USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

African American Life and Resistance through the 1920s

Next to the enfranchising of women, the greatest legacy of the progressive movement was the effects it had on African American life and culture. Some of the leading African American reformers in the 1920s were also key figures of the progressive era. Foremost among them was W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois was a Harvard graduate and helped found the NAACP in 1909 to push for the legal rights of African Americans. Du Bois’ work didn’t stop there. His subsequent career as a writer and editor played a vital role in American life throughout the period leading up to 1945. One of Du Bois’ main contributions, besides his own work, was the introduction of many artists and writers of what would come to be known collectively as the Harlem Renaissance.

The Harlem Renaissance was the most significant American artistic movement in the 1920s, providing the creative context for the emergence of writers such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and for innovative theater and jazz music. Indeed, Jazz music, a movement that draw its sources of inspiration from African American folk music combined with the fiery spirit the Harlem Renaissance, was a musical revolution and one of the most important and quintessentially American art forms of the 20th century.

This page has paths: