Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance

Overview
The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement
Cultural movement
A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies. Historically, different nations or regions of the world have gone through their own independent sequence of movements in culture, but as...

 that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Though it was centered in the Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

 neighborhood of New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, many French-speaking black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 were also influenced by the Harlem Renaissance.

Historians disagree as to when the Harlem Renaissance began and ended.
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Encyclopedia
The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement
Cultural movement
A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies. Historically, different nations or regions of the world have gone through their own independent sequence of movements in culture, but as...

 that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke. Though it was centered in the Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

 neighborhood of New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, many French-speaking black writers from African and Caribbean colonies who lived in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 were also influenced by the Harlem Renaissance.

Historians disagree as to when the Harlem Renaissance began and ended. The Harlem Renaissance is unofficially recognized to have spanned from about 1919 until the early or mid 1930s. Many of its ideas lived on much longer. The zenith of this "flowering of Negro literature", as James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is remembered best for his leadership within the NAACP, as well as for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and...

 preferred to call the Harlem Renaissance, was placed between 1924 (the year that Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life hosted a party for black writers where many white publishers were in attendance) and 1929 (the year of the stock market
Stock market
A stock market or equity market is a public entity for the trading of company stock and derivatives at an agreed price; these are securities listed on a stock exchange as well as those only traded privately.The size of the world stock market was estimated at about $36.6 trillion...

 crash and the beginning of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

).

Development of African-American community in Harlem



During the early portion of the 20th Century, Harlem became home to a growing "Negro" middle class. The district had originally been developed in the 19th Century as an exclusive suburb for the white middle and upper middle classes; its affluent beginnings led to the development of stately houses, grand avenues, and world class amenities such as the Polo Grounds and the Harlem Opera House. During the enormous influx of European immigrants in the late nineteenth century, the once exclusive district was abandoned by the native white middle-class. Harlem became an African-American neighborhood in the early 1900s. In 1910, a large block along 135th Street and Fifth Avenue was bought by various African-American realtors and a church group. Many more African Americans arrived during the First World War. Due to the war, the migration of laborers from Europe virtually ceased, while the war effort resulted in a massive demand for unskilled industrial labor. The Great Migration brought hundreds of thousands of African Americans to cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and New York City.

An explosion of culture in Harlem


The first stage of the Harlem Renaissance started in the late 1910s. 1917 saw the premiere of Three Plays for a Negro Theatre. These plays, written by white playwright Ridgely Torrence
Ridgely Torrence
Frederic Ridgely Torrence was an American poet, and editor.-Life:Son of Findley David Torrence and Mary Ridgely Torrence.He attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and Princeton University....

, featured Negro actors conveying complex human emotions and yearnings. They rejected the stereotypes of the blackface
Blackface
Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, in which performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky...

 and minstrel show
Minstrel show
The minstrel show, or minstrelsy, was an American entertainment consisting of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people in blackface or, especially after the Civil War, black people in blackface....

 traditions. James Weldon Johnson in 1917 called the premieres of these plays "the most important single event in the entire history of the Negro in the American Theater." Another landmark came in 1919, when Claude McKay
Claude McKay
Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem , a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo , and Banana Bottom...

 published his militant sonnet "If We Must Die". Although the poem never alluded to race, to Negro readers it sounded a note of defiance in the face of racism and the nationwide race riots and lynchings then taking place. By the end of the First World War, the fiction of James Weldon Johnson and the poetry of Claude McKay were describing the reality of contemporary Negro life in America.

In 1917 Hubert Harrison
Hubert Harrison
Hubert Henry Harrison was a West Indian-American writer, orator, educator, critic, and radical socialist political activist based in Harlem, New York. He was described by activist A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem radicalism” and by the historian Joel Augustus Rogers as “the foremost...

, "The Father of Harlem Radicalism," founded the Liberty League and The Voice, the first organization and the first newspaper of the "New Negro Movement". Harrison's organization and newspaper were political, but also emphasized the arts (his newspaper had "Poetry for the People" and book review sections). In 1927, in the Pittsburgh Courier, Harrison challenged the notion of the renaissance. He argued that the "Negro Literary Renaissance" notion overlooked "the stream of literary and artistic products which had flowed uninterruptedly from Negro writers from 1850 to the present", and said the so-called "renaissance" was largely a white invention.

Origins


The Harlem Renaissance grew out of the changes that had taken place in the African American community since the abolition of slavery. These accelerated as a consequence of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the great social and cultural changes in early 20th century United States. Industrialization was attracting people to cities from rural areas and gave rise to a new mass culture. Contributing factors leading to the Harlem Renaissance were the Great Migration
Great Migration (African American)
The Great Migration was the movement of 6 million blacks out of the Southern United States to the Northeast, Midwest, and West from 1910 to 1970. Some historians differentiate between a Great Migration , numbering about 1.6 million migrants, and a Second Great Migration , in which 5 million or more...

 of African Americans to northern cities, which concentrated ambitious people in places where they could encourage each other, and the First World War, which had created new industrial work opportunities for tens of thousands of people. Factors leading to the decline of this era include the Great Depression.

Until the end of the Civil War, the majority of African Americans had been enslaved and lived in the South. Immediately after the end of slavery, the emancipated African Americans began to strive for civic participation, political equality and economic and cultural self-determination. By the late 1870s, conservative whites managed to regain power in the South. From 1890 to 1908 they proceeded to pass legislation that disenfranchised most Negros and many poor whites, trapping them without representation. They established white supremacist
White supremacy
White supremacy is the belief, and promotion of the belief, that white people are superior to people of other racial backgrounds. The term is sometimes used specifically to describe a political ideology that advocates the social and political dominance by whites.White supremacy, as with racial...

 regimes of Jim Crow
Jim Crow laws
The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities, with a supposedly "separate but equal" status for black Americans...

 segregation in the South and one-party block voting behind southern Democrats. The conservative whites denied African Americans their exercise of civil and political rights. The region's reliance on an agricultural economy continued to limit opportunities for most people. Negros were exploited as share croppers and laborers. As life in the South became increasingly difficult, African Americans began to migrate North in great numbers.

