The Harlem Renaissance


The Jazz Scene

Jazz had evolved from the era's ragtime music. It was given a rebellious connotation and disliked by older members of society. With its unruly nature, it attracted many young people of both races; bringing them together. The most famous jazz club was the Cotton Club. It was a whites-only club, but many black performers got their start performing here. Many jazz clubs secretly sold alcohol to its customers during the prohibition. The time period was viewed as the "Jazz Age" a term coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan) was a singer, songwriter and actress in Harlem. She began her musical career performing in jazz clubs as a teenager. Holiday received her first record at 18 as part of a studio group. She continued working and produced many hits. Her nickname was "Lady Day" given to her by Lester Young (another famous musician). Holiday was one of the first black women to work with a white orchestra. Some genres Holiday was famous for singing were jazz, blues, swing and R&B.

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker (born Freda Josephine McDonald) was a dancer, actress and comedian. During the Harlem Renaissance, Baker performed at the Plantation Club and in the chorus of the groundbreaking and hugely successful Broadway performance Shuffle Along. She performed as the last dancer in a chorus line, a position where the dancer traditionally performed in a comic manner, as if she were unable to remember the dance, until the encore, she would perform it not only correctly but with added steps. Baker was then labeled as the "highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville". Baker was also the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture.

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Wallace Thurman

Wallace Thurman was a novelist, dramatist, ghost writer and intellectual only active during the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote essays, worked as an editor, was a publisher. Thurman's most famous work was his novel The Blacker the Berry. It discussed discrimination within the black community. Thurman often wrote about "real life" including both the good and the bad aspect.

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Politics in Harlem

Harlem was famous for political movements and debates. Some famous political figures were people such as WEB DuBois and Marcus Garvey. Garvey viewed black's as "one nation, one destiny". DuBois was described as the "most outspoken civil rights activist in America". DuBois believed integration would happen when blacks excelled in literature and fine arts.

Aaron Douglas

Aaron Douglas was a well-known artist often called "The Father of African-American Art". He created covers for several popular magazines as well as the NAACP's Crisis, The Urban League's Opportunity, and the black literary journal Fire!! Douglas painted murals for public buildings and produced illustrations and cover designs for many black publications including The Crisis and Opportunity. The style Aaron Douglas developed in the 1920s used aspects of modern European, ancient Egyptian, and West African art.

Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen was an iconic figure of the Harlem Renaissance, known for his poetry. Because of Cullen's success in both black and white cultures, he held an aesthetic that embraced both cultures. He came to believe that art transcended race and that it could be used as "a vehicle to minimize the distance between black and white peoples". Notable works were "Heritage" and "Atlantic City Waiter" .

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Essential Questions

1. What historical, social, and cultural forces shaped the Harlem Renaissance?

World War 1 ,the jazz age and the Great Depression.

2. What does Johnson's poem say about the vitality of the city during the Harlem Renaissance?

It says that the city is lively and when he dies he will miss it.

3. What details does Hurston use to present her views on succeeding despite social barriers?

4. How does Hughes use the analogy of rivers to express his perception of African America heritage and history?

The poem discussed Africans who eventually ended up as slaves and were later freed. By discussing the various rivers that a connected generation of African and eventually African American would have seen. The Euphrates, Congo and Nile discuss the pre-slavery period. The Mississippi centers on the the slavery and immediate post slavery period. The soul of the negro then is compared to the timelessness of those rivers.

5. Why was Harlem the center of the renaissance of African American arts in the 1920s, a James Weldon Johnson's 1933 description of the Harlem Renaissance?

Many blacks moved there from the south. A lot of the buildings were owned by blacks so they rented to each other and set up their own little society.

6. How did the Harlem Renaissance impact American society during the 1920s and beyond?

It began to burst the stereotype of the African American as a comical person talented in music, with a sense of rhythm, whose ideas and struggles were not to be taken seriously

7. In what ways did W. E. B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington influence politics during The Harlem Renaissance?

Washington stressed gradual economic equality. Dubois was more extreme and wanted complete civil equality on all fronts.

8. How do the arts communicate historical data and perspective?

It shows African American culture and the most influential movement in African American history.

9. What were the significant economic events that preceded the Great Migration, a movement of African Americans from the South to the North?

The boll weevil infestation of Southern cotton fields in the late 1910s forced many sharecroppers and laborers to search for alternative employment opportunities. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 displaced hundreds of thousands of African-American farmers and farm workers

10. What was there about the Harlem neighborhood that encouraged so many artists to produce great work at the time?

There was pride, cultural sophistication, and dignity that many reflected in their work. There was also freedom and the right to exercise liberty.

11. What is the historical significance of "I, Too" by Langston Hughes?

Black pride and acceptance.

12. What prompted the theme of "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes and how is this theme applicable in any time period?

The theme is determination and courage. We all have problems and hardships in our lives and we need to keep trying and not give up.