Northern cities became a magnet for thousands of blacks fleeing the South after Reconstruction Era
Lynchings, segregation and intolerable living conditions inspired migration to the North
Industrial expansion created a demand for labor - employers eager to hire blacks
WWI created more need for jobs previously held by white males
Northern Migration and the Cultural Renaissance
Blacks settled in many cities: Chicago, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.
New York City was the most popular destination because it was the largest and most famous
Harlem was attractive because it was built to house middle and upper middle class whites, but became overbuilt and needed to include blacks or have increasing vacancies
Grand avenues, broad sidewalks, finely constructed houses
Housing superior to anything available to blacks anywhere else in U.S.
Home to all classes of blacks, including leading writers, artists
Interest in African American culture growing as well as popularity of jazz, blues and dance
The attraction of Harlem
The Search for Identity This influx of blacks from many different backgrounds created a variety of needs. As blacks were beginning to establish themselves in the post-WWI urban settings, they needed to find their own identity and acceptance in a mostly white world.
The Central Mission The composition of urban environments was eclectic with returning black soldiers, upscale and well-educated blacks, and blacks fleeing injustices in the south.They did not agree on how to accomplish task of creating a new identity.
"The Talented Tenth" The literary movement in Harlem sought to relieve this tension by working with the "Talented Tenth." This was a term coined by W.E.B. DuBois proposing that one in ten black men will become leaders of the race, through education and training. The literary movement proposed that black identity and social acceptance would be accomplished through the arts. They began a campaign to gain support from influential black and white writers and publishers.
A formal campaign African-American newspapers and magazines published black manuscripts, created literary awards, and courted white patrons. A surge of new talent merged black and white writers and publishers. Such names to emerge were: Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Jessie Fauset, Arna Bontemps, Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, and Langston Hughes.
Taking matters into their own hands... During the early Harlem Renaissance, African-American artists and writers seeking to publish their works turned to periodicals created, edited, and produced by other African Americans. The sheer variety in the content and tone of these many publications revealed the diverse—and sometimes opposing—social and political attitudes among prominent African Americans.
When artists and writers did not find the appropriate periodical to publish their work among the many existing publications, they would often create new periodicals to reflect their particular views.
The Crisis - W.E.B. DuBois
New York Age - James Weldon Johnson
Opportunity - Charles Johnson
Fire!!- Hughes, Hurston, Thurman
Negro World - Marcus Garvey
On the Newstand...
The Messenger openly criticized other magazines for their conservative stance
Fire!! was "art for art's sake" and only lasted one issue
Opportunity promoted contests for promising young black writers
Crisis showcased "talented tenth"
This movement proved very successful
New York publishers took an interest in African American writers
Harper & Brothers bought out Countee Cullen's book of poetry Color , Jean Toomer's book of fiction Cane , Claude McKay's Harlem Shadows
Harlem and the Creative Movement
The "Representative" African American? The early days of the Harlem Renaissance produced a wealth of poetry, short stories and novels, shaped by the direction of the Talented Tenth, projecting an image that they considered to be the "representative" African American"
Something Different is in the Air Langston Hughes argued that these writings catered to African Americans who wanted only to fit into white America, rejecting their own heritage. In 1923, the publication of Jean Toomer's Cane changed that. This publication combined poetry, short stories, vignettes, and drama, in a candid semi-autobiographical description of his seeking to find his "roots."
The Shift With this publication, a large scale shift occurred in the themes, narratives, diction, poetic images, and mission of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1926, in his essay, "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," Langston Hughes called for a new "honesty" in depicting the image of African Americans. The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain
Writers were called upon to use a form "freer and larger than dialect" (James Weldon Johnson)
Disentangle themselves from stereotypes
Use language as the heart of their writing
Use the traditions of the past, such as the writings of Phillis Wheatley to move into the future
Alain Locke - created a collection of anthology of essays, stories, poems and artwork by older and younger white and black writers
Captured the emerging spirit of the movement
Merged racial awareness with desire for literacy and artistic excellence
Exuded confidence in the black world and encouraged a link to other cultural movements around the world
The New Negro - 1925
Harlem Renaissance "Manifesto" In Lock's anthology, he writes that the Negro should no longer be apologetic for his blackness but should take a new pride in a racial identity and heritage, of the "renewed self-respect and self-dependence in the contemporary black community." He urged writers to examine the meaning of an African past and to demonstrate this in their art. Harlem by Alain Lock e
Different perspectives There was a lack of agreement as to the role of the African-American writer at this time. Some still felt they should follow a traditional approach, and others felt they should represent their race. These differences point to the amazing range of talent in the movement, and the development of different kinds of writing of the Harlem Renaissance.
Determined to succeed in the white dominated field of literature
Wanted to succeed as a poet through adherence to traditional standards of English verse
Did not want to be labeled a racial writer, but received most acclaim from his racial writing
"I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet"
Saw Countee's attitude as a betrayal of racial identity
Saw it as an "aping" of white European style
Sought in his work to explore and accept his own blackness
Known as "Poet Laureate of Harlem"
Inspired by jazz and blues
Described as one of the greatest writers of the century
Used her childhood home as a setting for much of her writing
Gathered material for the first collection of African American folklore compiled by an African American ( Mules and Men)
Won critical acclaim for Their Eyes Were Watching God
Died penniless and in disgrace
Zora Neale Hurston
No Single Purpose The Harlem Renaissance was not a one- sided movement with only one purpose. It had an artistic, political and social agenda, promoted by the artists, writers and activists of the time. All would agree that art formed the bridge between individuals and cultures.