Thursday, October 14, 2010


Harlem is vicious
Modernism.  BangClash.
Vicious the way it's made,
Can you stand such beauty.
So violent and transforming.”   
--Amiri Baraka

The Harlem Renaissance started with many African Americans moving to the north to escape the cruelty of the south. The movement to the African Americans meant change and hope for a better life. This time period, taking place around 1919 to the early 1930’s is named after Harlem, New York.  Some called this city “the Negro capital of the world.”
During this movement many things happened.  The Harlem Renaissance brought about new styles of music, literature, dance, and art.  This creativity redefined the way African Americans were perceived throughout the United States, and ultimately, the world.
Although the movement only lasted for a short amount of time, the influence and impact was great. Literature, art, music was forever changed. Not only were artists influenced by the great works produced during this time, but white Americans also became more familiar and open to African American works and culture.

[By Julia Torres and Jiwon Min]

Works Cited
Baraka, Amiri. “The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka reader - Google Books.” Google Books. 10/04/2010.
Harlem Renaissance. “” 10/04/2010.
Impact of the Harlem Renaissance. “Spiritus Temporis.” 10/6/2010.
Koopmans, Andy. “The Harlem Renaissance.”
Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2006.

Origin of the Harlem Renaissance

                The Harlem Renaissance, also known as the New Negro Movement, took place during the 1920s and 1930s.  This was the period after World War I and before the Great Depression.  These years were good times for the United States; the jobs, especially in the North, were plentiful.  Many African-Americans took advantage of this increase in jobs and migrated to the urban areas of the North.  About 175,000 African-Americans migrated to the 3 sq. mi. of the Harlem section of Manhattan, New York, turning the neighborhood into the largest concentration of black people in the world.  During the Harlem Renaissance, jazz music, African-American art, and black literature became known.   Some African-Americans launched their careers as writers and musical artists and helped form what is known as the Harlem Renaissance.  The Harlem Renaissance came to an end in 1935, marking the end of an era.

[By: Alessandra Thompson]

Works Cited
Brunner, Beth Rowen & Borgna. "The Birth of the Harlem Renaissance: History & Timeline —" Infoplease: Encyclopedia, Almanac, Atlas, Biographies, Dictionary, Thesaurus. Free online reference, research & homework help. — N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2010.
"Harlem Renaissance." LEVITY. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2010. <>.
"The Harlem Renaissance." N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2010.
"What was the Harlem Renaissance?." wiseGEEK. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2010.

Notable People of the Harlem Renaissance

Many people were involved in how The Harlem Renaissance changed the world, but some of the most noteworthy are…

Hubert Harrison. In 1900, he moved to New York as an orphan and a seventeen year old. Also known as the “father of Harlem radicalism,” he believed self-reliance and self-respect were essential for African Americans to face white preeminence and true freedom. He founded the Liberty League (like the NAACP, but with more radical ideas) and the newspaper The Voice. A big promoter of the arts, Harrison often aided African American writers and artist.  He was a popular and admired speaker, educator, and journalist. He died in 1927.

Countee Cullen. Though historians can’t place exactly where he was born, they do know he was born in 1903. Cullen once stated that he was born in New York, but being a poet, this could be figurative for how his literary fame all started in that state. While still in high school, Cullen won a poetry contest that was city wide with “I Have a Rendezvous with Life.” He also edited his school newspaper. He got his masters degree in English and French from Harvard in 1927. Cullen achieved the most literary prizes in the 1920’s than any other African American author.
 Yolande Du Bois, the only child of W.E.B. Du Bois, and Cullen wed in 1928. Though the marriage didn’t last long, the wedding symbolized “…the union of the grand black intellectual patriarch and the new breed of younger Negroes who were responsible for much of the excitement of the Renaissance.” In 1934, Cullen published One Way to Heaven. This satire is one of the most important works of the Harlem Renaissance. Countee Cullen died in 1946.  

