Essay on The Harlem Renaissance

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The Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance refers to a prolific period of unique works of African-American expression from about the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression. Although it is most commonly associated with the literary works produced during those years, the Harlem Renaissance was much more than a literary movement; similarly, it was not simply a reaction against and criticism of racism. The Harlem Renaissance inspired, cultivated, and, most importantly, legitimated the very idea of an African-American cultural consciousness. Concerned with a wide range of issues and possessing different interpretations and solutions of these issues affecting the Black population, the writers, artists, performers and
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These migrations created the first urban Black communities in the North, which flourished in Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Cleveland.[ii]

In New York, in particular, a “sizeable chunk of real estate in the heart of Manhattan” had been available, and, as it came to be occupied by Blacks, had become the site of “a series of literary discussions in the lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village) and upper Manhattan (Harlem) sections.” These discussions were largely influenced by an increased availability of African-American literature, one of the most important being the publication of The New Negro, an anthology of works compiled by Alain Leroy Locke. Locke compared the northern migration of Blacks to “something like a spiritual emancipation,” and the anthology exposed people to the works of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, among many others. These discussions became known as the New Negro Movement, and as they fueled other social activity, specifically in a spirit of ‘progressivism’ that believed in “art and literature as agents of social change,” the Harlem Renaissance.[2]

Although the works were about race and/or concerned about race, it is important to note that there was not a single sociopolitical vision that dominated the works of the Renaissance. In addition to Locke, there were two other extremely influential

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