Most of the African-American literary movement arose from a generation that had lived through the gains and losses of Reconstruction after the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Sometimes their parents or grandparents had been slaves. Their ancestors had sometimes benefited by paternal investment in social capital, including better-than-average education. Many in the Harlem Renaissance were part of the Great Migration out of the South into the Negro neighborhoods of the North and Midwest. African Americans sought a better standard of living and relief from the institutionalized racism in the South. Others were people of African descent from racially stratified communities in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 who came to the United States hoping for a better life. Uniting most of them was their convergence in Harlem, New York City.

Despite the increasing popularity of Negro culture, virulent white racism, often by more recent ethnic immigrants, continued to impact African-American communities, even in the North. After the end of World War I, many African American soldiers—who fought in segregated units like the Harlem Hellfighters
Harlem Hellfighters
The 369th Infantry Regiment, formerly the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the United States Army that saw action in World War I and World War II. The 369th Infantry is known for being the first African-American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary...

—came home to a nation whose citizens often did not respect their accomplishments. Race riots
Mass racial violence in the United States
Mass racial violence, also called race riots can include such disparate events as:* attacks on Irish Catholics, the Chinese and other immigrants in the 19th century....

 and other civil uprisings occurred throughout the US during the Red Summer of 1919
Red Summer of 1919
Red Summer describes the race riots that occurred in more than three dozen cities in the United States during the summer and early autumn of 1919. In most instances, whites attacked African Americans. In some cases groups of blacks fought back, notably in Chicago, where, along with Washington, D.C....

, reflecting economic competition over jobs and housing in many cities, as well as tensions over social territories.

Music


A new way of playing the piano called the Harlem Stride Style was created during the Harlem Renaissance, and helped blur the lines between the poor Negros and socially elite Negros. The traditional jazz band was composed primarily of brass instruments and was considered a symbol of the south, but the piano was considered an instrument of the wealthy. With this instrumental modification to the existing genre, the wealthy blacks now had more access to jazz music. Its popularity soon spread throughout the country and was consequently at an “all time high.” Innovation and liveliness were important characteristics of performers in the beginnings of jazz. Jazz musicians at the time like Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller , born Thomas Wright Waller, was a jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer...

, Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

, Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton
Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe , known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer....

, and Willie "The Lion" Smith were very talented and competitive, and were considered to have laid the foundation for future musicians of their genre.

During this time period, the musical style of blacks was becoming more and more attractive to whites. White novelists, dramatists and composers started to exploit the musical tendencies and themes of African-American in their works. Composers used poems written by African American poets in their songs, and would implement the rhythms, harmonies and melodies of African-American music—such as blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, spirituals, and jazz—into their concert pieces. Negros began to merge with Whites into the classical world of musical composition
Musical composition
Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

. The first Negro male to gain wide recognition as a concert artist in both his region and internationally was Roland Hayes
Roland Hayes
Roland Hayes was a lyric tenor and is considered the first African American male concert artist to receive wide international acclaim as well as at home...

. He trained with Arthur Calhoun in Chattanooga, and at Fisk University in Nashville. Later, he studied with Arthur Hubbard in Boston and with George Henshel and Amanda Ira Aldridge in London, England. He began singing in public as a student, and toured with the Fisk Jubilee Singers
Fisk Jubilee Singers
The Fisk Jubilee Singers are an African-American a cappella ensemble, consisting of students at Fisk University. The first group was organized in 1871 to tour and raise funds for their college. Their early repertoire consisted mostly of traditional spirituals, but included some Stephen Foster songs...

 in 1911.

Characteristics and themes


Characterizing the Harlem Renaissance was an overt racial pride that came to be represented in the idea of the New Negro
New Negro
New Negro is a term popularized during the Harlem Renaissance implying a more outspoken advocacy of dignity and a refusal to submit quietly to the practices and laws of Jim Crow racial segregation...

, who through intellect and production of literature, art, and music could challenge the pervading racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 and stereotypes to promote progressive
Progressivism
Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Progressivism is often viewed by some conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.The...

 or socialist politics, and racial
Racial integration
Racial integration, or simply integration includes desegregation . In addition to desegregation, integration includes goals such as leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity regardless of race, and the development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely...

 and social integration
Social integration
Social integration, in sociology and other social sciences, is the movement of minority groups such as ethnic minorities, refugees and underprivileged sections of a society into the mainstream of societies...

. The creation of art and literature would serve to "uplift" the race.

There would be no uniting form singularly characterizing the art that emerged out of the Harlem Renaissance. Rather, it encompassed a wide variety of cultural elements and styles, including a Pan-Africanist perspective, "high-culture" and "low-culture" or "low-life," from the traditional form of music to the blues and jazz, traditional and new experimental forms in literature such as modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 and the new form of jazz poetry
Jazz poetry
Jazz poetry is poetry that "demonstrates jazz-like rhythm or the feel of improvisation". During the 1920s, several poets began to eschew the conventions of rhythm and style; among these were Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and E. E. Cummings...

. This duality meant that numerous African-American artists came into conflict with conservatives in the black intelligentsia, who took issue with certain depictions of black life.

Some common themes represented during the Harlem Renaissance were the influence of the experience of slavery and emerging African-American folk traditions on black identity, the effects of institutional racism, the dilemmas inherent in performing and writing for elite white audiences, and the question of how to convey the experience of modern black life in the urban North.

The Harlem Renaissance was one of primarily African-American involvement. It rested on a support system of black patrons, black-owned businesses and publications. However, it also depended on the patronage of white Americans, such as Carl Van Vechten
Carl van Vechten
Carl Van Vechten was an American writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein.-Biography:...

 and Charlotte Osgood Mason
Charlotte Osgood Mason
Charlotte Osgood Mason Charlotte Osgood Mason Charlotte Osgood Mason (Born Charlotte Louise Van der Veer Quick (May 18, 1854, Princeton, New Jersey - April 15, 1946, New York City) was an American socialite and philanthropist....

