Thursday, April 20, 2017

Harlem Renaissance

In the 1920s, in Harlem, New York, a groups of mostly African Americans gathered together to create a dynamic time of creativity in music, dance, and poetry.   The writers and musicians who participated during this time are iconic:  they include the poets Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, and the Jazz Musicians Duke Ellington.  There were many other African American women and men who were known as icons of this age.  The Harlem Renaissance also influences communities in Paris, where the dancer, Josephine Baker became wildly popular.  However there were still unusual racial divides:  The Cotton Club provided all black entertainment to an all white audience.

Unfortunately, the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance did not extend into the segregated South, where African Americans faced severe restrictions, voting limitations, and limited opportunities.  Earlier, there had been waves of migration out of the South to the Northern Cities and Southern California.  The Harlem Renaissance ended abruptly with the Great Depression.  Even the great art, music, and vibrancy would not withstand the huge economic shocks that occurred.  The audiences dried up: and most of the former entertainers were left looking for work.

Still, it remains a wonderful opportunity to study how black culture flowered after the decades long struggle to establish a non-slave identity.