Palmer Hayden: Midsummer Night in Harlem, 1936.
Oil on canvas.
Harlem Renaissance is the name given to the period
from the end of World War I and through the middle of
the 1930s Depression, during which a group of talented
African-American writers, thinkers and artists
produced a sizable contribution to American culture.
The Harlem Renaissance helped to redefine how
Americans and the world understood African American
culture. It integrated black and white cultures, and
marked the beginning of a black urban society.
The Harlem Renaissance set the stage for the Civil
Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s.
There were plenty of reasons for blacks to leave the south,
but little economic advantage to moving northward.
With outbreak of World War I, this dynamic changes
war generates new opportunities for industry
End result: The Great Migration assembled black
populations in northern cities like Chicago and New York
in unprecedented numbers. The concentration, in New
York city, occurred on the upper west side, in Harlem.
A growing African American middle class
developed as a result of improved educational and
employment opportunities for African Americans.
No common literary style or political ideology defined the Harlem Renaissance. What united
the participants was the sense of taking part in a common endeavor and their commitment to
giving artistic expression to the African American experience.
There was an interest in the roots of the twentieth- century African American experience in
Africa and the American South was one such theme.
It encouraged a new appreciation for folk tradition and primitivism.
Common themes begin to emerge: alienation, marginality, the use of folk material, the use of
the blues tradition, the problems of writing for an elite audience.
The Harlem Renaissance was more than just a literary movement: it included racial
consciousness, "the back to Africa" movement led by Marcus Garvey, racial integration, the
explosion of music particularly jazz, spirituals and blues, painting, dramatic revues, and
Blacks view the surge in art, music and literature as the
creation of a new cultural identity.
Whites see it as another new, exotic, and trendy form of
“Jazz music is idiosyncratic by nature where the
performer creates the rhythm. There is truly no
incorrect way to play Jazz. J.A. Roger wrote, " Jazz
isn't just music, but also a spirit that can express itself
in almost everything," It was in many ways a revolt
against constraints because it was so joyous. Typically
instrumented by piano, string bass, and drums, jazz
began to take charge of the new era of music. “
▪ Kwa King, “The Jazz Age”
Ellington was a jazz composer,
conductor, and performer during
the Harlem Renaissance.
During the formative Cotton Club
years, he experimented with and
developed the style that would
quickly bring him worldwide
success. Ellington would be among
the first to focus on musical form
and composition in jazz.
Ellington wrote over 2000 pieces in
The Duke Ellington Orchestra
was the "house" orchestra for a
number of years at the Cotton
Club. The revues featured
glamorous dancing girls,
acclaimed tap dancers,
vaudeville performers, and
comics. All the white world
came to Harlem to see the show.
The first Cotton Club revue was
in 1923. There were two new
fast paced revues produced a
year for at least 16 years.
Louis Armstrong was a jazz
composer and trumpet player
during the Harlem Renaissance.
He is widely recognized as a
founding father of jazz.
He appeared in 30 films and
averaged 300 concerts per year,
performing for both kids on the
street and heads of state.
Bessie Smith was a famous jazz and
blues singer during the Harlem
Smith recorded with many of the
great Jazz musicians of the 1920s,
including Louis Armstrong.
Smith was popular with both blacks
Leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus
Garvey and the NAACP helped to inspire
racial pride in the middle and working class.
The Harlem Renaissance gave birth to many important publications, such as
Crisis magazine, edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, giving black writers
a forum where their voices could be heard.
John Henry Adams
Laura Wheeling Waring
Jacob Lawrence grew up in a
settlement house in Harlem during
the Harlem Renaissance.
Lawrence's parents were among
those who migrated between 19161919, considered the first wave of
His own life in Harlem
and the struggle of other Black
inspired his earliest work
Jacob Lawrence painted his Great Migration series
during the 1940s to capture the experience of
African Americans during the 1920s
In the autumn of 1926, a group of young African
American writers produced Fire!, a literary
With Fire! a new generation of young writers
and artists, including Langston Hughes, Wallace
Thurman, and Zora Neale Hurston, took
ownership of the literary Renaissance.
Zora Neal Hurston
James Weldon Johnson
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.
Paraphrase the poem.
Connotation based on the poem’s diction?
The diverse literary
expression of the Harlem
weaving of the rhythms
of African American
music into his poems of
ghetto life, as in The
Weary Blues (1926).
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection,
[reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]
“I, Too” – Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed –
I, too, am America.
What is the tone of this
What does it imply about the
conditions for African Americans?
Diversity was also
Zora Neale Hurston’s
novels such as, Their Eyes
Were Watching God
(1937). Hurston used life
of the rural South to
create a study of race and
gender in which a woman
finds her true identity.
[Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston]
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,
Carl Van Vechten Collection, [reproduction
number, e.g., LC-USZ62-54231]
Create three questions that can be answered
by the notes from yesterday.
Summarize your Harlem Renaissance notes.
After learning a little bit about the Harlem
Renaissance, what questions do you have
that you would like to explore further?
Watch the video: Zora’s Roots and answer
questions and take notes
Pay attention to quotes from her memoir
“How It Feels to be Colored Me.”