By, Kevin Mortillaro, Katie Fey, Andrew Becker, Beth McGraw

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This video starts playing at about 1:20. The beginning is all piano. ^^

The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance is also known as the New Negro Movement, was a literary, artistic, cultural, intellectual movement that began in Harlem, New York after World War I and ended around 1935 during the Great Depression. The movement affecting many African Americans through various forms.(literature, art, music, drama, painting, sculpture, movies, and protests). Protests for civil rights for African Americans inspired and created institutions and leaders who inspired various things. Although the center of the Harlem Renaissance began in Harlem, New York, its influence spread throughout the nation and beyond. This time really was a new start for African Americans throught the world (Amos 1).


Harlem, New York was a magnet that attracted thousands of blacks from the south and the West Indies for not only better economic opportunities but educational opportunities as well. Harlem was the prime spot for African Americans because New York prohibited segregated schooling.

The Supreme Court had set the stage for flagrant discrimination in education for African Americans in Cumming v. School Board of Richmond County, GA. but New York, unlike most states throughout the nation, by law prohibited segregated schools. The promise of equal educational opportunities increased and enhanced a population that became a part of the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Education during the Harlem Renaissance was influenced by numerous factors including the migration of thousands of African Americans from the south and the West Indies. Migrants from the south were seeking better economic opportunities. New York had special appeal because education in New York, unlike other northern states had prohibited separate schools for African Americans. States such as Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and New Jersey had separate schools as well as some integrated schools.
Education in Harlem was also influenced by an influx of black immigration from the West Indies during the 1920's. This was a new and unusual phenomenon since most blacks in the United States were descendants of involuntary immigrants. At the beginning of the 1920's, the U.S. had imposed a new system, drastically reducing the influx of people from Southern and Eastern Europe. Many from the West Indies saw New York as a land of greater prosperity and economic opportunity than in the Caribbean. These West Indians were ac customed to being part of a majority in

their homeland and had experienced discrimination, but their awareness of American racism was not fully understood. By 1930, the population of foreign born African Americans in New York had grown to
seventeen percent. Despite schools in Harlem being open to black and white students on a non-segregation basis, a number of schools maintained an all black population, primarily because of the increase of black residents in Harlem. As the number of African Americans took advantage of free public education, schools quickly became overcrowded. Some principals did not welcome African Americans to their schools and students often became victims of racial slurs by teachers and students. Many school buildings did not have playgrounds for their students. Further the economic condition of the new arrivals forced many students to work long hours before and after school (Harlem Renaissance Multimedia Resource).


The Harlem Renaissance was a flowering of African-American social thought that was expressed through the visual arts, as well as through music (Louis Armstrong, Eubie Blake, Fats Waller and Billie Holiday), literature (Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and W.E.B. DuBois), theater (Paul Robeson) and dance (Josephine Baker). Centered in the Harlem district of New York City, the New Negro Movement (as it was called at the time) had a profound influence across the United States and even around the world.

The intellectual and social freedom of the era attracted many Black Americans from the rural south to the industrial centers of the north - and especially to New York City. Artists at the core of the Harlem Renaissance movement included William H. Johnson, Lois Mailou Jones and the sculptor and print maker Sargent Claude Johnson. Other prominent artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance included Jacob Lawrence, Archibald Motley and Romare Bearden.

Later artists influenced by the movement included Charles Sebree, Hale Woodruff, Beauford Delaney, John Biggers and Ernie Barnes (Barnes' Sugar Shack is the now-famous painting featured on the closing credits of the TV show Good Times. (Amos1).


The early 1920's was a big part of cultural movement for African Americans, it was called the Harlem Renaissance. It shocked the country, this was not an organized event. Harlem was a new york neighborhood where most African Americans migrated to. In the Harlem neighborhood there was powerful musical talent. Musicians played a very important part in the cultural inspiration. Jazz was an important style of music in the Harlem time period. Most jazz at first was played in marching bands. In the beginning of the 1920's jazz was finally recognized. It was centered in New Orleans. Louis Armstrong was and still is a very famous jazz artist. He was one of the most popular of his time. But Jazz isn't the only style of music there was, there was also something called the Blues.

The Blues was a style of music that talked about the struggles of life and love. It was typically song by one artist with one instrument like a guitar or harmonica. Blues artists often worked with jazz bands as well as jazz pianists. The blues was so ng in the South it quickly made itself North as well. Duke Ellington was a popular and talented musician in the Blues. African Women were also involved with this type of music, Billie Holiday is one of the most popular Blues artists of her time, as well. The jazz and blues kept going strong and some still listen to it today.