, who provided various forms of assistance, opening doors which otherwise would have remained closed to the publication of work outside the black American community. This support often took the form of patronage
Patronage
Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings or popes have provided to musicians, painters, and sculptors...

 or publication
Publication
To publish is to make content available to the public. While specific use of the term may vary among countries, it is usually applied to text, images, or other audio-visual content on any medium, including paper or electronic publishing forms such as websites, e-books, Compact Discs and MP3s...

.

There were other whites interested in so-called "primitive
Primitive
Primitive may refer to:* Anarcho-primitivism, an anarchist critique of the origins and progress of civilization* Primitive culture, one that lacks major signs of economic development or modernity...

" cultures, as many whites viewed black American culture at that time, and wanted to see such "primitivism
Primitivism
Primitivism is a Western art movement that borrows visual forms from non-Western or prehistoric peoples, such as Paul Gauguin's inclusion of Tahitian motifs in paintings and ceramics...

" in the work coming out of the Harlem Renaissance. As with most fads, some people may have been exploited in the rush for publicity.

Interest in African-American lives also generated experimental but lasting collaborative work, such as the all-black productions of George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

's opera Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess
Porgy and Bess is an opera, first performed in 1935, with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. It was based on DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy and subsequent play of the same title, which he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy Heyward...

, and Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the "American Sound" in classical music...

 and Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France.-Early life:...

's Four Saints in Three Acts
Four Saints in Three Acts
Four Saints in Three Acts is an opera by American composer Virgil Thomson with a libretto by Gertrude Stein. Written in 1927-8, it contains about 20 saints, and is in at least four acts...

. In both productions the choral conductor Eva Jessye
Eva Jessye
Eva Jessye was an African American who was the first black woman to receive international distinction as a professional choral conductor. She is notable as a choral conductor during the Harlem Renaissance, who created her own choral group featured widely in performance. Her professional influence...

 was part of the creative team. Her choir was featured in Four Saints. The music world also found white band leaders defying racist attitudes to include the best and the brightest African-American stars of music and song in their productions.

The African Americans used art to prove their humanity
Human Race
Human Race refers to the Human species.Human race may also refer to:*The Human Race, 79th episode of YuYu Hakusho* Human Race Theatre Company of Dayton Ohio* Human Race Machine, a computer graphics device...

 and demand for equality
Racial equality
Racial equality means different things in different contexts. It mostly deals with an equal regard to all races.It can refer to a belief in biological equality of all human races....

. The Harlem Renaissance led to more opportunities for blacks to be published by mainstream houses. Many authors began to publish novels, magazines and newspapers during this time. The new fiction attracted a great amount of attention from the nation at large. Some authors who became nationally known were Jean Toomer
Jean Toomer
Jean Toomer was an American poet and novelist and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His first book Cane is considered by many as his most significant.-Early life:...

, Jessie Fauset, Claude McKay
Claude McKay
Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem , a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo , and Banana Bottom...

, Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance...

, James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is remembered best for his leadership within the NAACP, as well as for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and...

, Alain Locke, Eric D. Walrond
Eric D. Walrond
Eric Derwent Walrond was an African-American Harlem Renaissance writer, who made a lasting contribution to literature; his work still being in print today as a classic of its era...

 and Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

.

The Harlem Renaissance helped lay the foundation for the post-World War II phase of the Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, many black artists who rose to creative maturity afterward were inspired by this literary movement.

The Renaissance was more than a literary or artistic movement, it possessed a certain sociological development—particularly through a new racial consciousness—through racial integration, as seen the Back to Africa movement led by Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH was a Jamaican publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League...

. W. E. B. Du Bois' notion of "twoness", introduced in The Souls of Black Folk
The Souls of Black Folk
The Souls of Black Folk is a classic work of American literature by W. E. B. Du Bois. It is a seminal work in the history of sociology, and a cornerstone of African-American literary history....

(1903), explored a divided awareness of one's identity that was a unique critique of the social ramifications of racial consciousness.

A new black identity


"Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me."
- Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance...

 

The Harlem Renaissance was successful in that it brought the Black experience clearly within the corpus of American cultural history
Cultural history
The term cultural history refers both to an academic discipline and to its subject matter.Cultural history, as a discipline, at least in its common definition since the 1970s, often combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look at popular cultural traditions and cultural...

. Not only through an explosion of culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, but on a sociological
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 level, the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance is that it redefined how America, and the world, viewed the African-American population. The migration of southern Blacks to the north changed the image of the African-American from rural, undereducated peasants to one of urban, cosmopolitan sophistication. This new identity led to a greater social consciousness, and African-Americans became players on the world stage, expanding intellectual and social contacts internationally.

The progress—both symbolic and real—during this period, became a point of reference from which the African-American community gained a spirit of self-determination
Self-determination
Self-determination is the principle in international law that nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion or external interference...

 that provided a growing sense of both Black urbanity and Black militancy
Black nationalism
Black nationalism advocates a racial definition of indigenous national identity, as opposed to multiculturalism. There are different indigenous nationalist philosophies but the principles of all African nationalist ideologies are unity, and self-determination or independence from European society...

 as well as a foundation for the community to build upon for the Civil Rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 struggles in the 1950s and 1960s.

The urban setting of rapidly developing Harlem provided a venue for African-Americans of all backgrounds to appreciate the variety of Black life and culture. Through this expression, the Harlem Renaissance encouraged the new appreciation of folk roots and culture. For instance, folk materials and spirituals provided a rich source for the artistic and intellectual imagination and it freed the Blacks from the establishment of past condition. Through sharing in these cultural experiences, a consciousness sprung forth in the form of a united racial identity.

Criticism of the movement


Many critics point out that the Harlem Renaissance could not escape its history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

 and culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 in its attempt to create a new one, or sufficiently separate itself from the foundational elements of White, European culture. Often Harlem intellectuals, while proclaiming a new racial consciousness, resorted to mimicry of their White counterparts by adopting their clothing, sophisticated manners and etiquette. This could be seen as a reason by which the artistic and cultural products of the Harlem Renaissance did not overcome the presence of White-American values, and did not reject these values. In this regard, the creation of the "New Negro" as the Harlem intellectuals sought, was considered a success.

The Harlem Renaissance appealed to a mixed audience. The literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 appealed to the African-American middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 and to whites. Magazines such as The Crisis, a monthly journal of the NAACP, and Opportunity, an official publication of the National Urban League
National Urban League
The National Urban League , formerly known as the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes, is a nonpartisan civil rights organization based in New York City that advocates on behalf of African Americans and against racial discrimination in the United States. It is the oldest and largest...

, employed Harlem Renaissance writers on their editorial staffs; published poetry and short stories by black writers; and promoted African-American literature through articles, reviews, and annual literary prizes. As important as these literary outlets were, however, the Renaissance relied heavily on white publishing houses and white-owned magazines. In fact, a major accomplishment of the Renaissance was to push open the door to mainstream white periodicals and publishing houses, although the relationship between the Renaissance writers and white publishers and audiences created some controversy. W. E. B. Du Bois did not oppose the relationship between black writers and white publishers, but he was critical of works such as Claude McKay's
Claude McKay
Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem , a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo , and Banana Bottom...

 bestselling novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 Home to Harlem (1928) for appealing to the "prurient demand[s]" of white readers and publishers for portrayals of black "licentiousness." Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

 spoke for most of the writers and artists when he wrote in his essay The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain (1926) that black artists intended to express themselves freely, no matter what the black public or white public thought.

African American musicians and other performers also played to mixed audiences. Harlem's cabarets and clubs attracted both Harlem residents and white New Yorkers seeking out Harlem nightlife. Harlem's famous Cotton Club
Cotton Club
The Cotton Club was a famous night club in Harlem, New York City that operated during Prohibition that included jazz music. While the club featured many of the greatest African American entertainers of the era, such as Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Adelaide Hall, Count Basie, Bessie Smith,...

, where Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

 performed, carried this to an extreme, by providing black entertainment for exclusively white audiences. Ultimately, the more successful black musicians and entertainers who appealed to a mainstream audience moved their performances downtown.

Certain aspects of the Harlem Renaissance were accepted without debate, and without scrutiny. One of these was the future of the "New Negro." Artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance echoed the American progressivism
Progressivism
Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Progressivism is often viewed by some conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.The...

 in its faith in democratic reform, in its belief in art and literature as agents of change, and in its almost uncritical belief in itself and its future. This progressivist worldview rendered Black intellectuals—just like their White counterparts—unprepared for the rude shock of the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, and the Harlem Renaissance ended abruptly because of naive assumptions about the centrality of culture, unrelated to economic
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 and social realities.

Novels

  • Arna Bontemps
    Arna Bontemps
    Arnaud "Arna" Wendell Bontemps was an American poet and a noted member of the Harlem Renaissance.- Life and career :...

     — God Sends Sunday (1931), Black Thunder (1936)
  • Countee Cullen
    Countee Cullen
    Countee Cullen was an American poet who was popular during the Harlem Renaissance.- Biography :Cullen was an American poet and a leading figure with Langston Hughes in the Harlem Renaissance. This 1920s artistic movement produced the first large body of work in the United States written by African...

     — One Way to Heaven (1932)
  • Jessie Redmon Fauset — There is Confusion (1924), Plum Bun (1928), The Chinaberry Tree (1931), Comedy, American Style (1933)
  • Rudolph Fisher
    Rudolph Fisher
    Rudolph Fisher was an African-American physician, radiologist, novelist, short story writer, dramatist, musician, and orator. Fisher's parents were John Wesley Fisher, a clergyman, and Glendora Williamson. Fisher had three children.His first published work, "City of Refuge", appeared in the...

     — The Walls of Jericho (1928), The Conjure-Man Dies (1932)
  • Langston Hughes
    Langston Hughes
    James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

     — Not Without Laughter (1930)
  • Zora Neale Hurston
    Zora Neale Hurston
    Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance...

     — Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934), Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • Nella Larsen
    Nella Larsen
    Nellallitea 'Nella' Larsen Nellallitea 'Nella' Larsen Nellallitea 'Nella' Larsen (born Nellie Walker (April 13, 1891 – March 30, 1964), was an American novelist of the Harlem Renaissance. She published two novels and a few short stories. Though her literary output was scant, what she wrote earned...

     — Quicksand (1928), Passing (1929)
  • Claude McKay
    Claude McKay
    Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem , a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo , and Banana Bottom...

     — Home to Harlem (1927), Banjo (1929), Gingertown (1931), Banana Bottom (1933)
  • George Schuyler
    George Schuyler
    George Samuel Schuyler , was an African American author, journalist and social commentator known for his conservative views.-Early life:George Samuel Schuyler was born in Providence, Rhode Island to George Francis and Eliza Jane Schuyler...

     — Black No More (1931), Slaves Today (1931)
  • Wallace Thurman
    Wallace Thurman
    Wallace Henry Thurman was an American novelist during the Harlem Renaissance. He is best known for his novel The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life, which explores discrimination among black people based on skin color.-Early life:...

     — The Blacker the Berry (1929), Infants of the Spring (1932), Interne (1932)
  • Jean Toomer
    Jean Toomer
    Jean Toomer was an American poet and novelist and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His first book Cane is considered by many as his most significant.-Early life:...

     — Cane (1923)
  • Carl Van Vechten
    Carl van Vechten
    Carl Van Vechten was an American writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein.-Biography:...

     — Nigger Heaven (1926)
  • Walter White
    Walter Francis White
    Walter Francis White was a civil rights activist who led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for almost a quarter of a century and directed a broad program of legal challenges to segregation and disfranchisement. He was also a journalist, novelist, and essayist...

