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The Harlem Renaissance and Its Role in African American Culture

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During the early 20th century, a blossoming time for African American culture began, displaying in literature, music, art, and theater. After enduring so much pain and suffering from slavery, and the never-ending struggle to terminate it, the end had brought such a promising and sweet reward. Despite the racism many dealt with still, they were able to overlook it and explode in their cultural pride.

The Harlem Renaissance became known as the “New Negro Movement” and began do to the Great Migration. Living in the South blacks were constantly being faced with racism especially when Jim Crow Laws came into play. With the hope for a better life, many African Americans packed up their stuff and headed North. Unfortunately, the North was not very welcoming either. While the government of the northern states did not prevent African Americans from migrating to the North, many Northers were angry that they were. Taking full advantage at the new industrial jobs offered, African Americans began to make a new life for themselves. Creating a black urban culture by calling out racial prejudice, as well as political, social, and economic challenges. With many African Americans living in the North, white laborers began to complain about the rise in the employment market. Many African Americans were forced into ghettos, the largest was in Harlem. There artist, actors, writers, and musicians were created building and worshiping black traditions.

The outburst of creativity immediately begun in every aspect of art. Harlem attracted many prosperous and unique styled artists. African Americans were determined and inspired to celebrate their heritage and to become this cultural movement known as “The New Negro Movement.” A famous artist during this time that represented The New Negro thinking was Aaron Douglas. Aaron was a Harlem Renaissance artist who created murals for public buildings and many cover designs. His style created a representation of “Negro” Subject matter with the use of his own style of geometrical figures. Silhouette figures of recognizable black figures caught the eyes of many, making him one of the most memorable artists of this time.

Writing was another popular component during the Renaissance period. Two of the biggest breakthroughs were Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer. Just like Douglas, Hughes used a specific style that everyone found interesting when writing his stories. This style was the use of blues and jazz. Hughes wanted to reflect blacks’ culture, by including both their suffering and their love of music. Jean Toomer was another famous writer, he was known for his plays and short stories. One of his most famous books was called Cane, Toomer was praised for his use of poetry with the mix of short stories that showed the realities and hardships African Americans experienced. Kenneth Rexroth praising Toomer saying “Toomer is the first poet to unite folk culture and the elite culture of the white avant-garde,” he continued with adding “and he accomplishes this difficult task with considerable success. He is without doubt the most important Black poet”.

Jazz was the only aspect of the Harlem Renaissance that shaped America and the entire world. Jazz defied many musical customs with its rhythms and beats and created instrumental solos. Almost every night city dwellers would come out into the city to see performers play their artistic style over and over again. Many performers would use improvisation making each one sound unique and different. Black music became the pulse of the Harlem Renaissance, it led to performers who never got the recognition they deserved to finally be recognized and found themselves famous. Singers such as Bessie smith and Billie holiday became an important and well know figure in blues and jazz vocals. With this groundbreaking new music came a popular club where white and black people enjoyed. This club was called the Cotton Club that held jazz and dancing well-pass midnight. Some despised the existence of such clubs, but others believed this was a sign that black culture was moving in a great and better direction getting closer to acceptance.

Harlem’s Renaissance sadly came to an end when the stock market crashed in 1929. By 1935, pivotal Harlem influencers had moved on with their lives seeking work replaced by the flow of refugees from the south. Later in that year a riot broke out, resulting in three dead people, hundreds of injured ones and millions of dollars in property damage. This definitely then showed that Harlem Renaissance was finally at an end. Even with this unfortunate situation the Harlem renaissance created a change in black culture. Having to face hardships in the beginning, Harlem brought great notice to great works that could have been unnoticed and lost forever. The artist of the Harlem Renaissance created a great change for African American culture, but the impact it had on America as a whole is something truly amazing. It was something where White Americans couldn’t get involved and be apart from.

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The Harlem Renaissance And Its Role In African American Culture. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 28, 2021, from
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