alain locke to edit a special issue of Survey that would be devoted to Harlem. The special issue of Survey was a success; in the next issues of Survey editors ran a long series of testimonials from those who were imrpessed with the cultural strides African Amricans had recently been making. The Artists and Writers of the Harlem Renaissance . In 1921 Langston Hughes' poem 'The Negro Speaks of Rivers' was published in The Crisis magazine. The NAACP advocated for civil rights, equal education, and employment In 1924, the Crisis magazine organized the first Civic Club dinner Hughes is known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is associated with the Harlem Renaisance. The Magazines of the NAACP (crisis) and the NUL (opportunity) were the primary artistic outlets for emerging writers such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Walter F. White, and Zora Neale Hurston, as well as better known black writers such as DuBois and James Weldon Johnson. The success of Survey Graphic issue led Alaine Locke to publish an extended version of it in a book called The New Negro: An Interpretation. ws They began to head to the Northern United States by the millions, where racism was considered much less brutal than in the South. The North granted all men with the right to vote; provided better educational advancement for African-Americans and their children; and offered greater job opportunities as a result of World War I and the industrial revolution. This movement became known as the Great Migration. Jazz Age Unlike other notable black poets of the period—Claude McKay and Countee Cullen—Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. 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. An example of his work is Montage of a Dream Deferred, a book-length poem published by Langston Hughes in 1951. Its jazz poetry style focuses on descriptions of Harlem and the African American living there. "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!

From Color by Countee Cullen. Copyright © 1925 Harper & Bros., renewed 1963 by Ida. M Cullen. Cullen was a leading writer of the Harlem Renaissance. Cullen was conventional and insisted that poetry in general should be free of racial and political matters. But in his finest poem, "Heritage," he shows his relationship to Africa. Alain Locke familiarized white Americans with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, while encouraging African American authors to set high artistic standards in their depiction of life. As a professor of philosophy, he expounded his theory of "cultural pluralism" that valued the uniqueness of different styles and values available within a democratic society. Alain Locke put forth the theory of "cultural pluralism," which values the uniqueness of different styles and values available within a democratic society... In other words, minority groups should participate in society but still maintain their culture differences. As jazz hit the mainstream people started referring to the 20s, along with its new dance styles and fashions, as “The Jazz Age.” At the end of WWI came an end to wartime and conservation. Americans experienced an economic boom, as well as a change in social conditions. The time became known as “The Roaring 20s” for its dynamic changes, the decade became known for its celebration of excess and its rejection of wartime ideologies. Around this same time, Congress ratified the Prohibition Act.

Liquor-serving nightclubs, called “speakeasies” developed during this time as a way to allow Americans to socialize, indulge in alcohol consumption, and rebel against the traditional culture. One of the best speakeasies in Harlem was the Cotton Club, a place that intended to have the look and feel of a luxurious Southern plantation. Only African-American entertainers could perform there, while only white clientele were allowed to patronize the establishment. Some of the most famous jazz performers of the time - including singer Lena Horne, composer and musician Duke Ellington, and singer Cab Calloway - graced the Cotton Club stage. SOCIAL IMPACT Attending clubs in Harlem allowed whites from New York and its surrounding areas to socialize with blacks. The Jazz musicians that performed in these clubs, exposed white clients to what was typically an African-American form of musical entertainment. The End of the Renaissance The Harlem Renaissance cmae to to the end with the great depression. The African-American community was hit with layoffs and house foreclosures, leading to a shift from the arts to financial stability. In addition, the Harlem riots of 1935 affected the relation between the black community and white shop owners Although the renaissance was over the the political movements and cultural changes will live for ever in America.
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