     — The Fire in the Flint (1924), Flight (1926)

Drama

  • Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr., author of the play, On the Fields of France.
  • Charles Gilpin
    Charles Sidney Gilpin
    Charles Sidney Gilpin became one of the most highly regarded actors of the 1920s. He played in critical debuts in New York: in the 1919 premier of John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln and played the lead role of Brutus Jones in the 1920 premier of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, also touring...

    , actor
  • Angelina Weld Grimke
    Angelina Weld Grimke
    Angelina Weld Grimké was an African-American journalist, teacher, playwright and poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance and was one of the first African-American women to have a play performed.- Biography :...

    , author of the drama, Rachel
  • Langston Hughes
    Langston Hughes
    James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

    , Mulatto, produced on Broadway. Hughes also helped to found the Harlem Suitcase Theater
  • Zora Neale Hurston
    Zora Neale Hurston
    Zora Neale Hurston was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance...

    , author of the play Color Struck
  • Georgia Douglas Johnson
    Georgia Douglas Johnson
    Georgia Blanche Douglas Camp Johnson better known as Georgia Douglas Johnson was an American poet and a member of the Harlem Renaissance.-Early life and education:...

    , author of the play, Plumes, A Tragedy.
  • John Matheus, author of the play, Cruiter.
  • Richard Bruce Nugent
    Richard Bruce Nugent
    Richard Bruce Nugent , aka Richard Bruce and Bruce Nugent, was a writer and painter in the Harlem Renaissance.-Biography:...

    , author of the play,
    Sahdji, an African Ballet.
  • Paul Robeson
    Paul Robeson
    Paul Leroy Robeson was an American concert singer , recording artist, actor, athlete, scholar who was an advocate for the Civil Rights Movement in the first half of the twentieth century...

    , actor
  • Eulalie Spence
    Eulalie Spence
    Eulalie Spence was a African American female writer, teacher, actress and playwright from the British West Indies. She was an influential member of the the Harlem Renaissance....

    , author of the play,
    Undertow.

Poetry

  • Lewis Grandison Alexander
    Lewis Grandison Alexander
    Lewis Grandison Alexander was an American poet, actor, playwright, and costume designer who lived in Washington, D.C. and had strong ties to the Harlem Renaissance period in New York...

    , poet
  • Gwendolyn Bennett, poet
  • Arna Bontemps
    Arna Bontemps
    Arnaud "Arna" Wendell Bontemps was an American poet and a noted member of the Harlem Renaissance.- Life and career :...

    , poet
  • Sterling A. Brown, poet
  • Lillian Byrnes, poet
  • Joyce Sims Carrington, poet
  • Ethel M. Caution, poet
  • Anita Scott Coleman
    Anita Scott Coleman
    Anita Scott Coleman was an American short story writer, and poet. She published her earliest work, thirteen short stories, in New Mexico between 1919 and 1925, the most famous of which, "The Little Grey House," appeared in 1922." -Early life:"Coleman spent her life in Silver City, New Mexico,...

    , poet
  • Joseph Seamon Cotter, Jr., poet
  • Mae V. Cowdery, poet
  • Countee Cullen
    Countee Cullen
    Countee Cullen was an American poet who was popular during the Harlem Renaissance.- Biography :Cullen was an American poet and a leading figure with Langston Hughes in the Harlem Renaissance. This 1920s artistic movement produced the first large body of work in the United States written by African...

    , poet —
    The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929)
  • Waring Cuney
    Waring Cuney
    William Waring Cuney was an African American poet who made considerable contributions to the Harlem Renaissance. He is best known for his poem "No Images", which won first prize in the 1926 Opportunity poetry contest....

    , poet
  • Clarissa Scott Delany, poet
  • Blanche Taylor Dickinson, poet
  • Ruth G. Dixon, poet
  • Alice Dunbar-Nelson, poet and fiction writer
  • Jessie Redmon Fauset
    Jessie Redmon Fauset
    Jessie Redmon Fauset was an American editor, poet, essayist and novelist. Fauset was most known for being the editor of the NAACP magazine the Crisis. She also was the editor and co-author for the African American children magazine called Brownies' Book...

    , editor, poet, essayist and novelist
  • Angelina Weld Grimke
    Angelina Weld Grimke
    Angelina Weld Grimké was an African-American journalist, teacher, playwright and poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance and was one of the first African-American women to have a play performed.- Biography :...

    , poet and dramatist
  • Gladys May Casely Hayford, poet
  • Virginia A. Houston, poet
  • Langston Hughes
    Langston Hughes
    James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

    , poet, fiction-writer, essayist, dramatist, autobiographer, editor
  • Mary Jenness, poet
  • Georgia Douglas Johnson
    Georgia Douglas Johnson
    Georgia Blanche Douglas Camp Johnson better known as Georgia Douglas Johnson was an American poet and a member of the Harlem Renaissance.-Early life and education:...

    , poet
  • Helene Johnson
    Helene Johnson
    Helen Johnson, who was better known as Helene Johnson was an African American poet during the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a cousin of author Dorothy West.She spent her early years at her grandfather’s house in Boston...

    , poet
  • James Weldon Johnson
    James Weldon Johnson
    James Weldon Johnson was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is remembered best for his leadership within the NAACP, as well as for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and...

    , poet, God's Trombones
  • Rosalie M. Jonas, poet
  • Dorothy Kruger, poet
  • Aqua Laluah, poet
  • Elma Ehrlich Levinger, poet
  • Marjorie Marshall, poet
  • Dorothea Mathews, poet
  • Bessie Mayle, poet
  • Claude McKay
    Claude McKay
    Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem , a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo , and Banana Bottom...

    , poet and novelist
  • May Miller
    May Miller
    May Miller was an African American poet, playwright and educator. Miller became known as the most widely published female playwright of the Harlem Renaissance, with seven published volumes of poetry during her career as a writer.-Personal life:May Miller was born in Washington, D.C. to Kelly and...

