Harlem: Harlem Renaissance African Essay

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Reba Towles

Ms. Reddy

English III Honors


Harlem Renaissance

At the start of the twentieth century African Americans were looking for way to explore their new identities because they were now free men and women. Many began to explore their new nature through visual arts, theatre, music and literature. This time span known as the Harlem Renaissance, was also called the “New Negro Movement.” The Harlem Renaissance was an expression of African-American social thought and culture which took a place in newly-formed Black community in neighborhood of Harlem. The Harlem Renaissance flourished from early 1920’s to1940’s. Ideas prospered throughout the Harlem movement, creating Jazz music, African American fine art and black literature. Contributing to these ideas were the massive amounts of African Americans migrating to the northern cities. This migration focused on African Americans moving in the same area where they would encourage one another to explore those new identities. The Harlem Renaissance was an era bursting of new culture and ideas coming from the now free African Americans who desperately wanted a world to call their own. The Harlem Renaissance was a way for African Americans to overcome the racial and degrading stereotypes through music, literature and art. One of the most influential productions during the Harlem Renaissance was the music. Jazz one of the most widely known genres of music originated from the Harlem Renaissance, but it was not called Jazz the Negroes referred to as the ‘Blues’. “The Negroes who invented it called their songs the ‘Blues’ ( Rogers 217). The difference between Jazz and The Blues is Jazz was a branch off of the Blues and it was more carefree and happy rather than slow and more sorrow felt. Along with the Blues, other musical ideas evolved such as the Harlem Stride and “Walkin’the Dog”. The Harlem Stride was a new piano style created during the Renaissance which helped dim the difference between poor Negroes and wealthy Negroes. “Walkin’ the Dog,” was a new strut created by Shelton Brooks, a Negro comedian. As well as “Walkin’ the Dog,” other dances flourished as a result of the new influential music; Blues and Jazz. New musicians began to arrive on the scene creating names for themselves that no one would be able to forget. Artists such as Billie Holliday, Chick Webb, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington fame began with the Harlem Renaissance. Many consider Billie Holliday to be one of the greatest Blues singers of all times. Among the other innovations during the Harlem Renaissance African American literature may arguably be the biggest and most influential advancement during this time period depending on whether you are a book worm or music lover. The literature of this period helped to facilitate a transformation from the idea of the “Old Negro” to the idea “New Negro”. Famous texts that marked this transformation and encouraged exploration of African American experience were The Book of American Negro Poetry and The New Negro. The biggest genre of literature during the Harlem Renaissance was poetry. Poetry is said to be “the inner music of the soul”, “It is the internal spring which invigorates the mechanism of the inner self with substance to reach a new horizon” (Wright 1384). As poetry flourished during the Harlem Renaissance a transformed nation of African-Americans poets began to reach unimaginable heights. Famous poets such as Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, James Weldon Johnson, Countee Cullen, and others have created paths for the future generations to follow. Along with poetry other genres such as journalism and sermons became very popular as well. An example of journalism such as the short-lived literary magazine Fire!! had a significant impact on the literary production because it represented the efforts of younger African American writers to claim their own creativity apart from older artists