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An Archive for Virtual Harlem

Jessica Johnston, Author
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Literature and Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance

As Harlem transformed into a hub for African Americans in the early 1900's, African American writers began to thrive in the new, intellectually-charged atmosphere. By the 1920's, many works were receiving critical praise in mainstream literary circles and popular acclaim among both black and white audiences. Originally dubbed the New Negro Movement, this outpouring of literature came to be known as The Harlem Renaissance.While some black poets continued to write primarily in traditional English literary forms, others explored black vernacular speech and lyrical forms while creating works that identified with the African American masses. The politics and ideals born from this era would serve as inspiration to African American artists for years to come and would also help to lay the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's.

In addition to being published authors, many writers were poets, playwrights, journalists, and editors. 
Though the literary themes that arose in this period are diverse, they are generally focused on promoting racial pride and embracing indigenous African sentiment. Many works addressed feelings of alienation experienced by minorities in American society, seeking to uplift those burdened by continuing racism and stereotyping. The result was a rich and complicated union of progressive ideals with traditional African American customs and folklore.

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Previous page on path Harlem Renaissance Artist Aaron Douglas, 1899-1979, page 1 of 1