The Harlem Renaissance

How it Began

In the 1920's, black folks that lived in the South wanted to move to the North, since their promises for land in the South had not been kept. The North, however, didn't welcome all of the blacks with open arms. Many people at the time claimed that they were lowering wages due to a flood in the job market. In Harlem, the blacks that moved their actually created some new American traditions, and glorified other traditions that already existed. Although hardships that continued would be severe for the African Americans, but Harlem brought our attention to great minds and works that might have been lost today had we not seen them. The Harlem Renaissance's results were phenomenal in changing American culture; we could not look away.


During the Harlem Renaissance, many writers became successful. One of the best writers at the time was Langston Hughes; he cast the influences of white authors off, and he wrote in the rhythms of Jazz and Blues. Other writers like Claude McKay urged black folks to express themselves and stand up for their rights by writing in verse. Jean Toomer was a writer who wanted to capture the spirit of the renaissance in the form of short stories and plays. Though many of these people had great talents, when white publishers started to notice these, they were patronized. Zora Neale Hurston became famous when she wrote her novel, Their Eyes are Watching God. When they started musical comedy, an Actor named Paul Robeson, would electrify audiences with his wonderful performances.


Music was probably the thing that changed America the most during the Harlem Renaissance. Jazz became popular in America for its syncopated rhythms and instrumental solos. Thousands of people went to see Jazz performances at night. Each performance was improvised, meaning that no two performances were the same. A club known as the Harlem Cotton Club would often boast about the talents of Duke Ellington. Popular Jazz Vocalists at the time were Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith. Huge audiences of black folks as well as white folks were drawn in by musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong as many people caught Jazz fever.