Decent Essays
HARLEM RENAISSANCE by William R. Nash ^ The term ‘‘Harlem Renaissance’’ refers to the efflorescence of African-American cultural production that occurred in New York City in the 1920s and early 1930s. One sometimes sees Harlem Renaissance used interchangeably with ‘‘New Negro Renaissance,’’ a term that includes all African Americans, regardless of their location, who participated in this cultural revolution. Followers of the New Negro dicta, which emphasized blacks’ inclusion in and empowerment by American society, were undeniably spread throughout the nation, and most major cities had pockets of the African-American elite that W. E. B. Du Bois dubbed the ‘‘Talented Tenth.’’ Nevertheless, New York City was, arguably, the most crucial…show more content…
In order to escape their 153 HA R L E M RE N A I S S A N C E The Cotton Club. ( Bettmann/Corbis) influence, Hughes encourages artists to embrace the values of ‘‘the low-down folks,’’ the masses of common people who ‘‘furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardizations.’’ Only by doing this, he argues, can the Negro artist treat the most complex and sensitive subjects in a manner that distinguishes him individually and serves the race collectively. This interpretation of the Renaissance, which celebrates African-American art and life, and particularly several prominent elements of the folk tradition—for example, blues, jazz, spirituals, and vernacular speech—has long held sway among students of the era. In subsequent explosions of black creativity, such as the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, Hughes’s ‘‘Negro Artist’’ is cited as a sacred text. To be sure, Hughes makes many valid claims in his essay; however, Schuyler’s argument also accurately reflects elements of the black artist’s condition in Harlem of the 1920s and 1930s. One major shortcoming of scholars of the Renaissance until relatively recently has been an unfortunate tendency to fall into either the
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