The Time Period of the Harlem Renaissance

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The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that took place in the 1920s and 1930s in Harlem, New York City. It was a time of artistic and intellectual growth for African Americans, who expressed themselves through music, literature, visual arts, and theater. The movement was fueled by the Great Migration, which brought a large number of African Americans from the rural South to urban areas like Harlem. The Harlem Renaissance is considered a pivotal moment in African American history and a significant contribution to American culture as a whole.

The abolition of slavery in the United States through the Civil War did not eradicate racism. This was particularly evident in the South, where Jim Crow laws denied Black Americans their rights. Racist organizations were responsible for a significant amount of violence.

Consequently, many Black individuals sought better lives elsewhere. Between 1890 and 1920, thousands of Black Americans migrated northward. In total, approximately 300,000 people left the South. This event became known as the Great Migration.

During the Great Migration, many people settled in cities, where they shared a common history and an uncertain future. Together, they sparked a burst of Black culture that we now refer to as the Harlem Renaissance.

What exactly was the Harlem Renaissance? It was a period when numerous Black artists played a crucial role in shaping American culture. There were writers, painters, and musicians. It also involved sculptors, photographers, and scholars. Many of these artists resided and worked in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City.

The Harlem Renaissance gained momentum towards the end of World War I and began to wane in 1929 with the onset of the Great Depression. However, most historians agree that the Harlem Renaissance continued until the mid-1930s.

A variety of art forms thrived during the Harlem Renaissance, with literature experiencing the most growth. Many writers and poets produced works that helped define the Black experience in America.

Which writers were involved in the Harlem Renaissance? Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Zora Neale Hurston are a few examples. W. E. B. Du Bois and Nella Larsen were also part of this movement. Their writings about Black life fostered cultural pride. Numerous other prominent figures contributed to the revival of culture during the Harlem Renaissance, including musician Duke Ellington, artist Aaron Douglas, and many more.

Without the Harlem Renaissance, literature and art would be significantly different today. It played a crucial role in shaping Black communities and American culture as a whole. Additionally, it set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Give It a Try

Are you ready to explore your artistic side? Engage in the following activities with the assistance of a friend or family member:

  • A renaissance does not occur overnight with just one individual. It requires the collaborative efforts of many people to create a cultural rebirth in a particular area. Visit this page on the Biography website to watch online videos about individuals who were influential during the Harlem Renaissance. Were you familiar with any of these individuals before? Which person would you like to learn more about? Why? Create a poster or brochure to educate others about them.
  • One of the art forms associated with the Harlem Renaissance was poetry. Check out the Poets of the Harlem Renaissance online to learn more about some of the poets who crafted memorable words during that time. Share a favorite poem from one or more of the poets with a friend or family member.
  • Go online to read more about several of the artists who played a significant role in the Harlem Renaissance. Choose one of the featured artists and search for images of some of their most renowned works. Which one is your favorite? Why?

Sources of Wonder

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