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The Harlem Renaissance: a New Beginning of African American Culture

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With the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments established in America, African American rights became much, and they had many more freedoms. Even with these things in place the confidence, passion, and acceptance of African Americans still continued to lack. On the break of change in the nineteen twenties, it was time to celebrate the victory and culture of African Americans; no doubt, the Harlem Renaissance was a rebirth and new beginning of African American Culture for life in America forever.

Back in the 1890’s things began to change with the Great Migration. After World War I had ended, industrialism in cities was becoming more prominent in the United States. With more workers needed in factories employers turned to African Americans to fill the positions. Newspaper advertisements were put out and African Americans began migrating from the southern states. Housing was very hard to come by and many people were still against African Americans and believed that America should stay segregated. It was especially hard for females to obtain jobs. As a result, there was extreme competition for females in the American workforce. Because housing was difficult to come by, African Americans began building their own cities within larger cities. This includes places like Harlem in New York City.

The experience of the migration that all African Americans shared made some speak out in ways you might not imagine. The Harlem Renaissance was all about art, writing, poetry, and music. This is how African Americans told their stories and how they embraced their culture. Claude McKay and Jean Toomer were two of the first breakthroughs in the Harlem Renaissance poetry category. McKay’s collection of “Harlem Shadows” and Jean Toomer’s, “Cane” started the movement in expressing African American culture. Later in 1924, Jessie Redmon Fauset’s novel “There Is Confusion”, showed the struggle African Americans faced while trying to find their place in the mainly white city of Manhattan. This very successful novel gave great opportunities to other African American writers. It empowered them to share their stories and as a result they were recognized by many well-known magazines. Langston Hughes is one of the most well-known writers in this time period. His famous poem “I, Too”, gave a look into the future, he hoped that one day segregation would not limit him to fulfilling his own version of life and the American dream. This was the first time readers would ever see an African Americans work published on this scale. Writers like these truly opened the door for the rest of African American people.

The music roaring out of Harlem was mainly jazz. Jazz was often played in speakeasies and became a great outlet for people to come together with African Americans playing jazz at high end restaurants filled with rich upper class white people. Many American music sensations came from this time period including Louis Armstrong. Louis changed jazz music forever and was quite possibly the greatest trumpet player of all time. His charismatic spirit and impeccable talent was loved by many. No doubt, he played a main role in the rebirth of the outstanding African American culture. The booming music in Harlem led to quite a lively nightlife. This created the Savoy, an integrated ballroom where black and white people could come together and jive. One of the most famous was the Cotton Club where the famous and talented musician Duke Ellington played frequently.

Before the Harlem Renaissance it was challenging and sometimes even impossible for African Americans to get a stage working job. Paul Robeson was one of the first African American men that would appear regularly both on stage and television. He thought that the arts were a good path for African Americans to walk. This led to blacks being more accepted in the predominantly white culture surrounding them.

Visual arts was never a very opening profession for African Americans because art schools often rejected them just because of the color of their skin. Aaron Douglas was one of the most famous artists in this time period. He took African techniques and applied them to his work in America which was something our country had never seen. He was called the “Father of Black American Art”.

At the beginning of the Great Depression in America our economy was failing and it was a very low time in our country’s history. People had to focus on providing for their families and finding/keeping work. You could say that this marked the end of the Harlem Renaissance, but the lives of every African American in America was forever changed. Not only the art, music, and poetry but the acceptance and overall experience for African Americans would be changed for the better. The Harlem Renaissance changed our country and we would not be the nation we are today without this period of breakthrough and rebirth of culture for African American people. This time period truly shows just how important and relevant the Harlem Renaissance will always be in American history and how it shaped our worldviews today.

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