    , poet and playwright
  • Isabel Neill, poet
  • Effie Lee Newsome, poet
  • Richard Bruce Nugent
    Richard Bruce Nugent
    Richard Bruce Nugent , aka Richard Bruce and Bruce Nugent, was a writer and painter in the Harlem Renaissance.-Biography:...

    , poet
  • Esther Popel, poet
  • Anne Spencer
    Anne Spencer
    Annie Bethel Spencer was an American Black poet and active participant in the New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance period....

    , poet
  • Margaret L. Thomas, poet
  • Eloise Bibb Thompson, poet
  • Jean Toomer
    Jean Toomer
    Jean Toomer was an American poet and novelist and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His first book Cane is considered by many as his most significant.-Early life:...

    , poet and novelist
  • Eda Lou Walton, poet
  • Lucy Ariel Williams, poet
  • Octavia Beatrice Wynbush, poet
  • Kathleen Tankersley Young, poet

Leading intellectuals

  • W. E. B. Du Bois
  • Hubert Harrison
    Hubert Harrison
    Hubert Henry Harrison was a West Indian-American writer, orator, educator, critic, and radical socialist political activist based in Harlem, New York. He was described by activist A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem radicalism” and by the historian Joel Augustus Rogers as “the foremost...

  • Alain Locke
  • James Weldon Johnson
    James Weldon Johnson
    James Weldon Johnson was an American author, politician, diplomat, critic, journalist, poet, anthologist, educator, lawyer, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is remembered best for his leadership within the NAACP, as well as for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and...

  • Charles Spurgeon Johnson
  • Walter White
    Walter Francis White
    Walter Francis White was a civil rights activist who led the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for almost a quarter of a century and directed a broad program of legal challenges to segregation and disfranchisement. He was also a journalist, novelist, and essayist...

  • Mary White Ovington
    Mary White Ovington
    Mary White Ovington was a suffragette, socialist, Unitarian, journalist, and co-founder of the NAACP.-Biography:...

  • A. Philip Randolph
    A. Philip Randolph
    Asa Philip Randolph was a leader in the African American civil-rights movement and the American labor movement. He organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly Negro labor union. In the early civil-rights movement, Randolph led the March on Washington...

  • Chandler Owen
    Chandler Owen
    Chandler Owen was an African-American writer, editor and early member of the Socialist Party of America. Born in North Carolina, he studied and worked in New York, then moved to Chicago for much of his career. He established his own public relations company in Chicago and wrote speeches for...

  • S. J. Joyce
  • William Stanley Braithwaite
    William Stanley Braithwaite
    William Stanley Beaumont Braithwaite was an American writer, poet and literary critic.Braithwaite was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of 12, upon the death of his father, Braithwaite was forced to quit school to support his family...

  • Marcus Garvey
    Marcus Garvey
    Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr., ONH was a Jamaican publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator who was a staunch proponent of the Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism movements, to which end he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League...

  • Joel Augustus Rogers
    Joel Augustus Rogers
    Joel Augustus Rogers was a Jamaican-American author, journalist, and historian who contributed to the history of Africa and the African diaspora, especially the history of African Americans in the United States. His research spanned the academic fields of history, sociology and anthropology...

  • Marion Vera Cuthbert
  • Arthur Schomburg
  • Carl Van Vechten
    Carl van Vechten
    Carl Van Vechten was an American writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein.-Biography:...

  • Leslie Pinckney Hill

Visual artists

  • Jacob Lawrence
    Jacob Lawrence
    Jacob Lawrence was an American painter; he was married to fellow artist Gwendolyn Knight. Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism", though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colors of Harlem.Lawrence is among the best-known twentieth...

  • Charles Alston
    Charles Alston
    Charles Henry Alston was an African-American painter, sculptor, illustrator, muralist and teacher who lived and worked in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Alston was active in the Harlem Renaissance; Alston was the first African American supervisor for the Works Progress Administration's...

  • Henry Bannarn
    Henry Bannarn
    ‎ ‎Henry Wilmer "Mike" Bannarn was an African-American artist, best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance period.-Biography:He was born in Wetumpka, Hughes County, Oklahoma on July 17, 1910...

  • Augusta Savage
    Augusta Savage
    Augusta Savage, born Augusta Christine Fells was an African-American sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a teacher and her studio was important to the careers of a rising generation of artists who would become nationally known...

  • Aaron Douglas
    Aaron Douglas
    Aaron Douglas was an African American painter and a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance.-Early life:...

  • Archibald Motley
    Archibald Motley
    Archibald John Motley, Junior was an African-American painter. He studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago during the 1910s, graduating in 1918...

  • Lois Mailou Jones
    Lois Mailou Jones
    Lois Mailou Jones was a artist who lived into her nineties and who painted and influenced others during the Harlem Renaissance and beyond during her long teaching career. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts and is buried on her beloved Martha's Vineyard in the Oak Bluffs Cemetery.-Life:Dr...

  • Palmer Hayden
    Palmer Hayden
    Palmer C. Hayden was an American painter who depicted African American life. He painted in both oils and watercolors, and was a prolific artist of his era.-Early life:...

  • Romare Bearden
    Romare Bearden
    Romare Bearden was an African American artist and writer. He worked in several media including cartoons, oils, and collage.-Education:...

  • Sargent Johnson
  • William H. Johnson
  • Beauford Delaney
    Beauford Delaney
    Beauford Delaney was an American modernist painter.-Early life:Beauford Delaney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, in 1901. Delaney’s parents were prominent and respected members of Knoxville's black community. His father Samuel was both a barber and a Methodist minister...

  • Norman Lewis
    Norman Lewis (artist)
    Norman W. Lewis was an African-American painter, scholar, and teacher. He is associated with Abstract Expressionism. Lewis was African-American, of Caribbean descent.-Early life and career:...