          William H. Johnson. Born in 1901 and Florence, South Carolina, Johnson suffered from poverty and lack of education. Even at an early age, he had a knack for art. Johnson left to New York to become an artist when he was still a teenager. He had to work for many years before he could afford to go to school at the National Academy of Design. Despite being a rigorous training school for artist, Johnson managed to be an exceptional student.  His painting style of bright, contrasting colors with 2 dimensional figures focused on religious themes that projected peace. He laid the foundation for many more African American artists to come. In 1947, Johnson became hospitalized from a mental illness that prevented him from painting. His work didn’t become widely recognized until after his death in 1970.   
Duke Ellington. He was born in 1899 in Washington D.C. While growing up he showed more than just musical talent. He was offered an art scholarship to a school in Brooklyn but turned it down to dedicate his time to music. In 1923, he moved to New York and established himself as a bandleader. He performed at the Cotton Club in Harlem for many years. His masterful piano playing and orchestra brought sophistication to the jazz genre that no one ever witnessed or heard before. He composed and arranged many pieces of music that redefined the level of style in the jazz field. Ellington died in 1974.

[By Julia Torres]

Works Cited

“Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Early 20th Century Harlem Radicalism | The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed.” The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. 8 October 2010.
 “Welcome to English « Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois.” About Countee Cullen's Life and Career. 8 October 2010.
Botsch, Carol Sears. “William H. Johnson.” 8 October 2010.
“The Red Hot Jazz Archive.”

Entertainment during the Harlem Renaissance

A few popular forms of entertainment were Jazz Clubs, Theatres, and Rent parties. Jazz music allowed the musicians to change the song and play their own version, which allowed for individuality and creativity. Jazz dance had a lot of tap and involved use of your whole body in order to do the African movements. The three major clubs that specifically played jazz and encouraged jazz-dancing were the Apollo Theater, the Savoy Ballroom, and the Cotton Club. Black musical theater was also very widely-known during the 1900’s. They used “minstrelsy” when making their shows in order to gain large audiences. At the beginning, black musicals used with only a few topics, which were the return to Africa movement, their concerns with the relationship between white society and themselves, and gambling. In the 1920’s the two biggest theaters were the Lincoln Theater and the Lafayette Theater. Another form of entertainment back in the Harlem Renaissance was “rent parties.” The idea came from “parlor socials,” which black church groups used to raise money. Guests had to pay a small fee and the host would use the collected money to pay for their rent and pay for a live jazz band. The invitations were cheaply made and handed out to random people on the street so the parties were usually made up of strangers. The Harlem renaissance had a lot of entertainment and they always found ways to have fun!
[By: Eman Esfandi]

Works Cited
Garcia, By Ercina. "Harlem Entertainment." The College of New Jersey Home. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. <

"The Savoy Ballroom - Bing Images." Bing. Web. 13 Oct. 2010. Savoy Ballroom&FORM=BIFD#focal=da64f6917155dd9777dbf87b75dea58f&furl=

Music of the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance started between 1920 and 1930. That’s when Jazz, the new way African Americans used music to express their new freedom, heated up and became the new face of music for that era. The main instruments used to illustrate their passion were the piano and the brass band. The piano, which many believed to be a symbol of affluence, was used to combine the less wealthy blacks to the black social elite. The brass band was a symbol of the South. Black musicians played Jazz in numerous night clubs like The Cotton Club, The Apollo Theatre, and Savoy Ballroom. Some of those famous artists were Duke Ellington, a music composer/ pianist; William “Count” Basie, an important artist who lead a lot of other young artists into the limelight; and Lil Hardin Armstrong, a famous female artist of the Harlem. The Limelight was very competitive and had little time for people with lesser talents. The Harlem musicians were taking music to a whole new level and contributed to the African American music industry for many years to come.

Lil Hardin Armstrong
Lil Hardin Armstrong’s full name was Lillian Beatrice Hardin. She was born 1898 in Memphis, Tennessee. She was raised by her mother Dempsey Hardin and Grandmother Priscilla Martin in a boarding house near Beale Street, which was known for its nightclubs and music. Influenced by the music around her, she got taught how to read music and by the age 9 played the organ for Sunday school. At the age of 16 she got put into Mrs. Hicks Music School for piano lesson where she entered a contests and half way through her solo lost her place and improvised winning her the first prize and the hopes of being a good musician. She went to Fisks University for two years and when she returned back to Memphis with a copy of “St. Louis Blues,” her mother called it “devils music” and beat Lil with a broomstick. Her mother immediately packed up their belongings and set off on a train to Chicago. She got a job at Jones Music Store where she started demonstrating sheet music. She started giving the sheet music a twist and making it her own and before she new it she was the main attraction. February 5th she became Mrs. Louis Armstrong who even after their separation, was like her musical soul mate. His death took a huge toll on her. She played at Louis Armstrong’s memorial concert on August 27, 1971. When she keyed the last cord of W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues she toppled over and died.

