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An Archive for Virtual Harlem

Jessica Johnston, Author

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Harlem Renaissance Summary

The Harlem Renaissance was the name given to the cultural, social, and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem between the end of World War I and the middle of the 1930s. During the time it was known as the "New Negro Movement" named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Amid this period Harlem was the Mecca where black writers, artists, musicians, photographers, poets, and scholars traveled in order to find a place where they could freely express their talents.

One of the factors contributing to the rise of the Harlem Renaissance was the Great Migration of African-Americans to northern cities between 1919 and 1926. The two major causes that fueled the Great Migration were the Jim Crow segregation laws of the south and the start of World War I. When World War I began in Europe, foreign workers were no longer able to emigrate to America and the factories in the north needed a new labor source and they looked to the south for this work force. Hundreds of thousands of blacks migrated during this period, but it is estimated that five million blacks migrated from the south between 1900-1960.

The Harlem Renaissance was a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that kindled a new black cultural identity. Its essence was summed up by Alain Locke when he declared that through art, "Negro life is seizing its first chances for group expression and self-determination." Harlem became the center of a "spiritual coming of age" in which Locke's "New Negro" transformed social disillusionment into racial pride. The Harlem Renaissance was successful in many ways. It brought the Black experience clearly within the "corpus" of American cultural history and encouraged a new appreciation of folk roots and culture. On a sociological level it redefined how America and the world viewed African-Americans from rural undereducated peasants to one of urban sophistication.  The Renaissance influenced future generations of black artists, writers, and musicians through sharing their rich cultural experiences.

The video below is a compilation of three segments put together to form this montage providing general information about the Harlem Renaissance, then highlighting jazz and film, and finally writers of the period.

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