  • Paul Heath
  • Prentiss Taylor
    Prentiss Taylor
    Prentiss Taylor was an American illustrator, lithographer, and painter. He was a strong figure in the Harlem Renaissance. Among his many friends from that era is Langston Hughes, whom Taylor illustrated many of his publications. Also among his close friends was the photographer Carl Van Vechten...


Popular entertainment

  • Cotton Club
    Cotton Club
    The Cotton Club was a famous night club in Harlem, New York City that operated during Prohibition that included jazz music. While the club featured many of the greatest African American entertainers of the era, such as Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Adelaide Hall, Count Basie, Bessie Smith,...

  • Apollo Theater
    Apollo Theater
    The Apollo Theater in New York City is one of the most famous, and older, music halls in the United States, and the most famous club associated almost exclusively with Black performers...

  • Black Swan Records
    Black Swan Records
    Black Swan Records was a United States record label founded in 1921 in Harlem, New York. It was the first widely distributed label to be owned and operated by, and marketed to, African Americans....

  • Small's Paradise
  • Connie's Inn
    Connie's Inn
    Connie's Inn was a Harlem, New York City nightclub established in 1923 by Connie Immerman, a white bootlegger. It was located in the basement at 2221 Seventh Avenue at 131st Street....

  • Harlem Globetrotters
    Harlem Globetrotters
    The Harlem Globetrotters are an exhibition basketball team that combines athleticism, theater and comedy. The executive offices for the team are currently in downtown Phoenix, Arizona; the team is owned by Shamrock Holdings, which oversees the various investments of the Roy E. Disney family.Over...

  • Speakeasies
    Speakeasy
    A speakeasy, also called a blind pig or blind tiger, is an establishment that illegally sells alcoholic beverages. Such establishments came into prominence in the United States during the period known as Prohibition...

  • Rent party
    Rent party
    A rent party is a social occasion where tenants hire a musician or band to play and pass the hat to raise money to pay their rent, originating in Harlem during the 1920s. The rent party played a major role in the development of jazz and blues music...

  • Savoy Ballroom
    Savoy Ballroom
    The Savoy Ballroom, located in Harlem, New York City, was a medium sized ballroom for music and public dancing that was in operation from March 12, 1926 to July 10, 1958. It was located between 140th and 141st Streets on Lenox Avenue....


Musicians/Composers

  • William Still
    William Still
    William Still was an African-American abolitionist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, writer, historian and civil rights activist....

  • Nora Douglas Holt Ray
  • Billie Holiday
    Billie Holiday
    Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing...

  • Duke Ellington
    Duke Ellington
    Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

  • Count Basie
    Count Basie
    William "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. Basie led his jazz orchestra almost continuously for nearly 50 years...

  • Louis Armstrong
    Louis Armstrong
    Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

  • Lil Armstrong
  • Eubie Blake
    Eubie Blake
    James Hubert Blake was an American composer, lyricist, and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music. In 1921, Blake and long-time collaborator Noble Sissle wrote the Broadway musical Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans...

  • Bessie Smith
    Bessie Smith
    Bessie Smith was an American blues singer.Sometimes referred to as The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s...

  • George Bueno
  • Fats Waller
    Fats Waller
    Fats Waller , born Thomas Wright Waller, was a jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer...

  • James P. Johnson
    James P. Johnson
    James P. Johnson was an American pianist and composer...

  • Noble Sissle
    Noble Sissle
    Noble Sissle was an American jazz composer, lyricist, bandleader, singer and playwright.-Early life:...

  • Earl "Fatha" Hines
    Earl Hines
    Earl Kenneth Hines, universally known as Earl "Fatha" Hines, was an American jazz pianist. Hines was one of the most influential figures in the development of modern jazz piano and, according to one source, is "one of a small number of pianists whose playing shaped the history of jazz".-Early...

  • Jelly Roll Morton
    Jelly Roll Morton
    Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe , known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, was an American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer....

  • Fletcher Henderson
    Fletcher Henderson
    James Fletcher Hamilton Henderson, Jr. was an American pianist, bandleader, arranger and composer, important in the development of big band jazz and swing music. His was one of the most prolific black orchestras and his influence was vast...

  • Josephine Baker
    Josephine Baker
    Josephine Baker was an American dancer, singer, and actress who found fame in her adopted homeland of France. She was given such nicknames as the "Bronze Venus", the "Black Pearl", and the "Créole Goddess"....

  • Billy Strayhorn
    Billy Strayhorn
    William Thomas "Billy" Strayhorn was an American composer, pianist and arranger, best known for his successful collaboration with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington lasting nearly three decades. His compositions include "Chelsea Bridge", "Take the "A" Train" and "Lush Life".-Early...

  • Mamie Smith
    Mamie Smith
    -External links:* African American Registry* with photos* with .ram files of her early recordings* NPR special on the selection on "Crazy Blues" to the 2005...

  • Ivie Anderson
    Ivie Anderson
    Ivie Anderson was an American jazz singer. She was best-known for her performances with Duke Ellington's orchestra between 1931 and 1942....

  • Lena Horne
    Lena Horne
    Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was an American singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer.Horne joined the chorus of the Cotton Club at the age of sixteen and became a nightclub performer before moving to Hollywood, where she had small parts in numerous movies, and more substantial parts in the...

  • Roland Hayes
    Roland Hayes
    Roland Hayes was a lyric tenor and is considered the first African American male concert artist to receive wide international acclaim as well as at home...

  • Ella Fitzgerald
    Ella Fitzgerald
    Ella Jane Fitzgerald , also known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist...

  • Lucille Bogan
    Lucille Bogan
    Lucille Bogan was an American blues singer, among the first to be recorded. She also recorded under the pseudonym Bessie Jackson...

  • Bill Robinson
    Bill Robinson
    Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was an American tap dancer and actor of stage and film. Audiences enjoyed his understated style, which eschewed the frenetic manner of the jitterbug in favor of cool and reserve; rarely did he use his upper body, relying instead on busy, inventive feet, and an expressive...