Louis Armstrong like mentioned before was a very popular jazz artist. He was born in New Orleans. He had a mom and a dad who ended up getting a divorce when Louis was only at a young age of 5. His family was poor to begin with so the divorce didn't help the situation at all. Louis lived with his mom and neither of them could afford food. Louis was arrested and put into prison at the young age of 13, but it was there he started having meals again. It was also there where he learned to played the cornet, he was taught by the band director and the prison warden. 1925 was the date he started a recording band. During this time he also introduced scat music. Scat music is where the voice is used as an instrument. Louis Armstrong soon became a household name.

Duke Ellington was yet another great artist of the Harlem renaissance time period. He was born in 1899 and he died in 1974. He was a talented piano player, but his orchestra was his main instrument of music he brought a new style of jazz to the world. He was writing music in Washington D.C professionally in 1917. James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith influenced his piano talent greatly. In 1922 he went to New York to play with Wilbur Sweatman however the trip for not successful. However he did return to New York in 1923, except this time he was not there to perform he was there with a group of his friends from Washington D.C. They formed a band and Duke was the leader.


The Harlem Renaissance emerged with great African American writers. The outburst of African American literature, art and music during the 1920's was the beginning of what is called the, "The New Negro Movement." Later it became called the Harlem Renaissance. The movement helped African Americans create such great literature. They wrote poetry, plays and novels. The literature ranged from subject to subject, but the most commonly used were race and racial identity. Renaissance authors Charles W. Chesnutt, Claude McKay, and James Weldon Johnson inspires other African American writers with their literary works about the black life (or race) and racial identity.

James Welden Johnson: Born was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on June 17 1913. He was the son of a headwaiter and the first black public school teacher in Florida. Johnson was interested in reading and music, he was encourages by his parents. When Johnson's brother, John Rosamond, graduated from school,James and his brother got into musical theater together. He soon began to write lyrics, which his brother composed, including "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which then became known as "The Negro National Anthem." The Johnson brothers then soon teamed up with Bob Cole and wrote more songs(South Carolina College 1).

His first book, Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man

Cole and Johnson Brothers
Cole and Johnson Brothers


For some people during the Harlem Renaissance, dance was the harsh economic reality. People would hold rent parties that would have music and dance. The guests were charged a entry fee that the party hosts would use to pay the monthly rent.

Swing dancing was was popular to the world in the 1930's. The birth place of swing was in the 1920's area. The Harlem Renaissance was the time of great creativity of African American writers, artists and music and swing performers. The Savory Dance was the most popular dance in the Harlem Renaissance time. It was the place where the color of your skin did not matter, whether you were black, yellow, green or what. Savory was a place of elegant place, with a burnished maple floor, colored spotlights and crystal cut chandeliers. It was the kind of place where every round table was filled with people who drank root-de-toot root beer and ginger ale was sold for only a nickel (Chambers V. 1).


It has been argued that the Harlem Renaissance is the defining moment in African American literature because of an unprecedented outburst of creative activity among black writers. The importance of this movement to African American literary art lies in the efforts of its writers to exalt the heritage of African Americans and to use their unique culture as a means toward re-defining African American literary expression. While the Harlem Renaissance began as a series of literary discussions in the lower Manhattan and upper Manhattan sections of New York City, it gained national force when Charles Spurgeon Johnson, editor of Opportunity, the official organ of the National Urban League, encouraged aspiring writers to move to New York in order to form a critical mass of young African American creative artists.

The great move (migration) from rural America, from the Caribbean, and from Africa to northern American cities (such as New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.) between 1919 and 1926, in fact, allowed the Harlem Renaissance to become a significant cultural phenomenon. Among the poets, fiction writers, and essayists answering Johnson’s call were Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Helene Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, and Jean Toomer.

Through their artistry, the literature of this period helped to facilitate a transformation from the psychology of the “Old Negro” (characterized by an implied inferiority of the post-Reconstruction era when black artists often did not control the means of production or editorial prerogatives) to the “New Negro” (characterized as self-assertive, racially conscious, articulate, and, for the most part, in charge of what they produced). With greater possibilities for artistic self-determination, the writers of the Harlem Renaissance produced a sizable body of work, often exploring such themes as alienation and marginality.Several writers, including Hughes, Hurston, Larsen, and Toomer relied particularly on the rich folk tradition (oral culture, folktales, black dialect, jazz and blues composition) to create unique literary forms. Other writers, such as Cullen, McKay and Helene Johnson wrote within more conventional literary genres as a way to capture what they saw as the growing urbanity and sophistication of African Americans. The literature of the Harlem Renaissance, therefore, reflects the multiple ways that African American experience in America was percieved and expressed in the first decades of the twentieth century (Harlem Renaissance Multimedia Resource)




  • Phallit , Bookstore. "POETRY" what website did you get the image from? -beth

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