[By: Darian Cano]

Works Cited

"Harlem Renaissance Music." 1920s Fashion and Music. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

"Famous Musicians of the Harlem Renaissance." Buzzle Web Portal: Intelligent Life on the Web. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.

Harlem Renaissance: The Making of American Music | Kwanzaa Guide." Kwanzaa Guide | Kwanzaa International Learning Center | Kwanzaa Official Website | Kwanzaa Learning Guide. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.

Literature in the Harlem Renaissance

It has been argued that the Harlem Renaissance, or the New Negro Movement, is the defining moment in African American literature because it is the time where unknown black writers started out. The main reason that the black writers started to write was to show to people and tell me about all the hardships they went through and all the tough times still coming and still happening plus as often exploring such themes as alienation and marginality. For example the short-lived literary magazine Fire, also had a significant impact on the literary production because it represented the efforts of younger African American writers to claim their own creativity apart from older artists, as well as to establish autonomy from potential white exploiters.
[By: Victoria Vroman]

Works Cited

cartwright, Phil, Harlem literature,, Trudier
Harris-Lopez, “Forward” Harlem Renaissance, Volume I. Janet Witalec, project editor.
Farmington Hill, MI: Gale, 2003

Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary
Tradition. Ed. Patricia Liggins Hill. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998

Art in the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was a very important period for black visual artists. It was a period of time where they could actually accomplish what they couldn’t in the past. Before the Civil War, during the tough period of slavery, black artists were not considered artists. The most they could do with their talent were practical skills and crafts such as ironwork, cabinetmaking, quilting, and silversmithing. They could not pursue art as a career, much less be able to train and educate themselves in the arts to develop their skills.
During the Harlem renaissance, black artists finally introduced their talent to the society. They were able to study and dominate the art world like they had always wanted to. They gained more recognition as the actual painters and sculptors they were.
Harlem Renaissance artists introduced new forms of art that would be remembered for the rest of time. They captured the many perspectives of black culture in bold stylized portraits and amazing sculptures.

"The Father of African-American Art."

Born in Topeka, Kansas, Aaron Douglas was one of the most important artists in the Harlem renaissance. Influenced by Henry Ossawa Tanner and encouraged by his mother to develop his creative interest in art, Douglas overcame the obstacles presented to him in his life and reached his goal in pursuing a career in the arts. He created impressive murals, paintings, and illustrations in which he mixed the colorful cubist style with silhouetted figures. With his unique style, he portrayed the reality of the current life for African Americans and the hopes for a better future. He captured the beauty of black culture and the black environment in his work
"I refuse to compromise and see blacks as anything less than a proud and majestic people."-Aaron Douglas

Augusta Savage

Born in Green Cove Springs, Florida, Augusta Savage was a successful artist, activist, and educator in the Harlem Renaissance. In the 1920s, she studied art in New York City. After excelling there, Augusta applied for a summer program in France to study art where she was rejected because of her race. This being an eye opening event, Augusta involved herself in politics as well, protesting against discrimination. During the Harlem Renaissance, Augusta made a name for herself as a portrait sculptor. She made impressive sculptures and busts of leading African Americans. Although she faced challenges because of her race and sex, Augusta Savage managed to overcome the barriers she came across and become one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance.

[By: Angela Pool]

Works Cited
"Aaron Douglas." Aaron Douglas. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.
"Aaron Douglas and the Harlem Renaissance." Dexigner. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.

"Augusta Savage Biography -" N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.

"Freedom Road
: Writing Art." Freedom Road. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.

"Harlem Renaissance: Visual Arts  Summary  |" | Study Guides, Lesson Plans, Book Summaries and more. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.

Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Augusta Savage." Women's History - Comprehensive Women's History Research Guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.
Powell, Richard J.. "African American Art: Harlem Renaissance." ArtLex Art Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.