  • The Nicholas Brothers
  • Marian Anderson
    Marian Anderson
    Marian Anderson was an African-American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century...

  • Ethel Waters
    Ethel Waters
    Ethel Waters was an American blues, jazz and gospel vocalist and actress. She frequently performed jazz, big band, and pop music, on the Broadway stage and in concerts, although she began her career in the 1920s singing blues.Her best-known recordings includes, "Dinah", "Birmingham Bertha",...

  • Bert Williams
    Bert Williams
    Egbert Austin "Bert" Williams was one of the preeminent entertainers of the Vaudeville era and one of the most popular comedians for all audiences of his time. He was by far the best-selling black recording artist before 1920...

  • Pigmeat Markham
    Pigmeat Markham
    Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham was an African-American entertainer. Though best known as a comedian, Markham was also a singer, dancer, and actor...

  • Moms Mabley
    Moms Mabley
    Jackie "Moms" Mabley, born Loretta Mary Aiken , was an American standup comedian and a pioneer of the so-called "Chitlin' Circuit" of African-American vaudeville.-Early years:...

  • Mantan Moreland
    Mantan Moreland
    Mantan Moreland was an American actor and comedian most popular in the 1930s and 1940s.-Career:Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Moreland began acting by the time he was an adolescent, reportedly running away to join the circus...

  • Ma Rainey
    Ma Rainey
    Ma Rainey was one of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. She was billed as The Mother of the Blues....

  • The Will Mastin Trio
  • Lonnie Johnson
    Lonnie Johnson
    Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson was an American blues and jazz singer/guitarist and songwriter who pioneered the role of jazz guitar and is recognized as the first to play single-string guitar solos...

  • Nina Mae McKinney
    Nina Mae McKinney
    Nina Mae McKinney was an American actress who worked internationally in theatre, film and television after getting her start on Broadway and in Hollywood...

  • The Dandridge Sisters
    Dorothy Dandridge
    Dorothy Jean Dandridge was an American actress and popular singer, and was the first African-American to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress...

  • Victoria Spivey
    Victoria Spivey
    Victoria Spivey was an American blues singer and songwriter. She is best known for her recordings of "Dope Head Blues" and "Organ Grinder Blues", and Spivey variously worked with her sister, Addie "Sweet Pease" Spivey, and with Bob Dylan, Lonnie Johnson, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Clarence...

  • Cecil Scott
    Cecil Scott
    Cecil Scott was an American jazz clarinetist, tenor saxophonist, and bandleader....

  • Fess Williams
    Fess Williams
    Stanley Williams was an American jazz musician.-Early life:...

  • McKinney's Cotton Pickers
    McKinney's Cotton Pickers
    McKinney's Cotton Pickers were an African American jazz band founded in Detroit in 1926 by William McKinney, who expanded his Synco Septet to ten pieces. Cuba Austin took over for McKinney early on drums....

  • Charlie Johnson
    Charlie Johnson (bandleader)
    Charlie "Fess" Johnson was an American jazz bandleader and pianist.Johnson led an ensemble called the Paradise Ten, who played at Small's Paradise from 1925–1935 and recorded five times between 1925 and 1929. Though Johnson was a capable pianist, he rarely soloed on his recordings...

  • The Chocolate Dandies
    The Chocolate Dandies
    The Chocolate Dandies was a name used by a number of different jazz ensembles in the United States from the 1920s into the 1940s.The name "Chocolate Dandies" originally came from a 1924 stage show written by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle. A unit led by Don Redman was the first to record with it on...

  • Cab Calloway
    Cab Calloway
    Cabell "Cab" Calloway III was an American jazz singer and bandleader. He was strongly associated with the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York City where he was a regular performer....

  • The King Cole Trio
    Nat King Cole
    Nathaniel Adams Coles , known professionally as Nat King Cole, was an American musician who first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. Although an accomplished pianist, he owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres...

  • Chick Webb
    Chick Webb
    William Henry Webb, usually known as Chick Webb was an American jazz and swing music drummer as well as a band leader.-Biography:...

  • Dizzy Gillespie
    Dizzy Gillespie
    John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was an American jazz trumpet player, bandleader, singer, and composer dubbed "the sound of surprise".Together with Charlie Parker, he was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz...

  • Thelonious Monk
    Thelonious Monk
    Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer considered "one of the giants of American music". Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser"...


See also


  • African American art
    African American art
    African American art is a broad term describing the visual arts of the American black community . Influenced by various cultural traditions, including those of Africa, Europe and the Americas, traditional African American art forms include the range of plastic arts, from basket weaving, pottery,...

  • List of African-American visual artists
  • African American culture
    African American culture
    African-American culture, also known as black culture, in the United States refers to the cultural contributions of Americans of African descent to the culture of the United States, either as part of or distinct from American culture. The distinct identity of African-American culture is rooted in...

  • African American literature
    African American literature
    African-American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of African descent. The genre traces its origins to the works of such late 18th century writers as Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano, reaching early high points with slave narratives and the Harlem...

  • Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
    Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
    The Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance by authors Sandra L. West and Aberjhani, is a book that made history in 2003 when it became the first published encyclopedic volume to chronicle the lives, events, and culture that comprised the celebrated historical era, 1920s-1940s, known worldwide as...

    (book)
  • New Negro
    New Negro
    New Negro is a term popularized during the Harlem Renaissance implying a more outspoken advocacy of dignity and a refusal to submit quietly to the practices and laws of Jim Crow racial segregation...

  • Niggerati
    Niggerati
    The Niggerati was the name used, with deliberate irony, by Wallace Thurman for the group of young African American artists and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. "Niggerati" is a portmanteau of "nigger" and "literati". The rooming house where he lived, and where that group often met, was...

  • Roaring Twenties
    Roaring Twenties
    The Roaring Twenties is a phrase used to describe the 1920s, principally in North America, but also in London, Berlin and Paris for a period of sustained economic prosperity. The phrase was meant to emphasize the period's social, artistic, and cultural dynamism...


External links